Fr Bonnie's Reflections

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

wedding at cana

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

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

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

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

An Invitation to Jesus Christ

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

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

They have no Wine!

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

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

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

Faith Through the Revelation of His Glory

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

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

Moving Forward!  

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

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

Fr. Bonnie.

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

baptism-of-the-lord

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

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

The Baptism of the Sinless

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

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

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

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

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

Baptism Saves Us

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

Moving Forward: Living the Baptismal Life

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

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

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

Have a fabulous celebration and may God bless you always.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

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

the-magi

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

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

The Epiphany Star and The Journey to The Lord

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

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

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

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

The Diligent Search for The Lord

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

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

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

Moving Forward!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Bonnie.

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

NEW MIND

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

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

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

You Are In The Middle Of The Old And The New

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

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

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

Flip Your Mind  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving Forward!

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

Have a mind flipping New Year. Happy New Year!

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

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

Family is God's gift

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

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

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

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

Family Is Anything We Make Of It!

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

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

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

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

Moving Forward And Making Your Family Holy

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

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

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

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

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS IS “HARD”! REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

HARD CHRISTMAS

Once upon a time, a seventy-six years old man calls his son on the phone to inform him that he is concluding plans with his attorney to divorce his mom. The son expresses shock and asks his dad why he would want to end a marriage of forty-five happy years, and his dad says that he cannot put up with his mom any longer and his decision is final.

When the son could not convince his dad to drop the idea of a divorce, he decides to call his only sibling and older sister to report the impending marital disaster between their parents.

The older sister was angry and calls the dad immediately, and before he could explain why he intends to divorce their mom, the daughter tells him not do anything and that she would be coming home with her brother next day which is the Christmas day so that they could talk it over. When she dropped the phone, the man hugs his wife in excitement and says to her, “they are both coming home for this Christmas the trick worked.”

A couple of years ago, I met a woman crying uncontrollably by the Christmas crib at the Church after the mass at dawn on Christmas Day. It was shocking to me to see someone in tears on a day that the whole world beams with joy.

When I tried to find out what was going on with her, she tells me that Christmas is always hard for her. She lost her husband and her two kids on a Christmas day some years back. While most people see the yuletide as a time to celebrate, she sees it as a mourning period and a  season of sadness and regrets. For this poor woman, the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas evokes depression instead of happiness.

At Christmas, some people cannot get a comfortable meal. At Christmas, some people feel a lot of pressure to buy gifts for their kids and loved ones even when the resources are not sufficient. At Christmas, people undertake long and often unnecessary journeys because of the pressures of the season. At Christmas, some people become so extravagant that they become almost beggarly in the New Year.  Some people feel pressured to jingle bell when they face a lot of juggle to bell. Is there something humanity is missing about the Christmas? Yes! Many have lost the ideal Christmas.

What is Christmas and what should we Celebrate?

Christmas is the fulfillment of the divine promise that a Virgin shall conceive and bear Son whom she would call Immanuel, the name that means God-with-us (Isaiah 7:14). Furthermore, it is not just about God being with us but more about what God will be doing in our midst. The Oracle of the prophet Isaiah (9:6-7) adds:

For a child has been born for us, a Son is given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forever more. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation, that means God’s intentional act of coming to us and being one of us to redeem us from our agelong sojourn with sin. The Gospel of John (1:14) captures this very well when it says: “And the world became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory, the glory of a Father’s only Son full of grace and truth.”

Christmas is “HARD”

From our understanding of Christmas, one can see that Christmas is HARD. Yes, Christmas is hard because we celebrate ourselves instead of the one who is coming to save us. Christmas is hard because we do not get it. We build Christmas trees without Christ; we honor Santa Claus more than the newborn King. Christmas is hard for us to comprehend because we have a lot of lights inside and outside our homes, but we live in darkness in our hearts.

The irony in the statement that Christmas is HARD is that it is Holy, Adorable, Redemptive and Divine.

