Fr Bonnie's Reflections

THE AMAZING GRACE STORY OF GOD’S MOTHER! Reflection for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Homily of Archbishop Neary for The Feast of The Assumption 15th August 2017  | Archdiocese of Tuam

According to the divine plan, every human being ought to have a mother; in fact, it is impossible to be human without the biological foreground of a mother. We also see this reality reflected in other living organisms around us.

When God decided to take up the project of redeeming humanity long after the sin of Adam and Eve, he comes through a human mother. This means that even God had to follow the human reproductive protocols he designed to achieve His salvific plan. In simple terms, God became man to save humanity.

How did God become man? Through the incarnation, which stands for the process of God who is Spirit becoming flesh. The Gospel of John (1:14) says, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

A further question would be, “where did the Word take flesh?” The answer is, “in the womb of a human mother, a Jewish virgin called Mary betrothed to a man named Joseph of the house of David. However, before Joseph could bring her into his home as a wife, something strange happened.

God sent an angel to Mary with an unusual greeting and uncommon proposal that was never heard nor imagined. “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). But, of course, Mary was afraid and perplexed about the greeting, so the angel added, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30).

The rest of the message was the proposal that she would become the mother of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Most High God, who would rule in the stead of his Father David, and his kingdom would have no end.

Mother of God, Full of Grace

The story of Mary, the Mother of God, started with grace and ended with grace. That is the real meaning of the phrase “full of grace” or highly favored.” The apostle Matthew (1:23) reminds us that the prophet Isaiah (7:14) had declared that “a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and will call him Immanuel (God with us).”

If Mary is full of grace, it could have been from the moment she was conceived in her mother’s womb, not just at the time of the angel’s visit. Furthermore, the same grace of God was with her throughout her life.

Was it not grace that preserved Mary from all forms of defilements until the angel comes with the message? Yes, it was grace that kept her from the stain of original sin and made it possible for her to conceive of her Son, Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The same grace made it possible for her to be led by the Holy Spirit to visit Elizabeth and for the unborn child, John the Baptist, to jump in her mother’s womb when she heard Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:39-44).

Grace led Mary to discover that the wine at the wedding at Cana in Galilee was spent. Grace led her to tell her Son that they had no wine. Grace made her give the attendants and all of us an understanding of how to obtain blessings from God when she said: “do whatever he tells you!” The Blessed Virgin Mary was Grace-Filled, and everything about her was Grace-Full!

The Blessed Virgin Mary: God’s Special Vessel, Preserved and Taken.

In the words of St. Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:21), a house may contain many vessels, but some are for more honorable use while others are for common use. We could see how this relates to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom God chose as an honorable vessel to become His Mother. God also filled her with special favors not for her merit but because of whom she would carry; Jesus Christ, God the Son.

Now let me ask you this question, “what would you do with a precious thing you have when you are moving to another location?”  From my experience, people give out or discard things that are no longer useful to them, but they keep the most valuable items; nobody in the right senses would leave without a great treasure.

If the Blessed Virgin Mary was chosen by God even before she was born and full of grace (the favored one); if she was conceived without a stain of original sin because she would become the mother of the sinless one; then she qualifies to be preserved and taken by God after the end of her life here on earth. Remember that the word that took flesh did not experience decay but rose from the dead and ascended to heaven.

Mary would not be the only biblical character that God took. God took Enoch after living for 365 years (Genesis 5:23-24). Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). Of course, we remember that our Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven as the disciples watch (Acts 1:9).

Moving Forward

The assumption of Mary, the Mother of God, to heaven assures us that God will neither forget nor forsake His own (Deuteronomy 31:6). Some people argue that we cannot find the assumption in the bible, but that does not limit the fact that God graciously preserved his mother from earthly corruption and had her assumed to heaven where she sits by her eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

With the assumption of Mary, we keep alive the hope that when our earthly tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven (2 Cor. 51). Today we are invited to reflect on that eternal home our Lord promised to prepare for us (John 14:1). Like Mary, we are invited to cooperate with the grace of God, which is constantly available to us as an aid on our journey to God.

Like Mary, we need to be open to accepting God’s will for our lives with submission and humility. However, we should also allow the grace of God to guide our choices and actions, and God will never forsake us.

God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

RECEIVING STRENGTH FOR THE JOURNEY OF LIFE REFLECTION FOR THE 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Podcast] I Am The Bread of Life – Steve Dusek

It is easy to judge people who commit suicide as impatient and fragile. But have you ever found yourself in that place in life where you are broken, anxious, and hopeless? Have you ever been in the middle of two extreme conditions that seem to push you to the point of wishing to die? By the way you don’t have to die because of your troubles; they should rather die away because your life is more important!

The prophet Elijah was in that dark place as we see in the First Book of Kings (19:4-8). Elijah was running from queen Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab who swore to kill him after defeating and killing the prophets of baal who served under the wicked queen.

Elijah had set out to meet God at mount Horeb through the desert, but one day into his journey he found himself at a dead-end fainting, and even prayed for death to take him. We hear him say: “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers”.

Contrary to Elijah’s wish to die, God had a revitalizing plan for him as he sends an angel to provide him with cake (bread) and water and these words, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you”. Twice he ate the miraculous lunch, and he was strengthened by the food to walk the forty days and nights journey to mount Horeb.

In the Gospel of John (6:41-51), we see the crowd who followed Jesus and wanted more bread murmuring when Jesus declared that he is the bread that came down from heaven. The crowd was abusive and judging as they started profiling Jesus’ humble family background. However, what they did not understand is that there is something about Jesus Christ that is beyond his earthly family; he is the life-giving bread from heaven.

Strength for the Journey of Life

Oliver Goldsmith says that life is a journey that must be travelled no matter how bad the roads and the accommodations. Elijah and the crowd searching for Jesus had one thing in common; they were on a journey, and they needed some sustenance. Furthermore, the sustenance they needed was not just physical diet but spiritual strength for the journey.

Notice that Elijah could not survive a day without food, but the two square mealtimes sustained him for a period of forty days in the desert. No wonder the angel said to him, “eat else the journey will be too long for you”. The quick lesson here is that when we are not filled in by God the journey of life becomes long and tedious, but when God is in the equation things get better and smoother.

On the other hand, the crowd searching for Jesus were also in the journey of life. Unknown to them however, they needed the food that would give them eternal sustenance not just overnight satisfaction like the five loaves and two fish.

Responding to their desperate search for perishable bread, our Lord Jesus Christ says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”.

Moving Forward: Receiving the Strength for the Journey of Life

The narratives of Elijah and the crowd remind us of the importance of the food from heaven in the journey of life. Pause a while and reflect on those words of our Lord Jesus Christ; “whoever eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”. Our Lord was not just making a statement, but he was stating a helpful fact.

In another place he says, “unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you will not have life within you” (John 6:53). Remember also that he says in the Gospel (John 15:5), “cut off from me you can do nothing”.

Are you intentional about partaking of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ? When was your last worthy participation in this meal? God gave us His Son our Lord Jesus Christ not only for the expiate of our sins but also for our spiritual sustenance and strength as we walk through the journey of life; Jesus is our viaticum.

So, as you journey through the desert of life, and running from some destructive Jezebels, remember that your strength may fail you but if the Lord is with you and in you, your strength will never fail.

Five things you must keep in mind when you find yourself in that dark place like Elijah:

  • You are never, ever alone; God is with you!
  • Nothing takes God by surprise, not even the dark place
  • When you are weak like Elijah, God is always strong for you.
  • There is always a new beginning for you.
  • God’s love will never give up on you.

God bless you and have blessed weekend.

Fr. Bonnie.

ARE YOU SATISFIED? Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Made Known in the Breaking of the Bread - Pleasant Grove United Methodist  Church

During my minor seminary days, one of my classmates was so attached to food that we call him “cibus,” which is the Latin word for food; but that is one part of the story. The other side is that he was never satisfied no matter the quantity of food you give him.

Generally, there seems to be something about our human disposition that makes us insatiable and desire to have more. Oliver Goldsmith says, “People seek within a short span of life to satisfy a thousand desires, each of which is insatiable.” Is there any way we can truly have enough in life; are you satisfied? Keep this question in your mind as we go!

The Gospel of John (6:1-15) tells us how our Lord Jesus Christ fed five the thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish; consequently, they had enough with leftovers that filled twelve wicker baskets. In the Gospel of John (6:24-35), we hear what happened the day after the miracle of the multiplication. The people searched for Jesus and his disciples across the sea to Capernaum; you can guess why they searched for him.

When they saw Jesus, they marveled at when and how he came to that side of the sea because he did not enter the boat with his disciples after the miraculous meal. Of course, they did not know that he walked on the lake in the night. Anyway, Jesus understood why they were searching for him; So, he said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw the signs but because you ate the loaves and you were filled.”

Our Lord goes further to instruct them not to work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which he gives. As the conversation continued, the people asked for a sign to enable them to believe him; in fact, they asked him, “what can you do?” They pretend to have forgotten the miracle of the loaves and fish.

Do we not often ask God the same question, “what can you do?” in our desperate search for answers. Or like the people of Israel murmuring and complaining about a temporary need when God had save them from greater predicament (Ex. 16:24, 12-15).

The people were heading somewhere, so they referred to the meal of manna their ancestors had in the desert through Moses. But Moses did not give them the bread Jesus corrected; rather, it is the Father that shows the true bread that gives life from heaven. So, instantly, they asked Jesus to provide them with the bread always. But he replies and says: “I am the true bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  

The Sign and the Signified: Notice that Jesus did not call the feeding of the five thousand a miracle; rather, he calls it a sign that functionally points to a reality other than itself. So, the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish was not a close-ended event but a pointer to another reality, and that is Jesus Christ, the true bread that is broken and shared to feed a multitude, that is, every one of us.

Temporary Satisfaction Vs. Eternal Satisfaction: In the narrative, Jesus gave an important instruction that we should take seriously. He says, “do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life. So the quick lesson here is that food can have temporary or lasting satisfying capacity.

The greater focus of our daily struggle in life indeed is to make ends meet. That explains why people work “nine to five” and beyond to satisfy their physical needs. Jesus is trying to tell us that we may be so consumed by the desire to work for our bodily wants that we forget our spiritual needs. We see this happening in the disposition of the crowd. They spent the entire day searching for Jesus to have more bread to satisfy their physical desire neglecting the more important component.

Carnality Vs. Spirituality

This brings us to the distinction between carnality and spirituality. The carnal nature pertains to the flesh, and its desires are overwhelming. Therefore, St. Paul warned the Galatians: “live by the Spirit and do not gratify the desire of the flesh” (Gal.5:16). Writing to the Romans, St. Paul further says that those who live according to the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8).

One discovery about the desire of the flesh is that it is never satisfied. Here we see the baseline of greed and avarice in life. The carnally minded individual will never get enough. In contrast, Jesus tells us that they are blessed who hunger and thirst for righteousness as they would be satisfied (Matt. 5:6).

The five loaves of bread and two fish came from a generous child in the crowd, but the true bread comes from our gracious Father in heaven. The people ate and had enough for that day, but the next day, they were hungry. In contrast, the bread of heaven gives eternal satisfaction. The multitude ate the food for the stomach, but Jesus promises the food that nourishes the soul.

Moving Forward: Are You Satisfied?

What you seek after in life determines the level of satisfaction you get. Many people go through life depressed and frustrated because they run after things that would never give them enough. It could be a job that pays money but pulls away joy. It could be a relationship that turns out to be toxic; and it could also be a worldly standard that makes you lose your worthwhile standing with God.

What are you seeking after in life, and what satisfying value would you get from it? Jesus asked in the Gospel of Mark (8:36), “what would it profit a man to have gained to the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul.” For this reason, he encourages us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and other things would become ours (Matt. 6:33).

As we continue our faith journey, let us continually remind ourselves in our daily struggle for daily bread that man shall not live by bread alone because it will never satisfy us. Rather, let us open our hearts to God, whose unfailing word and presence would satisfy our longing soul and fill us with good things (Ps. 107:9).

Fr. Bonnie.

THE SECRETS OF DIVINE MULTIPLICATION Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Breaking Bread and Keeping the Sabbath | Sabbath Truth

Once upon a time, a beggar comes to a certain monastery every week to beg for leftover food. Each time, the monk at the gate would joyfully welcome him and give him something to eat. Unknown to the beggar however, there were no leftovers; the monk simply shared his portion of food with him. 

One day, the beggar visited, not to beg but to give a basket of fresh tomatoes he received from a farmer to the monk at the gate for his kindness. Of course, the monk was not expecting the gift, but all the same, he received it with thanks. 

When the beggar left, the monk thought about one of the monks who fed only on vegetables and decided to give him the tomatoes. The veggie monk was incredibly happy for the gift and thanked the gate monk. But when the monk left, the veggie monk thought about the old priest in the monastery who loves tomatoes and instantly decided to give him the tomatoes.

The old priest was joyful that the veggie monk was kind enough to give out the tomatoes. But he thought about the gardener and decided to surprise him with the basket of tomatoes. Getting the fresh tomatoes, the gardener thought about the monk at that gate, “he is there all the time by himself; let me appreciate him with these”. When the monk at the gate received the tomatoes, he could not hold the tears of joy.

The Power of Good Thoughts

One important trend throughout the story is the progression of the good thought to share with others. The Second Book of Kings (2 Kings 4:42-44) tells us about a certain man from Baal-Shalishah who thought about visiting the man of God Elisha and comes with twenty barley loaves that was miraculously multiplied by the prayer of the prophet to feed a hundred people.

In the Gospel of John (6:1-15), we hear about Jesus feeding about five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish which was a little boy’s lunch that he thoughtfully gave out and was miraculously multiplied to feed the crowd.

From the two narratives, we understand that every good thought produces good results. The Book of Jeremiah (29:11) tells us that God has good thoughts for us, and St. Paul tells us to renew our minds to think what is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2).

The Steps to Divine Multiplication

Miracles are not far from us; in fact, they could happen more if we discover the secrets. Recall that Jesus had asked Philip where they could buy enough food for the hungry crowd. However, this was a test because Jesus knew exactly what to do. God knows the end from the beginning, including our difficult situations and their solutions (Isaiah 46:10).

Philip indicated that they do not have sufficient funds to buy enough food. Andrew, who may have been privy to the conversation, remarked that a boy has five barley loaves and two fish though insufficient for the crowd. Jesus asked the people to recline, blessed the loaves and the fish, and asked the disciples to distribute to the crowd, and everyone had as much they wanted, and the leftover filled twelve wicker baskets.

Bring Something: The only time God made something out of nothing was in the narrative of creation in the Book of Genesis (1:3ff) with those “let there be” statements. The first human person came out of the already created reality; dust and the breathing of God.

The law of multiplication demands that there must be two or more variables on the foregrounds of the calculation. Notice that if you try to multiply any number with nothing, you will get nothing, for instance, 1000 x 0 = 0. 

To feed the multitude, Jesus demanded that the disciples give them something. Andrew seems to have a little idea of the divine multiplication secret when he presented the boy with the five barley loaves and two fish. However, he thought it was small compared to the crowd.

God can use small things to do great things. The crowd could eat something and have more than enough because someone brought something. Now the numbers five and two have greater significance to us, and they show what we need to bring to God. We see the two fish as representing MY and the five loaves representing FAITH. So, in your situation, the math goes this way THE SITUATION + MY FAITH X JESUS = ABUNDANCE.

Be Close Enough: The boy with the five loaves and two fish was not the only person in the crowd with lunch, but he was near enough to be discovered. You cannot expect divine multiplication when you are so far away from the Lord. 

James (4:8a) says, “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Likewise, the letter to the Hebrews encourages us to draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace in time of need (Hebrew 4:16).

Share: A careful reading of the event of the multiplication shows that Jesus simply prayed and asked the disciples to share the loaves and fish. The miracle of multiplication happened during the sharing of the lunch. You may have heard that there is joy in sharing, as our opening story indicated with the chain sharing of the basket of fresh tomatoes.

Moving Forward: Our Lord is still in the business of bringing multiplication to various aspects of our lives. But, unfortunately, we often miss the chance of experiencing divine multiplication because we stay very far from the Lord, come without our faith, or step down from sharing with others.

Do not be discouraged when the problems around you appear to be overwhelming. You don’t need to have so much to overcome; you only need to bring the little you have, and the Lord will bring out so much from so little. Remember: The situation +MY Faith X Jesus = Abundance!

God bless you!

Fr. Bonnie.    

THE “AMAZIAH” SYNDROME VS. THE “AMOS” MANDATE! Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

7/12/2015

One thing that all politicians have in common is the intense desire for supporters. In fact, supporters keep them in the political game, which explains why most people who aspire to leadership positions spend resources lobbying for supporters and retaining them.

There seems to be something in our human nature that urges us to relate more with the people who tell us “what we want to hear” than those who tell us “what we need to hear.” But, unfortunately, those who say what we need to hear often speak the truth, and most people would rather believe lies than hear the truth.

In the Book of the Prophet Amos (7:12-15), we read about the attack of the priest Amaziah on the Prophet Amos who was on a mission from the South (Judah) of the divided Kingdom to the North (Israel) during the wicked reign of King Jeroboam II (See 2 Kings 14:23-24).

King Jeroboam appointed Amaziah to function as a priest in the national temple. However, the appointment was political, not divine. So, the only way he could remain in office as the Kingdom priest was to tell the king what he wanted to hear, everything that would make him feel good and satisfied, including false oracles.

The “Amaziah” Syndrome

When the Prophet Amos showed up with the authentic word of God for the Northern Kingdom, Amaziah could not hold his peace. He saw Amos as a competition and bitterly rebuked him, saying:

Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.

Amos gives a very modest reply by attesting that he is just a shepherd and a part-time fruit farmer called by God to the prophetic vocation. He comes to speak God’s words to the people about the things that would happen in the Kingdom, including the destruction of the people and the high places and a siege in the household of Jeroboam (Amos 7: 8-9).

From the priest’s attitude toward Amos the prophet, we could see that the Amaziah syndrome pays attention to man instead of God. It is about working for the pay and not for the passion for the Lord. The Amaziah syndrome focuses on what would make the people relax in sin, not what would release them from sin. It is all about the fight for royal favors instead of the advancement of divine fraternity and fellowship.

The Amaziah syndrome takes what belongs to God and turns it into a mundane possession. Notice from the words of the priest Amaziah, Bethel, which should be the House of God, became the king’s sanctuary and the royal temple. The temple is not hallowed by the king’s usage but by the divine presence.

Responding to the “Amos” Mandate

The flip side of the Amaziah syndrome is what we shall understand here as the “Amos” mandate. We realize that Amos was called directly by God and sent to fulfill the prophetic vocation from the narrative.

In the Gospel of Mark (6:7-13), Jesus summoned the twelve apostles he had called earlier and sent them out in pairs to preach repentance and gave them authority over unclean spirits. However, he also charged them to go only with a walking stick and a sandal, stay wherever they are welcomed, and depart where they are not accepted.

The Amos mandate involves an effective response to the divine invitation to become a helpful instrument in advancing the Kingdom of God. Thus, the Amos mandate is not a political construct like that of Amaziah sponsored by a self-aggrandizing leader.

It is a task for the Lord that does not pay attention to what one could gain. Remember that Jesus instructed the twelve to take nothing for the journey. It also means that they should not be concerned about material benefits. Notice that he required them to give by preaching repentance and exercising authority over unclean spirits.

They are not to worry about material provisions because they have comprehensive divine coverage. In fact, St. Paul made it more eloquent in his letter to the Ephesians (1:3-14), where among other things, he says that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens and in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.

The Amos mandate leaves us with another lesson which is fellowship in the work of God. Notice again that Jesus did not send them out individually but in pairs, unlike the Amaziah syndrome that seeks to be a lone voice and sees competition in any other individual. Ecclesiastes (4:9-10) says:

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. If they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.

Moving Forward!

The Amos mandate is open to all the baptized who share in the prophetic office of Christ. We are expected to spread the Good News far and near leveraging one of the departure instructions of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” (Mark 16:15).

While spreading the Good News, we are expected to tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. Hence, we should, like Amos, speak the truth regardless of whom it hurts. We cannot afford to please the “Jeroboams” around us while displeasing the almighty God and creator of all things.

God bless you as you continue to respond to the Amos mandate!

Fr. Bonnie.     

CONQUERING THE “NAZARETH” MENTALITY! HOMILY FOR THE 14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Why Was Jesus Rejected in His Hometown of Nazareth?

Every town, community, or nation has good and not-so-good parts. There are the rich and poor areas, as well as the well-known and the highly insignificant places. If you can think about any small town you know that has no good reputation, then you could be imagining Nazareth.

The biblical Nazareth was a small northern city of Israel with no good reputation. There was no mention of Nazareth in the Old Testament. However, in the Gospel of John (1:46), we heard Nathanael asking, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” when Philip told him that he found Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph.

One could be wondering why Nazareth had such a bad reputation and why God destined that Jesus would be called a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23). The Gospel of Mark (6:1-6) gives us some meaningful clues about the lifestyle and disposition of the Nazarenes if you like the Nazareth mentality.

The Nazareth Mentality

Jesus was visiting his hometown, Nazareth, after his forty-day retreat and the subsequent Galilean ministry, especially around the seaside. On the sabbath day, Jesus showed up in the Synagogue with his disciples not to listen to the teachers but to teach. 

Fast-forwarding, the people were astonished to hear Jesus teach with such amazing dexterity and impact because they did not see him attend any of the rabbinical schools, nor did he study under any of the renowned teachers. No wonder they asked, “where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him?”  

One would think that the people of Nazareth would be excited to welcome one of their own who has become a famous teacher and miracle worker. But, on the contrary, they took offense. They started profiling his family background and reminding him that he is the son of the carpenter and Mary, a common folk, and other family relations.

The attitude of the people of Nazareth was so dismissive that Jesus was unable to perform any mighty deeds there, apart from curing a few sick people. Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith as they were astonished by his wisdom and knowledge. 

From the preceding, we can figure out the latitude of this reflection, “the Nazareth mentality.” Furthermore, we shall see how to overcome them in our lives, especially in our spiritual journey.

Wasteful Familiarity: Being familiar with someone or something involves having a closer connection. Familiarity could be a great asset that can give access to anyone. 

However, familiarity could also have a negative effect when taken for granted, like in the people of Nazareth. Their familiarity with the person and background of Jesus became an obstacle instead of an opportunity for blessings. As a result, they had a wasteful familiarity with the Lord.

Rebellious and Rejection Attitude: The people of Nazareth presented a sandwich of rebellion and rejection as they opposed the authority and power of Jesus Christ. They had no reason to take offense at the Lord, but they did. In the account of Luke (4:28-30), they not only rejected and ejected Jesus from his town, but they also attempted to throw him off the cliff, but he walked away.

Inferiority Mindset: It is one thing to be small and insignificant, and another thing to give it a mindful acceptance. Being small is a physical description, but accepting it is a mentality. What you accept in life becomes your reality, which was the case with the people of Nazareth. 

The Nazoreans accepted the cliché of the time that “nothing good could come out Nazareth.” So, the emergence of one of them as a great teacher and healer was a great disruption of their mindset.

Faithlessness: The consequent effect of wasteful familiarity, rebellious and rejection attitude, and inferiority mindset of the people of Nazareth is their faithlessness. Faith is impossible without valuable regard, acceptance, and a positive mental attitude. Faith helps you to see the backing of God, not the background of men.  

Moving Forward: Conquering of Nazareth Mentality

It would not be out of place to state that Jesus is still facing the same treatment he got  in Nazareth in our day and age, even among Christians who should know better.

We have become so familiar with God to the extent that we see nothing wrong with the kind of disrespectful attitude we display in the house of God, even during prayers. So often, we forget that we are in God’s presence when we distract ourselves with mobile phones, gums, and worldly conversations.

Are we free from rebellion and rejection of the Lord when we fight the word of God out of our heart and when we choose to do our will and what suits us instead of considering obedience to God’s directives like the audience of the Prophet Ezekiel (2:2-5)? 

Do we not still zero our minds to some attitudes and dispositions that limit us to have access to God’s power and presence in our lives. Jesus could not perform any mighty deeds because of their lack of faith; what about you? Not that the Lord is not ready for you, but your lack of faith may be the problem.

Sometimes some of us indeed make devoted efforts, but weaknesses from our Nazareth mentality often limit us. But, as St. Paul says (2 Cor 12:7-10), God’s power is made manifest in our weakness because His grace is always sufficient for us!

Do not give up! Keep striving for God sees your struggles and if you keep pushing you shall have victory!

God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

OVERCOMING THE ISSUES ON THE OTHER SIDE! REFLECTION FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Pin on "The Touch"

Life seems to have two sides: this side and the other side. The majority of our external and internal body parts have two sides, including the hand, heart, leg, kidney, etc. There are two sides of a coin, and every story has two sides; be sure not to run with one side of a story. According to Terry Goodkind, “there is nothing that exists that has only one side. Even a piece of paper, thin as it is, has two sides”.

Life constantly takes us on a journey from one side to the other side. We could also notice this dynamic in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was perpetually moving from one side to the other side, but not without some powerful instructional or redemptive assignments.

The Two Issues on the Other Side

Three successive Chapters of the Gospel of Mark (4,5,&6) have instances of Jesus repeatedly crossing from one side of the sea of Galilee to the other. At each instance, there was always some remarkable event.

Last time we heard that a severe windstorm confronted Jesus and his disciples as they crossed over to the other side of the sea, Gerasene. Recall that Jesus calmed the sea, and getting to the town, he healed the demoniac who had a legion of demons.

The Gospel of Mark (5:21-43) presents another crossing to the other side, and as we could imagine, the crossing was for another important purpose. This time two issues needed the Lord’s attention.

From the crowd that welcomed Jesus, a Synagogue official, Jarius, showed up with a plea inviting Jesus to attend to his dying twelve years old daughter at his home. On his way to attend to Jarius’ daughter, a woman with the issue of sickness (bleeding) for twelve years emerged with a faith-motivated attempt to touch the garment of Jesus to receive healing. Let us look closely at the two issues in the narrative.

The Issue of Sickness

Sickness is the other side of good health. Sometimes we see ourselves heading towards the other side due to age, lifestyles, or by accident. Some sicknesses are for a moment; others seem to stay longer than we anticipate. The long stay of the coronavirus has been a great worry for everyone.

In the narrative, we see a woman with an issue of bleeding for twelve years. Her sickness was as old as Jairus’ daughter, and she spent everything she had to get better, but nobody could address her issue as she only grew worse.

Now, as Jesus was heading to Jarius’ house, the poor woman had a thought and acted on it immediately. She said to herself (not to anyone else), “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured!” She was instantly healed of her affliction as Jesus felt power leaving him from the touch of the fringe of his garment. Jesus further asked, “who touched me.” The crowd was huge, and many could have touched Jesus. However, only the woman made a faith-full touch.

The woman was not the only person who had an issue in that crowd, but she did what no one else could do; putting her faith into action. It is not all about what is happening to you but what you do with what is happening to you. We see the woman living out the words of the letter to the Hebrews (11:6), “And without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

The Issue of Death

Death is the other side of life. While death is a facility that is open to every one of us, nobody is in a hurry to die. Watching someone close to us die is never a pleasant sight. So you can imagine what made the Synagogue official drop his ego and convictions to search for Jesus to heal his dying daughter. He was desperate to save the life of the child, just as any thoughtful parent could be.

Jesus was going to Jarius’ house to deal with the issue of death when the sick woman showed up with her issue sickness. From the narrative, we could imagine that Jesus spent some time before continuing his journey. Consequently, the unexpected happened. The child died. People came to tell the official not to bother bringing Jesus, but he turns to him and says, “do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Upon entering the house with Peter, James, and John and taking the child by the hand, Jesus says to her, “Talitha Koum,” that is, “little girl, I say to you, arise!” Responding immediately, the girl rose and started walking around to the amazement of everyone.

Moving Forward: Addressing the Issue of Faith

One way to overcome all the issues we have in life is by faith. So, we now consider the issue of Faith. Faith does not make things easy; rather, it makes them possible. Faith does not require prior verifications; it requires one thing, just believing with your mind and spirit. Recall that the woman with the issue of sickness believed that she would be healed even before touching the garment of Jesus. To Jarius, Jesus instructed, “do not be afraid, just have faith.”

Some people often tell me, “Fr., this faith thing is difficult”. Well, did you know that it takes more time and resources to fear than to have faith? Fear gives you anxiety, worry, and restlessness. But faith produces trust, hope, and peace.

Our problem may not even be all about the issue of sickness or death, but the issue of faith. So let us work towards challenging our faith today like the nameless woman who dared to touch the garment of Jesus and got healing. With our faith, our physical, mental, and spiritual hemorrhages would be healed. With faith, every dying or dead situation in our lives would stand to live again.

God bless you, and have a blessed weekend and a glorious week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.  

    

                                              

WHY ARE YOU TERRIFIED? SAILING WITH THE SAVIOR IN THE STORMY SEA! REFLECTION FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

JESUS CALMS THE STORM - Anglican Children Ministry Nigeria

                                              

The safety of every sailing boat has a lot to do with the mastery of the sailor. However, when the elements unleash their severe sides, like in the case of windstorms, even the best sailor would be helpless and could need some form of assistance to get through.

Can you imagine sailing in a boat, and right there in the middle of the sea, comes a strong windstorm with no form of assistance in view?

The above captures the experience of the disciples of Jesus Christ while crossing over to the other side of the sea of Galilee (Gerasene) after the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:35-41). The surprising thing is that Jesus was in the boat with them, and he was even sleeping while the storm was raging.

The disciples could have tried to handle the boat amid the storm, but they could not. So, coming to Jesus and waking him up, they asked if he does not care that they were perishing because he was sleeping and not freaking out like them.

Our Lord Jesus rising from that “sleep,” rebuked the wind, saying: “Quiet, be still!” Immediately the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. And turning to the disciples, he asked, “why are you terrified! Do you not yet have faith?” In amazement, the disciples exclaim, “Who then is this whom the wind and sea obey?”

Lessons from the Storm and the Sleep of Jesus  

Jesus and his disciples were heading to the town of Gerasene, on the other side, when the windstorm stuck halfway. The mission was to liberate a man possessed by a legion of demons. 

On the way to accomplish this mission, the storm showed up. The quick lesson is that whenever there is an important mission, expect an opposing storm. Next, the disciples heard lots of parables about faith which concluded with the mustard seed analogy. Now, the storm is serving to take their faith on a test drive. Quick lesson, you must defend your faith through trials.

There are many questions about the sleep of Jesus. Could it be that he was a deep sleeper that he did not notice the storm? No, instead, we learn from various accounts that Jesus kept awake most times praying. Recall that during the Gethsemane experience, Jesus said to Peter and others, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?” (Matt. 26:40).

On the other hand, the sleep of Jesus was not that he cared less about what was going on. Jesus was sleeping to demonstrate to his disciples the right posture they need to take when a storm arises in their lives. Sleeping through the storm shows faith and trust in the God who is the Lord of the storm.

A further lesson. Despite their lack of faith, the disciples teach us the need to run to the Lord when we face any storm in our lives. However, the approach should be faith-inspired and submission to God’s unfailing power to save.

Jesus in the boat: An image of a Father in the Family

The narrative of Jesus in the stormy boat comes on a Sunday we celebrate Father’s Day, and we can find some enriching connections. The presence of Jesus in the boat describes one of the functions of a father, namely is availability 

There is nothing as comforting as the physical presence of a father in the family. In our career-driven human society, some people erroneously think that taking care of the family is about providing money and other provisions.

Presence is essential for bonding and progress in the family; absent fathers are a disaster to child upbringing. On the strength of presence, the father can confront the variety of storms that may face the family. Imagine if Jesus were not with the disciples in the boat, the disciples would have perished.

Notice that in the parable, Jesus first rebuked the storm before cautioning the disciples. We see here another important lesson for fathers when something is attacking from the outside. Often some overlook the issue and start criticizing the members of the family. The father should protect the family but would not forget to give reasonable caution.

A father is beyond the capability of having a child. Fatherhood is not a name; it is a functional vocation that includes profound care, guidance, and protection. So, you do not need to have a child to become a father. Any man who excels in those capabilities is a father, and those who fail do not merit the name; I am sorry.  

Moving Forward! 

There is no life without a storm. A storm could be those things you do not wish happen in your life, but you see them coming anyways. Life is full of storms; however, we shall not be like the disciples by being terrified, which would not solve anything.

The right attitude is to approach the Lord, who is always with you, and relax like Jesus to get enough sleep because the Lord of the storm is there. You need to sleep for God to be awake for you. Psalm (127:1b) says, “unless the Lord watches over the city in vain do watchmen keep vigil.”  

God bless you!

Fr. Bonnie

DISCOVERING THE UNHIDDEN TREASURE:REFLECTION FOR FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Chalice, Wine, Prayer, Mass, Communion, Religion

Once a beggar met a wise man who told him that he is richer than all the rich men in the land put together. “How?” he asked, the wise replies and said, “go and wash your begging plate with ashes in the river and take it to the merchants in town and hear what they would tell you.”

The poor beggar acted immediately and got amazing offers from the merchants because the plate was raw gold though unknown to him. Thus, for many years, the man was begging with a great treasure in his hands; he was starving amid plenty.

The word treasure refers to something of great worth or value which is usually hidden or secured. Treasures are not usually found on the surface; one needs to search profusely to find a treasure. So, it sounds somehow to talk about “unhidden treasure,”; but the truth is that some great treasures are not hidden, which is why they are not regarded as treasures.   

Anyone conversant with the Gospels could recall that Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38). But when you ask people to name the good things Jesus did, a majority would mention curing the sick, raising the dead, feeding a multitude, and changing water to wine. Few, if any, would remember the gift of his body and blood.

We received two treasures from our Lord Jesus Christ; His body and blood, real food and drink (John 6:55), and the Holy Spirit he gave to be with us forever ( John 14:16). These treasures are meant to assist us in our journey towards our eternal salvation.

The Unhidden Treasure: The Eucharist

We could understand and appreciate the body and blood of Jesus Christ as an unhidden treasure if we go back to what happened during the last supper.

The Gospels and the testimony of St. Paul tell us that while they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it, he gave it to the disciples saying: “Take and eat this is my body.” He does the same with the wine, saying: “take and drink this is the blood of the covenant.” (Matt.26:26-29; Mark 14:22-26; Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25).

The accounts of St. Luke and St. Paul give us further information that helps us to validate the reality of the body and blood of Jesus Christ as a treasure. This is where our Lord says, “do this in remembrance of me.” St. Paul puts it clearly, “for whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26).

Utilizing the Eucharistic Treasure.

The pandemic and the lockdown experience opened the eyes of some people to many things, including the necessity and power of the reception of the body and blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Recall the extended Eucharistic fast and the recommendation of spiritual communion from the Livestream masses. I remember how one parishioner would call and beg to sneak into the Church to have a piece to quench the hunger for the Lord in the Eucharist. I wish that desire continues as the Church doors are opening wider every day and the virus gradually leaves us for good.

We tend to get complacent and lose respect and value when are used to certain things and people in our lives. Incidentally, we see this happening in our relationship with the treasure of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. So Jesus comes down to us in a very touchable and breakable form that we often take His real presence for granted.

Moving Forward!

Our Lord did not give us his body and blood as an optional menu but as essential spiritual food. Recall that he says, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life in you” (John 6:53).

The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ aid us in our spiritual journey, giving us spiritual strength and growth. And above all, we receive eternal life as our Lord promised us in the Gospel of John (6:54), where he says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”

As we celebrate the feast of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us continually remind ourselves about the treasure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Thus, we receive not just the bread and wine, but the body and blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the entirety of Christ.

We have a treasure and a privilege of access to an unhidden treasure, the Holy Eucharist. May God give us the grace to appreciate and value the treasure we have.

“O sacrament Most Holy O Sacrament Divine, All Praise and Thanksgiving be every moment Thine. Amen.  

Have a beautiful celebration!

Fr. Bonnie.

THE QUESTION ONLY GOD COULD ANSWER! REFLECTION ON THE HOLY TRINITY. Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity - Teaching Catholic Kids

Apart from the absence of snakes, there are two important things about Ireland that any active mind could recall, and they are St. Patrick and the three-leaf clover shamrock plant. Incidentally, there is a popular story that links St. Patrick to the shamrock.

One Irish folklore about St. Patrick says that he used the shamrock to describe the Trinity to the pagan while telling them about the Christian faith around the Fourth Century AD. Notably, the shamrock leaf has three distinct parts.

Looking closely at the shamrock, one could build a mental picture of how St. Patrick could have described the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit using the three leaves helmed into one leaf.

While the shamrock tries to give a mental image about the Trinity, it does not fully explore the depth of the Holy Trinity, which remains a mystery beyond human comprehension.

The Holy Trinity doctrine states that One God exists as three co-equal, co-eternal, and con-substantial Divine Persons. Thus, God is one in essence and nature but three in persons. That means there is one God, not three Gods, and at the same time, there are three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Note that this is no confusion; it is a mystery.

The major limitation of the shamrock analogy is that, unlike the Trinity, each of the parts of the shamrock is not fully a shamrock. In the Trinity, the Father is fully God (Phil.1:2), just as the Son (Titus 2:13), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4), yet there are not three Gods but One God, one essence, will, and power.

There is no human analogy that could give us a perfect and indisputable explanation about the Holy Trinity. Nevertheless, many Christian thinkers and theologians have tried and ended at the level of trials.

We believe that only God can sufficiently answer the question about being One and Three at the same time. Therefore, we are left with the invitation to accept this truth of our Christian vocation with faith and to model our lives after the Holy Trinity.

The Holy Trinity and Christianity.

Regardless of their faith practices and styles, Christians all over the world speak one language, namely, the Holy Trinity. Acceptance of the mystery of the Trinity is the precondition of becoming a Christian. Christianity without the Holy Trinity is frivolity.

Our creation as humankind comes from the action of the Holy Trinity. Recall that God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen.1:26). Notice that the Christian life starts with the baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity as our Lord Jesus directed in his closing instructions to the disciples (Matt. 28:19), “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The problems we have in the world today come from our inability to reflect the Hoy Trinity in our lives. If we are created in the image and likeness of God, which is diversified unity, we need to adopt that Trinitarian model in all aspects of our lives.

The Signs of the Presence of the Holy Trinity

Community: The word community is not just a name; it is more of an invitation to act: Come + Unite = community. The Trinity is a community of three persons in One God.

The Trinity challenges us to come and unite and not to Come and Divide. The sense of community helps us understand that diversity is a gift and that co-existence is a functional divine provision.

Responsibility: The word responsibility means the ability to respond to some expectations or duty. Each person of the Trinity has a dedicated function. The scriptures give us insights into the ability of the various person of the Trinity to respond to their roles.

The just and merciful God the Father convoked creation, the redeemer God the Son brought our salvation, while the Helper, God the Holy Spirit, sanctifies us with divine gifts and fruits.

Collaboration: You must have heard that no man is an island; that means you would always need others. The same principle applies to the Persons of the Trinity. Therefore, there is an eternal collaboration in the Trinity. That is why you hear God the Father say, “let us” (Gen. 1:26, 11:7).

Moving Forward

Celebrating the Holy Trinity is beyond looking for arguments to prove that there are Three Persons in One God. Proof or no proof would not change the reality of the Trinity. Instead, we should focus more on the lessons we could learn: the sense of community, being responsible in our Christian faith, and being ready and willing to work with others.

Have a beautiful week, and God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie

%d bloggers like this: