Fr Bonnie's Reflections

OBEDIENCE IS THE TRUE TEST OF LOVE. HOMILY FOR THE 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

 

Love and Obey

The connection most mothers have with their sons especially the first sons is an undeniable fact that often defies exact explanation. Sigmund Freud in his psychoanalytic theory calls it the Oedipus complex which refers to the unrestrained attachment between a female parent and the male child as well as the attachment of the male parent to the female child which he calls Electra complex. Meanwhile, Oedipus in Greek mythology, according to the playwright, Sophocles, was the child who, following the oracle of the gods, killed his father and married his mother.

Once upon a time, there was this God-fearing Nigerian mom living in the USA who had a strong connection with her first son. She would do anything to make him happy even if it meant displeasing the other children. The boy appreciated his mom’s love for him and would often pledge to make her the happiest mom on earth. One day, the teenager comes to his mom with the idea of getting a tattoo on his body. The woman dismissed the idea and almost went on her knees begging her son not to get a tattoo. According to her, getting a tattoo would not be a virtuous thing to do as it could potentially diminish sound Christian morals and make her look irresponsible for allowing that for her son. Anyway, the boy dropped the idea.

Some months later, the boy in our story sends a lengthy message to her mom from his college telling her how he appreciated her concerns about his life and ended up saying that he has his life to live and has decided to get a tattoo on his body and he sends the picture of the tattoo to confirm his assertions. The message breaks the mom completely, and she could not control her tears.  For all her love for her son, she wanted nothing in return but simply obedience and compliance to what she holds very dear to her heart. She wondered if her son truly loved her as he equally claimed in the message. What is love, is it what we profess, or what we do? We shall find out in this reflection.

In the opening session of the Gospel Reading today (John 15:9-17), our Lord Jesus Christ says,

Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commandment and remain in his love

In another place our Lord also says,

Those who love me will keep my word, and my father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23).

Love is not about what we say like the boy in our story; it is about what we do like our Jesus Christ did on the Cross (John 19:30). Love is a verb, that means it is a “doing word,” not just the name of a phenomenon. The message today is about putting love into action not just professing it. In the Second Reading today (John 4:7-10), the apostle tells us to practice love amongst ourselves as a demonstration of our knowledge of God; “whoever is without love does not know God.” We are therefore not free not to love that means we must love, or we lose. Our Lord Jesus Christ made it clear that he is giving us a new commandment that we love one another as he loves us (John 13:34).

We cannot have enough of the message of love because God is love (1 John 4:8). Life is inherently tasteless without love. Our existence is a profound expression of God’s love. When we wander away from the source of love he still waits for us to return like the father of the prodigal son (Luke 15:1ff). God loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) that He wants us to remain in His love through our obedience to His words.

The First Reading today (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48), tells us how God the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out to the Gentiles represented by Cornelius and his household. Here we have another valuable lesson about love. Love does not have barriers. Love goes beyond race, ethnicity, color, and culture. The invitation to love should not be about our household and friends only. Our Lord Jesus Christ even said that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).

As we enter a new week, let us show our love for God by our obedience to His commandments and compliance to His will. Let us also demonstrate our love for each other by the extra step we take in forgiveness, patience, caring and helping each other selflessly. I wish you a love-enriched week ahead. May God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

“WITHOUT ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING”: LEARNING HOW TO DEPEND ON GOD HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

bear fruits

Once upon a time, a man riding an old car ran into the exotic car of another man who happens to be wealthy and affluent. The poor man stopped and fell to the ground to beg the rich man who was busy calling him all sorts of names from being stupid and perpetually sanctioned to poverty to other things. The guy continued to plead for mercy, but the rich guy pays no attention to him, as he reaches out to his phone to call the police.

At the point of attempting to call in the police, the man begs him not to involve the police as he would even be ready to sell his old car to repair the damage. The guy’s suggestion came across as an insult to the rich man, and he interrupts him saying, “do I look like someone who needs anything at all not to mention money from your rickety old car.” He was still talking when a madman who had been watching replies him, “Sir, you need something, and this poor guy can give it to you.” The rich guy turns to the madman and says, “what the hell do I need from this man with an old broken car?” The madman turns and says to him “humility and understanding” and walks away. No one has everything; we are all in need.

One of my most significant takeaways from the study of philosophy is the principle of ontological dependence. The principle states that objects depend on others for existence not just in a casual sense but also in a logical sense. For instance, a child depends on the mother for survival. That means that the mother exists for the sake of the child. However, the mother is not sufficient as she also depends on another reality to exist. The list of a family of dependencies continues until we come to a being who does not depend on anyone to exist, that is our all-sufficient God.

The highpoint of the Gospel of this Sunday (John 15:1-8) is our Lord’s description of himself as the true vine and the indication of several qualities and implications for the branches that relate to the vine. We shall examine some of the relevant contents of the Gospel passage primarily as they relate to our dependence on God.

I am the TRUE vine. Here our Lord Jesus Christ suggests a distinction between the TRUE vine and other false vines or more appropriately, imitations of the true vine. In our lives, we are either true or false. Following the example our Lord Jesus Christ, there is the need for us to be true to our Christian vocation. Only the truth can set us free (John 8:32). Are you TRUE to what you are?

He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. Fruit bearing is critical to every vine tree, and the fruits come from the branches. Every one of us is expected to bear not just fruit but also good fruits. In His justice, God cuts away the unfruitful branches and, in His love, He prunes, that is, he removes or cuts away the limitations and hindrances of the branches that are bearing fruits. Are you bearing fruits and what kind of fruit are you bearing?

Remain in me as I remain in you … without me, you can do nothing. There is no stage in the life of a branch that it would not need the parent tree; that means a branch can never be independent except it is no longer a branch. In our relationship with God, we always need that divine connection because our efficiency without divine sufficiency can only lead us to deficiency.

Often, we act like the rich man in our opening story who thinks that material wealth suffices for all our needs. The real wealth is our union with God, and the real poverty is the absence of God in our lives.  The Second Reading today (1 John 3:18-24), tells us that we achieve union with Christ, the true vine, by keeping his commandment which is to love God and our neighbour (Matt. 22:36-40). We need this close link and connection with Jesus Christ every moment and every day of our lives for:

Without him, we shall lack peace (John 14:27)

Without him, we shall lack help (Heb. 13:6)

Without him, we shall lack provision (Phil. 4:19)

Without him, we shall lack joy (Psalm 126:2-3)

Without him, we shall lack hope (Psalm 39:7).

As we march into the fifth week of Easter, may we continue to maintain a strong and enduring attachment with our Lord without whom we can do nothing. Stay connected and retain your blessings.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

SEEKING THE GOOD SHEPHERD MENTALITY REFLECTION FOR THE GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY (FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B) REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD

Good shepherd mentality

On Friday, March 23, 2018, LT. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, a French Military Police officer, traded places with a hostage during a police standoff with a gunman at a supermarket in Paris. The following day, March 24, the eve of the Passion Sunday, the officer died because of the injuries he sustained during the gun battle; the hostage survived the attack. The heroic act attracted the attention of Pope Francis who described the heroic action as a desire to protect people following the officer’s understanding of sacrifice as a practising Catholic.

This story resonates with the essential mentality of the good shepherd in the Gospel Reading today (Jn.10:11-18), the laying down of life for the sheep (John 10:11). The Easter season we are celebrating is the fruit of the self-giving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life for the forgiveness of our sins (Gal. 1:4). The fundamental difference between the owner of the sheep and a hired hand is that the owner pledges his life for the sheep, but the hired hand runs away in the face of challenges (John 10:12-13).

Col. Arnaud followed the example of Christ by dying so that someone he did not know personally could live. What a powerful way to serve the people with love. Before his passion and death, our Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “there is no greater love than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). To be a shepherd, one needs to entirely be at the service of the sheep even to the cost of the shepherd’s life.

When we hear about shepherds, we often think about the priests and religious, and we are right to feel that way. However, all the baptized who share in the royal priesthood of Christ are called to be shepherds at various level. When you are performing your duty as a parent (dad or mom), you are shepherding. When there are students you are leading formally or informally; you are a shepherd. Whenever and wherever people look up to you for anything, you are a shepherd; to whom much is given much is expected (Luke 12:48).

Laying down your life must not always follow the route of Arnaud in our opening story. Life is very precious, laying down your life could mean giving up something that is very precious to you for the benefit of the sheep. It could be dropping your ego to become humble and patient. It could be letting go that anger and resentment when you are derided or even insulted. The vocation to be a shepherd is not jolly ride. Often you don’t get 100% compliance from the sheep; some would often wander away, and the good shepherd seeks out the lost sheep (Luke 15:4)

The problem with some shepherds in our day and age is the hired-hand mentality. This idea has to do with the emphasis on “what is in there for me?” or “what would I benefit from this job?” When we think of shepherding as a job, we focus on benefit, but when we accept it as a vocation, it becomes a service emanating from the love for the sheep.

The sheep, on the other hand, should complement the work of the shepherd; in fact, a good shepherd with bad sheep is a disaster. One of the fundamental obligations of the sheep is to listen and obey the instructions of the good shepherd. In the Gospel of John (10:27) our Lord says, the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me. Often, we blame and berate our shepherds, but we fail to think about our attitude to their vocation and the contribution towards their goals.

Today, we remind ourselves that the Lord is our shepherd, that means He is in control of everything about us, but that depends on the extent we allow Him. God would not force Himself on us. Instead, He is available as our provider and provision (Gen. 22:14), He is our protector and protection (Psalm 91:1ff), He leads us through the right path (Psalm 23:3). For these reasons, we shall not lack (Psalm 23:1) because His goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).

As we celebrate the Good Shepherd Sunday, let us remember to pray for shepherds after God’s heart who would receive the unction to function in God’s vineyard. We also pray to become good shepherds and good sheep at any level we find ourselves. Have a great Sunday and a pleasant week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

THE RESURRECTION OF PEACE THROUGH REPENTANCE HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

My peace I give you

Once upon a time, a certain king makes an open request challenging all the artists in his kingdom to compete for a prize on a painting that would correctly represent peace. Many people enrolled, and there were many pictures. The king takes his time to eliminate the submissions until two beautiful paintings were remaining. They were both very outstanding; one shows a lake surrounded by exotic mountains and green vegetation. It looked beautiful and peaceful, and everyone admired it. The second was also magnificent as it showed a quiet mountainside and river, but the sky shows a raging storm and the environment looked troubled.

When it was time for the king to make his choice, it surprised everyone that he settled for the second picture and his son asked him the rationale behind his preference for the second picture that shows a raging storm instead of the first that showed all calmness. Replying the king requested for the painting he asked his son to look at it more closely. When the son did, he discovered a bird settling peacefully in its nest somewhere in a tiny opening on the rocks despite the raging storm. And the king says to his son; peace is not the absence of storm or any other kind of physical disturbances, it is about remaining calm and hopeful amid all those troubles.

As the king in the narrative indicated, peace is not the absence of environmental noise or external disturbances; it is instead an inner calmness that rests on a hopeful future; peace has to do with internal tranquillity even when the whole world seems to be tearing apart. Peace is not what you buy with money; you instead earn it through the right ordering of your inner self. Many poor people have peace, and some so many wealthy people are in “pieces.”

The unsettling experience of the arrest, passion, and death of our Lord Jesus Christ could have left his disciples in great trauma. The scriptures made us understand that the sheep will scatter when they strike the shepherd (Zech. 13:7, Matt. 26:31). We could also recall that before his passion and death our Lord said:

The hour is coming. Indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have PEACE. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33).

For fear of the Jews, the disciples were often staying in secured places (John 20: 19; 26). To confirm that all these indicate absence of peace in their lives, the first statement of our Lord when he appeared to them says, “peace be unto you” (John 20:19); and he would do this at other times he appeared after his resurrection including in the Gospel of today (Luke 24:35-48).

It is interesting to hear Peter in the First Reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19), decry the attitude of those who denied our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release him. The theme of denial here also reminds us of Peter’s denial of our Lord not just once but three times (John 18:15-27). One could begin to wonder, “what differentiates Peter’s denial and that of the people at Gabbatha before Pilate?” And the answer could be found in what each of them did afterwards, for Peter it was repentance (Luke 22:61-62), but for the people especially the high priests and Sadducees, it was renewed efforts to stop the message of the resurrection (Acts 3, 4, and 5).

The theme of repentance followed the testimonies about the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. After the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost, the people were cut to their hearts, and they asked, “what shall we do?” And Peter tells them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that their sins will be forgiven, and they will receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 37-38).

There would be no peace without repentance. Repentance means to change one’s mind (Exo. 32:14). To repent of sin means to change one’s mind about committing sin and deciding to do right. Peace is the state of mind not the condition of the environment. For us to have peace we need to change our mind, we need to repent. We need to change our mind on the way we think about others; we need to change our mind in the way we relate to others, we need to change our minds on our attitudes before we can have peace.

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ brought peace to us. It means that we should not be afraid of the “Jews.” The Jews here represent all those challenges that face us in life. The Jews represent all the obstacles on our way to holiness. Jews represent all the mistakes of our past. When our Lord said, “Peace be unto you” he was saying to them the storm is over, the trouble is over. There is nothing that qualifies to stress at this point in your life which the peace of the resurrection cannot overcome. The word of God says that the peace of Christ surpasses all understanding. That means it is a supernatural fruit; actually, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

As we continue to celebrate the resurrection, let us not allow anything nor anyone to take away your “Alleluia.” The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ is your right and heritage as a child of the resurrection. You only need to repent; change your mind, and the glory of God will forever abide with you. May the Peace of the Lord be with you always and have a peaceful week ahead,

Fr. Bonnie.

 

“THE DOOR OF MERCY IS STILL OPEN” A REFLECTION FOR THE DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY (2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

HAVE MERCY ON US

“Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)

From December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016, the Holy Roman Catholic Church observed the Year of Mercy which featured special prayers and gatherings in various places highlighting the profundity of God’s mercy. During the closing gathering which also featured the ceremony of the closing of the Holy Door of Mercy, Pope Francis announced that the closing of the Holy Door does not entail the closing of the door of reconciliation and God’s mercy. In other words, the door of divine mercy is still open to those who are ready and willing to make a spiritual entrance.

What is divine mercy? One could answer that it means God’s compassion and withdrawal of the punishment we deserve from Him because of our sins. One could also ask why God is merciful? God is merciful because He cannot help but be merciful; it is in His nature. Put in another way mercy is another name for God (Psalm 103:8). The letter to the Hebrews (4:16), tells us that the throne of God consists of grace and mercy. While calling on God after falling into sin, David referred to God as full of mercy and compassion (Psalm 51:1).

There is the need for us to differentiate between forgiveness and mercy before we can appreciate what divine mercy entails. To forgive is to overcome anger or resentment over someone’s failing. Mercy, on the other hand, is more profound than forgiveness, and it means withdrawing all the punishment that is due to an offence. Have you wondered why our Lord Jesus Christ did not add mercy in the Lord’s prayer but only forgiveness (Matt. 6:9-13)? Have you wondered why our Lord had to stop when the blind Bartimaeus called out saying “Jesus Son of David have MERCY on me” (Mark 10: 47). We can see the distinction and as well as the connection between forgiveness and mercy while our Lord Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross. The account of Luke (23:34) tells us that our Lord said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” If forgiveness were enough, then the death of our Lord would have been unnecessary.

Beyond forgiveness, humanity needed the mercy of God, and that was why at 3.pm on that fateful Friday we know as “Good,” our Lord said. “it is finished” (John 19:30); and bowing his head, he died. That was the point humanity received God’s mercy, that means our debt was paid, and our punishment was taken away (Isaiah 53:5). Divine mercy means that though we deserve to receive punishment, our punishment was taken away by God through His Son. The sin was so intense, but God already forgave us (Psalm 86:5), however, the punishment due to our sin was still pending. One of the punishment was that the gate of heaven was shut against humanity and only the mercy of God through His Son could open the gate of heaven for us. John (3:13) tells us that nobody has gone to heaven except the one who came down from heaven and that is our Lord Jesus Christ, whom St. Paul refers to as the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18).

God is the Father of mercy (2 Cor. 1:3-4), and his mercy never ends (Lam. 3:22-23). He is still ready to grant you mercy when you approach His throne of mercy. God’s mercy shows that he wants us to move forward to a better future (Jer. 29:11). The mercy of God indicates God’s love for us (John 3:16). The mercy of God shows that God wants us to have peace as our Lord Jesus Christ indicated when he appeared to the apostles, “peace be unto you” (John 20:21). The mercy of God shows that God wants us back (Jeremiah 15:19).

When we receive God’s mercy, He expects us to extend mercy to others. The mercy of God comes to us and should flow through us. In the Book of Genesis (12:3) God said that He would bless Abraham so that he could be a blessing to others. If God, our Father, is merciful we should be merciful children of our Father. If we expect mercy from God, we should also be ready to grant mercy to others. In the beatitudes, our Lord Jesus Christ says, “blessed are the merciful and they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

As we celebrate the Divine Mercy Sunday, let us use the opportunity Christ opened for us through his resurrection from the dead to open our heart for God’s mercy. It is also vital that we extend mercy to those who deserve our punishment in various ways just as we qualify to received God’s punishment but in lieu, receive His mercy.

Have a rewarding Divine Mercy Sunday.

Fr. Bonnie

 

THE EXPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST REFLECTION FOR EASTER SUNDAY (YEAR B) Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

he is risen

He is Lord, He is Lord!
He is risen from the dead and he is Lord!
Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord.

He is King, he is King!
He will draw all nations to him, he is King;
and the time shall be when the world shall sing
that Jesus Christ is King!

He is Life, he is Life!
He has died to set us free and he is Life;
and he calls us all to live evermore,
for Jesus Christ is Life.

Easter is God’s answer to the questions about Good Friday. Easter completes the story of the Good Friday. The story of Easter confirms the power of God; Easter fulfils the declaration of our Lord Jesus Christ, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it” (John 2:19). The Easter narrative makes our Lord Jesus Christ the only person to make an appointment beyond the grave and kept it. The resurrection tells us that God has a vision which nobody, including the devil, can kill. Don’t allow anyone to destroy your vision.

We shall begin the reflection of Easter by talking about death generally and particularly the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. This approach might seem a weird thing to do on Easter day, but it is fitting to speak of the rising in the context of the dying.

One of the best definitions of death sees it as the separation of the three components of the human person; spirit, soul, and body. In the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, at that point when he paid the price for our sins, his spirit went back to the Father; “Father into your hands I commit my Spirit” (Luke 23:46). On the other hand, his soul went down to Hades to minister to the souls there (1 Pet. 3:19-20). Only the body lies in the tomb. On the day of resurrection (early morning) on the third day, the spirit and soul returned to the body and at that instant, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Son of the Eternal Father rose from the dead; he overpowered all the physical and spiritual restrictions and barriers.

The word resurrection comes from the Greek word “anastasis” which means to “raise up” or “to stand up again.” At the resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ who was once standing but was brought down by death rose up again and never again to go down. By the fact of rising from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished the following:

  • He conquered death and the grave. Death could not stop him; the grave could not hold him; they were all conquered by the power of his resurrection. The perishable became imperishable; the mortal became immortal and St. Paul says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (I Cor. 15: 54-55). In another place he says, “he must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death”. (1 Cor. 15: 25-26).
  • He defeated the devil. The plan of the devil from the time of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was to stop the work of our redemption. When you hear that Herod was killing innocent children, the devil planned to end the vision of God for our salvation. The devil tempted him in the desert to secure a misstep from him, but he couldn’t, and he went away looking for a favorable Several times people picked stones to kill him, but they couldn’t because the hour hadn’t yet come. At Gethsemane, the devil tried to suggest to him to abandon the mission, but he preferred the accomplish the will of his Father. Finally, the devil was defeated. You need to connect to the resurrection power to defeat all the plans of the devil in your life.
  • He secured our forgiveness, faith, and salvation. The First letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians Chapter 15 could be the book of details about the resurrection. Among numerous high points, St. Paul tells us that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3). He further says that if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is futile, and we are still living in sin. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ which is beyond all doubts as it was confirmed by more than five hundred witnesses, shows that we have been redeemed and saved.
  • He opened the gate of heaven. After the fall of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from the presence of God, the gate of heaven remained locked until the event of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ which would open the gate of heaven. According to St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:22-24):

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.

This is the season for your rising. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ opens the door for you to rise.

  • From darkness to light
  • From failure to success
  • From sickness to health
  • From enmity to friendliness
  • From nobody to somebody
  • From scarcity to abundance
  • From blindness to sight
  • From the grave to the skies

Alleluia! He is risen! Let us open ourselves to the victorious power of the resurrection from this moment onwards and the difference will amaze us.

Have a wonderful Easter celebration.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE MEANING AND MESSAGE OF GOOD FRIDAY : A REFLECTION FOR THE GOOD FRIDAY. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

it is fiished

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be the joy of those who accused him wrongly, the pain of the scourging and crowning with thorns or the authority of Pilate who condemned him and ordered his crucifixion on the cross? But he was the only innocent person in that tribunal. All the people including Pilate were guilty, and that was why he came to rescue all from the slavery of sin (Gal. 1:4). What do you do when people accuse you falsely and even condemn you for the sake of what is right? If you remain faithful, you will be blessed because your reward will be great in heaven (Matt. 5:11-12).

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be about the cross he carried (John 19:17). The cross represents the weight of our sins and the punishment due to them which he took upon himself (Isaiah 53:4-5). He even asked us to bring all our burden to him, and he would sustain us (1 Pet. 5:7). The cross was heavy, yet he had to carry it. Each time we go back to sin we add more weight to him. We have our crosses to bear, but often we take the wrong cross as not every cross is salvific (1 Pet. 4:15-16).

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be the weight of the cross that made our Lord fall three times on the way to Calvary? The fall confirms our fallen human nature which he came to resuscitate. He falls three times and three times he rises and continues the journey. God is always giving us the opportunity to rise after every episode of falling into sin (Isaiah 1:18). The worst fall is the one that does not encourage us to rise and continue the journey of life. Do you give up after falling?

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be the meeting with Mary, the help of Simon of Cyrene, the wiping of his face by Veronica or the encounter with the crying women of Jerusalem? God will always plant consolers and helpers on the most difficult journeys of our lives. They could be there only to look at your face with compassion, to assist you practically or even cry with you. God will always provide (Gen.22:8); they could be people you know, but often, those who would help you most in the tough journey of life could be complete strangers.

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be about the stripping of our Lord Jesus Christ of his clothes in the full gaze of the crowd? We came naked and naked we shall return (Job 1:21). We often try to hide from people, but before God, nothing about us is hidden (Heb. 4:13).

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be about the nailing to the cross? The cross is the new tree that replaced the old tree in the middle of the garden of Eden (Gen.3:3). By the first tree, humanity failed, on the new tree of the cross, humanity would gain redemption. The cross is the place to nail all the curses that are confronting our lives so that they would become blessings (Gal.3:13).

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be about death on the cross? Yes! On the cross, our Lord said, “it is finished” (John 19:30), and bowed his head and died. It is finished means that the price has been paid in full. It means that the relationship between God and us has been renewed. It means that we are no longer guilty neither are we in debt. It means that our redemption has been accomplished in full, we are no longer liable; no longer debtors.

One of the great messages from the Good Friday ceremony is the power of suffering. Someone once remarked that “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” We often run away from suffering, and that is why many people are unsuccessful and unfortunate in life. Suffering is like exercising to get through with a task. The success of a team in a sporting event does not come on the day of the competition. The success goes back to the tough times of practising, the mistakes and retakes, the sleepless nights, and other challenging situations.

Our redemption was not a walk in the park. Why did God allow his Son to come down to us being like us in all things except sin (Heb. 4:15)? Why did God let His Son to suffer and to die to purchase our freedom from sin? That would tell us that our redemption is precious, and our sin was too profound. The suffering you may be going through now cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed soon (1 Cor. 2:9). Stay tuned!

Fr. Bonnie.

 

RE-LIVING THE POWER OF THE PASSION HOMILY FOR THE PALM SUNDAY (YEAR B) Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

 

PASSION 2

As a child, one of the scariest places I dreaded to go with my parents when I become ill was the hospital. The phobia was not because of the smell of different kinds of medications nor the morgue which most children fear, but the injections which the nurses administered with long needles that go right into the buttocks to deposit the curative liquids. During those times, my parents would encourage me to go with them to the hospital and assure me that there might be no injection (but there would always be) and if there happens to be any, it won’t hurt (but they always hurt).

In my little mind, I thought my parents were heartless and wicked for allowing me to go through such pains. But I was wrong; they were showing their love and care for me because the pain of the injections would bring the gain of good health. Maybe if they spared the pain of the needles, I could have died from some complications; may God bless my mum and rest the soul of my dad.

Today, we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The purpose of the entrance was for our Lord to suffer the mockery of the devil, the brutality of men and even the abandonment of his heavenly Father as St. Paul would tell us, that God did not spare his son but offered him up for us all (Romans 8:32). Our Lord Jesus Christ confirmed this on the cross when he exclaimed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

The triumphant entry into Jerusalem is an ironical narrative with the depth of meanings. “Why did our Lord Jesus make that entry a carnival-like parade; why did he need a donkey and a colt (urgently) at the same time; why all the “noise” about the Son of David and why the Hosanna?”

Our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem today was not the first time, but it was at a special time and of a different kind; triumphant. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego joyfully marched into the heart of fire; our Lord joyfully entered the city at the hour close to his suffering and death. He entered triumphantly to disclose the joyful and triumphant end of his journey; he was celebrating the end from the beginning as God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

Jesus Christ, our Lord, was looking at the value and purpose of the journey which would be the triumph over sin and death (1 Cor. 15:53-55; Col.2:15). In life, we often face various kinds of challenging situations and most times we cry and break our heads over what is prevailing in our lives, and we fail to look beyond the present to see what lies ahead of us. The situations we face in our lives should not define us. The passion and death could not define our Lord Jesus Christ because there would be a rising from the dead.

The donkey and the colt represent our sinful souls tied to the tree of sin which reminds us of the tree at the middle of the garden in the book of Genesis where the first sin of disobedience was committed (Gen.3:3). The donkey and colt represent all of us, Adam and Eve, male and female, old and young, we have all sinned, and our Lord is going to suffer and die for us, and it is fitting that we should go with him triumphantly into the Jerusalem to celebrate our freedom in advance.

Hosanna is an Aramaic word which could translate as praise or adoration. It is however not addressed to just anyone but to someone who could deliver or save. That is why they had to link it to “Son of David” which means messiah and messiah means savior. That was why the Blind Bartimaeus could cry and say, “Son of David have mercy on me” (Mark 10:48), in other words, he said. “savior, have mercy on me.”

Today, the door of the Holy week is open for us to march with the Lord to his suffering and death as we look forward to the resurrection. I wouldn’t know what your disposition has been since the beginning of Lent. Would you say, “yes it has been a great experience for me” or would you have regrets?

These few days could make a significant change in your life. The week will become as holy as you make it be. Have a great Palm Sunday and a rewarding Holy Week.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

THE SEARCH FOR JESUS IN OUR HEARTS HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

SEEK AND FIND THE LORD

One problem with most Christians is the senseless search for God in different churches, prayer houses and among self-made “men and women” of God. These “wonder-workers” end up draining them financially and giving them false hope for riches and wealth; they would acquire without working, testimonies without a test, and Easter Sunday with a Good Friday. Unfortunately, we don’t see this religious harlotry among people of other religions against whom some of us claim superiority. Often, we look for things we already have in the wrong places and does that make any sense?

In the First Reading today (Jer.31:31-34), we hear Jeremiah giving the divine oracle after the religious reforms by king Josiah who began to rule when he was only eight years old. God decided to forgive the sins of the people after the years of their estrangement from Him. Furthermore, He promised to make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah:

I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord, All, from the least to the greatest, shall know me says the Lord.

In the past, God made a covenant with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai through Moses his servant. Afterward, the people were reminded each time about what God said. In fact, the public reading of the commandment was a regular ritual in the Synagogue. In the new covenant, God decided to put the law into our hearts, like software could be downloaded and activated on a computer. What is more interesting also is that the knowledge of God is engraved in our hearts.

God speaks to us in our hearts though His voice may not be as loud as most of the contending voices around us. The voice of God is present when our right and certain consciences trouble us over our actions and inactions. The voice of God speaks to us when we have that gentle push in our hearts to give up evil and do good. The knowledge of God in us often urges us to drop sin and take the route of righteousness. However, the decision to do all these depends on us.

The highpoint of the Gospel narrative today (John 12:20-33) is the search for Jesus by some Greeks who approached Philip, and  Andrew to assist them to have access to meet our Lord Jesus Christ. This would be the second time that the Gentiles would seek to see the Lord. The first was the wise men from the east during the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem (Matt 2:1-12). The question we could ask is “why the search for Jesus?” It will be proper for us to explore the previous events and they include the death of Lazarus and the miracle of his rising the dead, the plan to kill him (Lazarus), and our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

One could say that the story of Jesus was widespread. Consequently, the Greeks who had come for the festival (the Passover) could have heard about the events and were curious, like every average Greek (Acts 17:20), to know more about the Lord and especially concerning the meaning of the rising from the dead to life. We know that the Greeks have a hard time believing in the resurrection as their encounter with Paul at Athens could attest (Acts 17:16-33).

We did not hear the Greeks ask our Lord any question when Andrew and Philip brought them, but the Gospel narrative says, “Jesus answered them…” (John 12:23). It is only rational to ask what question was he answering? Our Lord was answering the question in their hearts as he could see through them. The Gospel of John (2:24-25), tells us that he knows what is in everyone and there are other instances where he could read the heart of people (Matt. 12:25; 22:18; Luke 6:8; 11:17; 16:15).

Our Lord’s instruction to the Greek was about his on-coming suffering, death, and resurrection;

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

In the hearts of the Greeks, Jesus should preserve his life and live it to the full, but our Lord answers and says to them,

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

The Greeks wished they could also serve the Lord, but they questioned how they could abandon everything and become his followers and the Lord answers and says to them,

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

The Gospel narrative did not give us the names of the Greeks who came searching for Jesus. In a sense, we are the new Greeks who are searching for Jesus Christ. The question is, “where do we search for the Lord?” They met Philip and Andrew who took them to the Lord, not to themselves. Today we have many “Philips” and “Andrews” who are making themselves “saviors” instead of directing people to the Savior.

The liturgy of this Sunday invites us to continue the search for Jesus Christ but to do so in our hearts where God has left the imprint of His commandment and salvific knowledge and where we can find Him. The search for Jesus in our hearts this season encourages us to do away with sin, to listen to the word of God and not to count on the sufferings of the moment but on the glory that lies ahead.

May you find the Lord in your hearts and get to know Him more intimately and obey Him more steadfastly. Have a great Sunday and a beautiful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

OUR SIN-FULLNESS AND GOD’S MERCY-FULL LOVE HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

ACCORDING TO OUR INIQUITIES

In a particular diocese, the bishop gets a report about a visionary who was attracting a lot of attention following her claim of receiving messages directly from our Lord Jesus Christ. After receiving a number seemingly credible and incredible reports, the bishop decides to pay an unscheduled visit to the visionary. After hearing her stories, the bishop was still in doubt and tells her that whenever the Lord appears to her again, she should ask him to say to her the sins he (the bishop) confessed the last time he went for confessions and the visionary accepted.

One week later, the bishop receives a phone call from the visionary indicating that the Lord visited her, and she remembered to ask the question. The bishop was shocked because he thought that the visionary would never call because he was in doubt about her claims and gave her a difficult task. However, he rushes down to see the visionary with one of his priests who just concluded a doctoral study in the Scriptures in Rome. When they arrived, the bishop decided to have a private discussion with the visionary because it would be about his sins.

When they were by themselves, the bishop was curious to know what the Lord said to the visionary about his sins, and he was a bit nervous. “What did the Lord say about the sins I confessed during my last confession?” The bishop asked with his voice shaking slightly. The visionary looking at him directly in the eyes responds saying,

The Lord says that he cannot remember any of your sins because his merciful love is so powerful that it cleared all the sins away when you confessed, and there is no remembrance of them anymore. However, he said that he would be happy if you don’t commit those sins again.

The bishop was confused and overwhelmed at the same time. The prelate thanks the visionary and promises to return after making some consultations. While they were driving back the bishop shares the encounter with the priest who accompanied him to see the visionary and the priest says to the bishop, “she is absolutely right.” “How would God not remember the sins I confessed, is He no longer the all-knowing God?” The bishop asked. The priest now goes scriptural to convince the bishop. He gives the following quotations to the bishop.

  • Isaiah 43:25 – “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
  • 2nd 5:19 – “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
  • 8:12 – “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

God is more interested in our glorious future than in our unproductive past. From the answer of the visionary to the bishop, we understand that God is not concerned about our past sins and mistake, but He needs us to become better going forward.

The First Reading (2 Chron. 36:14-16, 19-23) tells us how all the people of Israel, without exception, offended God by adding infidelity to infidelity. God gave them time to turn back, but they refused and even revolted against His messengers, and this brought about the Babylonian captivity or exile. After many years, God’s merciful love goes in search of the people and through a pagan king, Cyrus of Persia, the survivors among people received the grace of restoration to the promised land.

We are all sinners (Eccles. 7:20; Romans 3:23), we often fail to be faithful to God though He remains faithful because he cannot deny His own self (2 Tim. 12:13). Despite our sins, God is continually looking out for us like he did to the people of Israel and He is ready to have us back if only we could turn back to Him (Jer. 15:19). St. Paul explains to us in the Second Reading (Eph. 2:4-10) that our reconciliation and salvation is by the grace of God; though we were dead in our transgressions, God brought us back and saved us by His grace.

God does not want us to die for our sins. The incarnation is a proof of God’s desire for our salvation. The Gospel Reading (John 3:14-21), tells us among other things that God sent His Son (leveraging on his love) so that the world might be saved through him. But there is a clause for our salvation, and that is our belief “everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Belief refers to our faith in God’s merciful love to forgive our sins and wipe them off completely. Often, we tie ourselves to our past sins even when we have confessed them. Some people allow their past sins to limit them from making a saintly future. The message of today tells us that God does not count nor remember our confessed past. God does not deal with us according to our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:10); David asked: “If God should remember and count our guilt, who can stand?” (Psalm 130:3).

The Fourth Sunday of Lent invites us to rejoice because God’s merciful love is available to us after our episodes of sinfulness. There is today an invitation for us to return to God and enjoy the grace of His merciful love. This season of Lent is timely enough to undertake the journey back to our loving and compassionate Father.

Let us bear in mind that God does not remember our past sins, but he is anticipating our return to Him like the loving father of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 20). Today is a good day for you to return to God and receive His merciful love. Have a great Sunday and a graceful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

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