Christmas is Holy: Everything about Christmas is holy and should be holy. Among other things, the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “the child to be born will be holy; and he would be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). The opposite of holy is unholy or profane. Profanity is, unfortunately, the prevalent life people live during Christmas. However, the ideal Christmas should be a holy celebration.

Christmas is Adorable: When the wise men from the East eventually located the place where Jesus Christ was born, St. Matthew (2:11) reports that on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary, his mother, and they knelt and adored him. We could recall that earlier, the shepherd came and paid homage when the nativity angels announced to them the birth of the Savior. To whom do we give adoration during the Christmas?

Christmas is Redemptive. The birth of Jesus Christ is at the same time the birth of our redemption which is the same as our salvation. The Oracle of the prophets have one common denominator, and that is the coming of the Messiah who would bring redemption to the people from the slavery of sin and death while defeating the devil (Heb. 2:14-15).

Christmas is Divine: At Christmas, we are not celebrating any human authority. Instead, we are celebrating the birth of the Son of God who is also God. Christmas is, therefore, a divine event which we only have a special privilege to participate as humans. Unfortunately, most people end up celebrating themselves and forgetting the focus of the celebration.

Moving Forward!

Where do we go from here? Should the Christmas end with the carols, sumptuous meals, and the extended and shorts visits to family and friends? There is an urgent need for us to allow Jesus Christ to be born in our lives, families, and the world around us.

Isaiah (9:6) says he is the prince of peace, may our lives radiate with his peace. Jeremiah (23:5), says that he is the righteous branch from David, may our lives go through the route of honest living. John the Baptist says that he is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), may we keep our lives open for his cleansing power.

Merry Christmas and remember to celebrate Christ our ideal BAE (Before Anyone Else).

Fr. Bonnie.

ADVENT OF DIVINE VISITATION: BE READY AND WATCHFUL! HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT (Year C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Divine Visitation Xmas

My godfather was one person that would never fail to give me a gift whenever and wherever he sees me. My mom knew about that and anytime she wanted me to tidy up my clothes and other personal effects she would tell me that my godfather had said sometime ago that he would be visiting soon, and he wouldn’t like to see me in a mess. Instantly, I would tidy up get myself ready while keeping an eye on the road to welcome when he comes.

Gospel of this last Sunday of Advent Year C (Luke 1:39-45), recalls the visit of Mary to Elizabeth after the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary. We could recall that Mary asked the angel Gabriel how she could conceive and bear a son since she was a virgin. The angel answers and tells her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” (Luke 1:35).

The answer the angel Gabriel gave to Mary shows the promise of divine visitation contingent upon Mary’s acceptance of the divine proposal. Consequently, as soon as Mary gave her consent, “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), the Holy Spirit came upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her; this is the divine visitation proper.

The Gospel of this Sunday continues the narrative of divine visitation which is clear from Elizabeth’s utterance under the influence of the Holy Spirit when she heard Mary’s greeting, “how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). To certify that the visit was not like any other kind of visit, Elizabeth discloses that the sound of Mary’s voice made the child in her womb to leap for joy.

Standing on this Fourth Sunday of Advent which is a few hours away from Christmas, we await our divine visitation, and like Elizabeth, we could as well say, “how does this happen that the Lord should come to us at Christmas?” What qualifies us to receive this amazing divine visitation?

Are You Ready and Watchful?

During the preceding Sundays of Advent, we heard the instruction about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we were also challenged to prepare and wait in joyful hope. On this Sunday, we examine our readiness and how intentionally watchful we are in anticipation for the coming of the Savior.

You could recall from the opening story that I would always get rid the mess around me when I hear that my godfather would be visiting so that he would delight in me and give me gifts. The one whom we await is more than any godfather; he is also coming with gifts that no human benefactor can provide. Are we ready and watchful now that his coming is a click away?

Moving Forward!

Our readiness should transcend the lighted Christmas trees, beautiful cards and gorgeous gifts we give and receive. Ideal readiness is the cleansing of the inner recesses of our being; our hearts where the Jesus Christ would be born.

A king was visiting one of the provinces in his vast kingdom and decides to come by foot dressed like a street beggar. The noblemen and women of the region gathered at the entrance of their city waiting to welcome the king riding on a horse with his usual entourage and gallant soldiers.

As people were waiting, they did not know when the king passed and entered the city dressed as a beggar. Inside the city he could not find any of the noblemen and women, and he goes to stay with the poor beggars and the insignificant members of the city who welcomed him with joy not knowing that he is their king. He stayed two days in the city with the poor while the rich and noble were waiting at the city gate to give the king a royal welcome. It was on his way going that we revealed his identity.

Let us be watchful in addition to our readiness so that the Lord does not come while we are looking out for him in the wrong places and the wrong outfits. The First Reading (Micah 5:1-4a) tells us that Bethlehem, too small among the clans of Judah, would produce one who is to be ruler in Israel. Divine visitation is not an exclusive reserve to the great and influential but a facility for the meek who wait for the Lord. Micha (7:7) says, “I will watch for the Lord; I will wait confidently for God, who will save me. My God will hear me.” Yes, He is visiting soon!

Have a pleasant Sunday and intriguing experience of divine visitation. God bless you always.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

 

ADVENT OF JOY-FULL EXPECTATION HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

ADVENT OF JOY

How would you feel when the traffic light shows the yellow amber after waiting for a long time behind several cars in front of a traffic light? How do you react to an alert or notification that tells you that something good you have been expecting is just around the corner and your story is about to change? In what way would you react when you get a phone call or receive an email that says, “you will get the delivery of your package soon”

Expectations often keep us in the waiting room of life, and at times waiting could be weary and draining. Sometimes, when we wait so long, we experience stress, try to give up or look for unproductive shortcuts to get to our desired destinations.  However, our expectations get joyful when we see signs that suggest that we are getting closer to our goals just like in the descriptions in the opening words of this reflection.

The Third Sunday of Advent invites us to rejoice because our expectation of the coming of the Messiah at Christmas would soon meet the desirable fulfillment. In the First Reading, the prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18a) invites us to shout for joy, to be glad, and exult with all our heart because the Lord our God, the mighty savior, is in our midst.

St. Paul continues the theme of joy in the Second Reading (Phil.4:4-7). He begins by asking us to rejoice in the Lord always, and he says that twice making an emphasis on the need for joyfulness even when we are confronted by various challenges that tend to produce anxiety in our lives.

The Fruits of Joy-Full Expectation

The Gospel Reading this Third Sunday of Advent (Luke 3:10-18) presents us with the answer of John the Baptist to the question of the crowds which says, “what should we do?” The question was the crowd’s response to John’s earlier invitation to prepare the way of the Lord through repentance.

Today, we see John’s answer to the question “what shall we do?” in the light of the joyful expectation of the coming of our savior Jesus Christ. Joy is an active divine fruit that produces other virtues. In the context of the joyful expectation of the arrival of our savior, John recommends:

  • Courageous Charity: Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. Whoever has food should do the same.
  • Prudence: Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.
  • Justice: Do not practice extortion; do not accuse anyone.
  • Temperance: Be satisfied with your wages.

A critical look at the instructions of John the Baptist would remind us of the cardinal virtues which are habits of the mind that are in harmony with reason and the order of nature. In his final instructions to the Philippians (4:8) St. Paul admonishes:

whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about all these things.

These are the inevitable accompaniments to our joy-full expectation.

Moving Forward

The prophet Nehemiah (8:10b) says, “this is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”. Joy remains the potent precondition for encountering the Lord in fact, without the joy of the Lord we have no connection with God. We could recall that in the penitential prayer of David after his fall, he begged, “restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit (Psalm 51:12).

Our expectation should d be joyful because the coming of the savior is the joy to the world. Yes, we may be passing through challenges and problems that could make us sad and anxious, but the coming of the Lord would change everything. The Palmist (Ps.30:5) says that weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning; today is that morning of joy. The prophet Isaiah (35:10b) adds that everlasting joy shall be upon our heads and we shall obtain joy and gladness while sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

There is every reason for us to rejoice because those who are sitting in darkness would see a great light (Isaiah 9:2). The crawling caterpillar would soon become a flying butterfly, and nothing would stop the joy of divine liberation in our lives.

May your joy be full as you wait for the birth of the King of kings. May you have an awesome Sunday and a joyful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

ADVENT OF PREPARATION HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

PREPARATION. ADVENT 2

The famous fable about the ant and the grasshopper remains a significant anecdote on the importance of preparation. The ant works hard during the summer, storing up food and building up a safe and warm basement house underneath the soil. The grasshopper, on the other hand, plays around and thinks that the ant is overly enthusiastic and stupid. The winter arrives sooner than usual. The ant is warm and well-fed while the grasshopper starves, freezes and dies in the cold.

Before the deluge that destroyed the world, God enjoined Noah to prepare by building the ark which would protect the different living creatures from the flood. Noah takes time to build the ark while the people in his city laugh at him like the grasshopper would do to the ant (Gen. 6:1ff). Before the people of Israel encountered the majestic presence of God, Moses had to prepare the people for the third day (Gen. 19:15-17).

The world runs on the contingency of preparation whether proximate or immediate. Preparation is essential to life as the foreground to success. We are conversant with the statement that says that failure to prepare is a preparation to fail.  Our All-knowing and All-powerful God follow the path of preparation in His dealings with us, for instance, he made the living habitations first before creating the living creatures.

The Liturgy of the Word this Second Sunday of Advent challenges us to get into the preparation mood as the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ approaches. In the First Reading (Baruch 5:1-9), the Prophets Baruch anticipates a time of glorious divine liberation. He goes further to unveil God’s command that would precede the divine liberation: lofty mountain be made low, and the age-old depths and gorges are filled to level ground.

The Gospel Reading (Luke 3:1-6), tells us about the ministry of John the Baptist which consists of baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The Gospel passage identifies the ministry of John as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah about the voice crying out in the desert saying:

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Bringing Down the Lofty Mountains

A mountain is an elevated landscape. Put in another way; a mountain is a natural landform that rises higher than its extended surrounding. There are two ways of understanding a mountain in the Bible. First, it shows a place of divine encounter and a point of protection. Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:3ff), Elijah did on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11-12), and the psalmist says that those who trust in God are like Mount Zion (Psalm 125:1-2).

Some other places in the Bible identify mountains as obstacles that need to be moved. The book of Job (9:5) tells us that God moves mountains when he overturns them in His anger. In the Gospel of Mark (11:23), our Lord says that anyone with faith can move a mountain (a challenge or obstacle) into the sea.

The description “lofty mountain” in the First Reading is an indication that the mountain has an exaggerated height; that means it is supercilious and arrogant. This description resonates with what sin does in our lives. It takes us to a false height and gives us false security.

We could recall that in one of the temptations, the devil took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor (Matt. 4:8). The high mountain here is the point of sin and disobedience. Bringing down the lofty mountain means dismantling all the structures of sin in our lives. It means coming down to the level that God had designed for us.

Filling the Valleys

A valley is an extreme opposite for a mountain. It indicates the absence of what should be present; a deficiency. Spiritual valleys represent the potholes and gorges in our lives due to the lack of essential values. Ezekiel talks about the valley of dead dry bones (Ezk. 37:1ff) In the Book of Psalms (23:4), David relates valley with the shadow of death.

Filling that valley would mean bringing back the virtues and values we lost on account of our senseless ties with mundane things. We fill the valleys of our lives after dismantling the lofty mountains and allowing the grace of God to lead us.

Moving Forward!

This Second Sunday of Advent provides a step forward in our march towards the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord is coming to us, and the roadway is our hearts, and we need to make that roadway usable for the advent of the Lord.

In the Second Reading (Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11), St. Paul encourages this roadway reconstruction by increasing in our love, knowledge, discernment of right values and keeping ourselves pure and blameless for the day of Christ. We could further achieve the demands of this invitation to prepare by giving up the old lives and (Eph. 4:22) and taking up the new life (Eph. 4:24).

As we march into the Second Sunday of Advent, may we pay attention to the call for personal preparation beyond the external decorations we set up around us. The ideal preparation is not the Christmas tree nor the images of Santa around our living spaces. The journey is within the heart, and that is where we shall meet the Lord.

Have a beautiful Second Sunday of Advent and keep up with the spirit of committed waiting and preparation for the coming of the Lord.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ADVENT OF HOPE: AWAITING THE FULFILMENT OF GOD’S PROMISES. HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Advent Hope

Life is a recurrent foreground of expectations. It is often impossible to live without some forms of expectations. Pregnant women are called expectant mothers because they are awaiting the birth of their babies. The expectancy theory by Victor Vroom states that we are motivated to act in certain ways because of the of rewards we expect. There is always one form of expectation or the other in our lives, good or not so good, fair or not so fair. In whichever way it goes, hope sustains expectations.

Today, the Church enters her annual season of expectation, namely, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ not just at Christmas but into our lives as we also prepare for his second coming; the Parousia. The advent period opens with the message of future hope beyond the many challenges and unfortunate moments of the past and the present.

In the First Reading today (Jer. 33:14-16), the prophet Jeremiah declares that the days are coming when God will fulfill the promise he made to the house of Israel and Judah about raising for David, a just shoot. In the Gospel Reading (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36), our Lord states that our redemption would come through after the tribulations of those days when frightening things would happen following remarkable changes in the universe.

Hope Sustains and Fulfils Our Expectations

The challenge that goes with expectation is the ability to wait for the fulfillment of what one expects. The virtue of hope comes up at this point. Hope, with faith, and love constitutes the theological virtues (1 Cor. 13:13) which are infused by God as gifts that enable us to act as children of God who would merit eternal life.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, hope helps us to place our trust in Christ’s promises and not to rely on our strength. Hope is not mere positive thinking, it is instead a relationship which involves faithful trust and surrender to God.

We live in an intensely broken world. There are traces and evidence of brokenness around us for instance in marriages, finances, businesses, jobs, relationships, and other areas of life. In all these, we need hope to keep going; without hope, we may not cope.

Our God is a promise keeper. The Book of Joshua (21:45), tells us that all the promises of God to Israel were fulfilled; none failed. In the oracle of the Prophet Isaiah (55:11), God maintains that the word that goes out of His mouth would not return empty but shall accomplish its purpose. According to our Lord Jesus Christ, heaven and earth may pass away, but his words will not pass. (Matt. 24:35).

Moving Forward!

The advent attitude is that of hopeful waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises. The liturgy of this Sunday invites us to look beyond the discomforts and problems could be confronting us now and focus on the glorious future ahead.

Sometimes, we tend to forget that there are lots of opportunities behind most of the obstacles that confront us. Some of us search for shortcuts that end up cutting short our blessings. St. Paul tells us not to be weary in doing good, for at the PROPER TIME we will reap the harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9). We should not be weary at all because he who has promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23).

In the Second Reading today (1 Thess. 3:12-4:2), St. Paul gives us an idea of what we could be doing as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises. In his words, we should increase and abound in love for one another and be blameless in holiness before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.

As we march into the advent period, may we always remind ourselves that we are in a holy season that is preparatory to the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts. Have a beautiful celebration and a glorious season of Advent.

Fr. Bonnie.

%d bloggers like this: