Fr Bonnie's Reflections

THE SAVING POWER OF CHANGE! (IT BEGINS WITH YOU) HOMILY FOR THE 26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

change

This story goes back to an unknown Monk who lived around 1110 AD:

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it is hard to change the world, so I tried to change my nation, but I could not.

When I found I couldn’t change my nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town, and I tried to change my family, but I could not.

Now, after all these years, I realize that the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. The impact of my town could have changed the nation, and I could indeed have changed the world.

Parents expect their children to change and become more obedient; children expect their parents to change and become more tolerant, teachers expect their students to change and become more attentive and serious with their work and students expect teachers to change and give them lesser work to do. The government expects the citizens to pay their taxes and become law-abiding, citizens expect the government to change by fulfilling their election promises and providing more amenities.

The list is endless; everyone wants others to change, but only a few are ready to be the change they expect. The monk in our opening story captures the heart of change; it should begin with us; from our minds from the way, we do things, from our ways of life.

In the First Reading (Ezekiel 18:25-28), the oracle of the prophet tells us about the people’s judgment that: “The Lord’s way is not fair!” They were making that comment because they feel that the good they did in the past would suffice for them in their present wickedness; that could only be a human way, not God’s way.

God’s way tells us to be consistent in doing good, and when we, peradventure, falter, we should turn around (change).  Hence, the prophet says that God will preserve the life of a wicked person if he changes his way. With God, there is always an opportunity for us to change; in fact, he needs us to change for our good.

In the Gospel (Matt. 21: 28-32), our Lord uses a short narrative to describe to us that change is not what we say but what we do; it is a decision that happens in our minds first before it becomes manifest.

A man tells his two sons to work in his vineyard. One says we would not go and later changes his mind and goes to work. The second promises to work but then changes his mind and did not go. From the story, the two sons made different verbal statements and did different things.

Righteousness does not consist in our oral presentations. Every Easter vigil we renew our baptismal vows to reject sin and the devil but how many of us keep to that. Often, we promise God that we shall become angels if He fulfills some needs for us only for us to forget such promises and continue the way we live.

The message today hinges on positive change because change can also be negative like in the case of the son who promised to go to work fails to move. Change is what we all need in our lives; in fact, most of our problems arise from our inability to embrace changes in our lives beginning from our minds.

If God is inviting us to change then, we should understand that change is significant for us. It was Albert Einstein who says that we cannot be doing the same thing the same way and get a different result; for him it is insanity. If we look closely at most of the biblical events, we could understand that change is recurrent.

  • God asks Abram to switch to a new location (Gen. 12:1-4).
  • God asks Moses to change his position from exile (Exodus 3:1ff).
  • God changes the Kingship from Saul to David (1Kings 16:1).
  • When he sinned, David prayed for a change; a clean heart and a renewed spirit (Psalm 51:10).
  • God asks Joseph and Mary to take the child Jesus and change location (Matt. 2:13).
  • The woman with the issue of blood had to change her position to receive healing (Luke 8: 42-48)
  • Saul becomes Paul after an encounter with the Lord (Acts 9:1ff).

Often, we blame the wrong persons and things for our woes. Our problem is mostly “us” and especially our inability to embrace positive changes. We cannot expect the world to change while we remain the same. We need to change the way we see and do things to be able to receive that change we hope:

  • Some of us always see failure in everything; we need to change and begin to see success!
  • Some of us see the devil in everything; we need to change and begin to see the hand of God!
  • Some of us see enemies everywhere while the enemy might be us. We need to change and start to see helpers in our destiny!

If we change the way we do things, things will change for us. Today may be the fateful day for you to make that turnaround; that change you have been thinking about in your life. Rise, do it, and you will be blessed.

Have a beautiful Sunday and a glorious week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

THE POWER OF GOD’S WAYS! HOMILY FOR THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

InkedShow me your way O Lord_LI

There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of it is destruction              (Prov. 14:12).

A good number of us would always want things done in their way. In fact, “wanting it in my way” is one of the leading causes of most interpersonal, group, family, organizational and societal problems. The failure of our first parents (Adam and Eve) consists in their following a way that contradicted God’s way (Genesis 3). The same goes for the builders of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1ff), the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-33;19) and the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

Most people, from politicians to business moguls would do anything possible to see that they have their way. In fact, we often believe that our way is the best and for many, it is either their way or the highway. Unfortunately, some people exhibit this “my way mentality” when they approach God in prayer; they want God to do their will and not the will of God to manifest.

Today, the liturgy of the word begins with the prophet Isaiah, reminding us that God’s ways and thoughts are different from ours. The prophet thus advises us to forsake our crooked ways and thoughts and seek the Lord when we can find Him and when He is still within our reach.

A little insight into what constitutes God’s ways would help us in this reflection. The first thing we need to know is that God’s ways are mysterious; they are not predictable by human calculation, and they are deeper than we can conceive. St. Paul writing to Romans (11:33) says:

“How great are God’s riches! How deep are his wisdom and knowledge! Who can explain his decisions? Who can understand his ways?”

From our human standpoint, God is “unusual” in His ways. Many biblical instances still challenge the minds of many about God’s way of doing things; here are some of them:

  • God destroys the world with the water of the flood (Genesis 7:1ff).
  • God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son (Genesis 22:1-2).
  • God allows Jacob to take over Esau’s birthright (Genesis 27:1ff).
  • God drives away other nations to settle the people of Israel in the promised land (Psalm 44:1-2; 78:54-55).
  • God tells us to help our enemies (Prov. 25: 21-22; Romans 12:19-21).
  • God tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).
  • God allows his Son to suffer and to die for our sins (1 John 4:10, Romans 4:25).

In the Gospel of today (Matthew 20:1-16a), our Lord Jesus Christ gives a Kingdom parable that goes forth to show God’s “unusual” ways.  A man hires laborers to work in his vineyard at different times of the day. When the time comes for payment, he pays all of them the same amount, even the ones who joined the workforce an hour before the end of the working day.

In our “usual” human way of thinking, the landowner is unfair. But, wait, he is only fulfilling an agreement. The parable not only shows us that God’s ways are different from our ways, but it also tells us that God would always keep His promises to each person irrespective of others.

Furthermore, the parable tells us that God is timeless in His ways. This is unlike our human ways where we count more on the length of time. For God, it is not how long, but how well. In the parable, what is important to the landowner is not the time of joining the workforce (nine-to-five) but the willingness to work no matter the length of time.

Today, we have a very passionate call to reconsider how we cling to our ways at the detriment of God’s ways. Paying attention to God’s ways would be to our advantage. Following or not following God’s ways (thoughts) would bring the following upon us:

  • Blessings: The word of God says “Blessed is anyone who fears the Lord and walks in His ways. (Psalm 128:1).
  • Judgement: The prophet Ezekiel (18:24-30) says that God will judge us according to our ways.
  • Divine protection: God says that if we would listen and walk in His ways, He would soon subdue our enemies and turn His hand against our adversaries (Psalm 81:11-14). Let us remember that our chief enemy is the devil (1 Peter 5:8).
  • God’s anger: God says that He will be angry with the generation that goes astray in their hearts and does not know His ways (Psalm 95:10; Heb.3:8).
  • The life in Christ. St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading (Phil.1:20c-24.27a) that life is Christ insofar as we conduct ourselves in a WAY worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

As we march into the new week, let us search our hearts to locate and discard those ways that are contrary to God’s ways. Our way of pride, anger, jealousy, unforgiveness, immorality, dishonesty and other vices. On the contrary, let us take up the ways of love, peace forgiveness, kindness and faith in God.

Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

WHY SHOULD I FOR-GIVE? HOMILY FOR THE 24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

FORGIVE

Once upon a time, two good friends set out on a long journey through the desert. On the way, an argument starts between them. One of them strikes the other in the face, and the one who gets the blow did not retaliate nor curse his friend. Instead, he bends down and writes in the sand: “today my best friend hit me in the face.”

After a period of silence, they decide to continue their journey. Later, the two friends come across a river and agree to swim and get some refreshment. The victim of their previous misunderstanding ventures into the deeper side of the river and was drowning and his friend who is a better swimmer, quickly helps him to get out.

Before they proceed on their journey, the one who received help from his friend gets a stone and carefully carves the following words: “today my best friend saved my life.”

At this point, the friend asks him why he wrote the incidence of hitting him on the sand and the gesture of rescuing him on a stone. The friend replies and says that we ought to write the deeds against us on sand so that the wind of forgiveness could blow them away but the good things we should write on a stone so that they stay with us forever.

The moral of this story is very clear; we should forgive and let go the wrongs done to us. However, in our day and age, people do the opposite. They prefer to write the good things on the sand and engrave the slightest offense on hard stones. Today, the Liturgy retains our attention on forgiveness; which is part of the lesson of the previous Sunday.

Before we proceed to reflect on the readings, it will be excellent if we understand the meaning of the word “FORGIVE.”  The word is a combination of two words “FOR” and “GIVE” and comes from the Old English “forgiefan” which in turn is a combination of two words “FOR” (completely)  and “GIEFAN” (give).

From the preceding, we understand that “to forgive” means “to give completely.” We shall have this “giving completely” at the back of our minds as we reflect on forgiveness in this message.

The First Reading today (Sirach 27:30-28:7) tells us among other things to forgive others so that when we pray our sins will be forgiven. Here we could see the law of retribution and the law of the seed sowing showing clearly. We get whatever we sow; we receive what we give; that means we cannot get what we do not give.

In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 18:21-35), our Lord uses a parable to provide more insight to Peter’s question: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Peter must have tolerated a terrible brother for a while. Before relating the parable; our Lord tells Peter to forgive not just seven times but seventy-seven times.

“Seventy-seven times?” That could have been Peter’s response. Yes, seventy-seven times means that we should not count the number of times we forgive wrongs. It entails that we should write the wrong done to us on sand so that the ever-present wind of forgiveness could blow them away.

In the parable, which is also a kingdom parable, our Lord talks about the king (master) who FOR-GIVES (completely gives pardon, mercy, and love) his servant who owes him a lot of money. The servant in turn (after gaining his freedom) goes after another servant who owes him just a little. When the master learns about the act, he rearrests the servant and locks him up until he pays the debt he was asked not to pay earlier.

The parable leaves us with some lessons which at the same time answer the question that this reflection poses: ” Why should I for-give”.  The servant lost his freedom because he goes out there to confront his fellow servant because of a little debt. He did not stop at physically abusing the one who owes him; he continues to put him in prison.

Back to our question “why should I for-give?”:

  • I should for-give because God also forgives me whenever I sin. (Col.3:13).
  • I should for-give because I also offend others consciously and unconsciously and even receive their forgiveness.
  • I should for-give because it is part of our daily prayer to God: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12).
  • I should forgive because it determines my forgiveness from God: “forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37).
  • I should for-give because it is what I do for myself in the long run.

As we enter the new week, let us be courageous enough to carry the flag of forgiveness and spread the message wherever we go. Remember to write the wrongs on sand and the good on stone.

Have a great week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

THERE IS NO TRUE RECONCILIATION WITHOUT LOVE. HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

AKA RECONCILIATION

People often quarrel because they do not understand each other. Most times, people don’t understand each because they do not connect, though they might be communicating. People do not connect because they do not care and people do not often care because they fail to love and people do not love most times because they don’t understand that love is not selfish (1 Cor. 13:5) and God is love (1 John 4:8).

Misunderstanding, anger, enmity, disunity, and unforgiveness are contemporary viruses eating up the human society starting from various families. It is thus true that the devil plans to destroy the world starting from various families. If our goodness does not start from our different families then we are not truthful to ourselves; charity begins at home (1 Tim. 5:8).

In the Second Reading of today (Romans 13:8-10), St. Paul tells us to owe nothing to anyone except love because love is the fulfillment of the law. Paul’s exposition on love here reminds us of what our Lord Jesus Christ calls a new commandment and which states:

I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (John 13:34).

The Gospel Reading presents us with a practical scenario that requires the incarnation of love as it affects the relationship we have with other people. Our Lord gives us a typical description of misunderstanding between two individuals and the possible steps towards a resolution. It is interesting to see in the passage that the victim (the offended) is the one that initiates and pushes the process of reconciliation.

  • Tell your brother his fault privately

Some people have only two approaches when they have issues with another person; to shut down completely or tell everyone else about it apart from the person in question.

The sincerity of purpose, maturity and above all, love should prod us to seek for a productive interface to settle our issues.

  • Bring a third-party

It is important to point out here that dialogue between the two parties should come before a third-party engagement. A thirty-party should be a neutral person who could tell the truth without judging or taking sides.

In our day and age, most individuals who come in as third-parties in conflict situations end up causing more harm and estrangement to the relationship. Being third-party is not a license to insult and disrespect people.

  • Bring in the Church (community)

The Church comes in as a community of love when reconciliation fails at both interpersonal and third-party levels. The duty of the Church in this regard is to remind the individuals what the word of God says.

In the manner of the oracle of Ezekiel in the First Reading (Ezekiel 33:7-9), it is the duty of the Church to speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way. Of course, anyone who refuses to accept reconciliation in the two preceding steps could qualify as wicked.

The Church is now speaking to our warring parties and us as we read or listen to this reflection. The message of reconciliation tells us to forgive each other and be open to reconciliation we receive same from God (Luke 6:37).

  • Treat him like a Gentile or Tax Collector

On the face value, we could assume that our Lord is suggesting that one should give up when a brother refuses to accept reconciliation after many efforts.

To understand what our Lord means by treating him like a Gentile or Tax Collector, we need to go back to the Gospels to rediscover our Lord’s approach to Gentiles and Tax Collectors.

During the dedication of our Lord Jesus Christ in the temple Simeon, the Priest declared that our Lord would like a light of the Gentiles and glory of Israel (Luke 2:32). The Samaritan woman, a Gentile, encounters the Lord at the well and emerged a better person (John 4:7ff). The faith of the Syrophoenician woman before our Lord brings about the healing of her daughter (Matt. 15:21-28). One of the ten lepers who returns to thank our Lord after receiving healing was a Gentile (Luke 17:11-19).

With regards to Tax Collectors, Matthew, one of them, receives the call to from our Lord and becomes of the apostles (Matt. 9:9-13). Our Lord Jesus Christ discovered Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector on a tree and brought salvation to his house (Luke 19:1-10).

In all, our Lord shows special love and attention to the Gentiles and Tax Collectors. Going back to the question of treating a brother who refuses reconciliation like a Gentile or Tax Collector, our Lord is saying that we should show them more love.

The concluding part of the Gospel passage tells us what reconciliation and unity can do for us. We receive authority to bind and to loose, we shall agree and pray and get answers because our heavenly father will be in our midst and when He is with us nobody can be against us. (Romans 8:31)

As we march into a new week, let us work towards unity by reconciling our difference and allowing love to guide our steps.

Have a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE GREAT HIDDEN BENEFITS OF THE CROSS HOMILY FOR THE 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

tAKE UP YOUR CROSS

Once upon a time, a man approaches our Lord Jesus Christ with a complaint that his cross is too heavy and troublesome for him. Our Lord responds by taking him to a house full of crosses of different types and shapes. He asks him to drop the cross he was carrying amid the other crosses and pick another befitting cross.

The man drops his cross and takes his time to look around. He sees big crosses, medium crosses and just one cross that looks smaller than others, and he quickly picks it up. Our Lord asks him if that is his final choice and he says: “yes it feels good and I can bear it.” At this point, our Lord tells him that it was the same cross he had when he entered the house. Your cross is your cross, and God gives you a cross knowing that you can carry it.

In the Gospel Reading of today (Matt. 16:21-27) our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the precondition for discipleship. He begins why describing his “cross” which consists of going to Jerusalem, suffering, and dying. He also added that he would he would rise on the third day.

Peter interrupts our Lord’s exposition of his cross by taking him aside and rebuking him for thinking about taking the cross. Hear Peter: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you”. Peter’s statement implies that our Lord should not go ahead to pay the price for our sins. He is saying “God forbid our redemption through the cross.” This statement could not come from God, and our Lord reply to Peter says it all, “Get behind me Satan.”

It is instructive to learn that the same Peter who professed our Lord last Sunday as “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” is today declaring negatively though under a different influence. The devil can speak through the best of us if we give him the opportunity or foothold (Eph. 4:27).

The central point of the narrative which preoccupies us here is our Lord’s instruction after replying sharply to Peter’s rebuke under Satan’s infiltration. He says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Here, we have a profound message that would sustain the rest of our reflection.

  • “DENY YOURSELF”

 

A biblical understanding of denial is evident during the arrest of our Lord Jesus Christ when Peter dissociates himself from our Lord Jesus Christ before the rooster crows twice (Matt. 26:69-75). It is easy to deny others but to deny oneself is a difficult thing to do because it means losing our identity and values and who wants to do that?

 

In the passage, our Lord instructs that whoever wishes to come after him should deny himself. How and to what extent? To deny oneself is a deeper and more extensive way of saying that one should be selfless. In this sense, we are instructed to drop our preconceived values, social status, personal qualities, and other excitable things and focus on our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not by accident that denying of oneself comes before taking up the cross and following Christ according to the chronology of the instruction. It takes humility and self-abasement to take up the cross. With our old selves and ideas, taking the cross would be foolishness. Denying ourselves means discarding the “old us” and adopting a “new us” which involves configuration to Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

We deny ourselves effectively when we drop our objectives, ideas, plans, and desires for what God has for us. We deny ourselves when we anchor on those prayerful words of Jesus Christ at Gethsemane: “Father, let your will happen not my will.” (Luke 22:42).

  • “TAKE UP YOUR CROSS”

Whenever we hear about the cross, our minds often run to suffering and remain there. This approach dates to the time of Christ when the Roman government required criminals and public sinners to die on the cross after carrying it to the location of their execution. At that time, the cross represents shame, suffering, and death. Hence, cursed is anyone who dies on the cross (Deut. 21:23).

With the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work using the cross, it gains a new meaning. First, our Lord replaces the curse of the cross with a blessing (Gal. 3:13). Second, the cross opens the way to redemption. Looking at the cross very attentively, we can discover three basic realities.

  1. The cross is a plus sign. In mathematics, addition comes with a plus sign which is the sign of the cross. Hence the cross adds value to us if we carry it for and with the Lord.
  2. The cross is a weapon against the enemy. Christ’s victory over sin and death was on the cross when he said “it is finished”(John 19:28-30). The cross remains our weapon of victory. In fact, when you turn the cross upside down you see the image of a sword.
  • The cross is a platform (ladder) that helps us to scale through obstacles and gaps in our lives.

 

  • “FOLLOW ME”

To follow someone is more than physically moving behind the person in question. It involves taking up the individual’s lifestyles, thought patterns and values. Following Christ means becoming “another Christ” in words and actions.

In the Second Reading (Romans 12:1-2), St. Paul instructs us to follow Christ by offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as well as not conforming to this age but accepting transformation by the renewal of our minds and discerning the perfect will of God.

In the Gospel of Matthew (11:29) our Lord says: “Take my yoke and learn from me….” In other words, our Lord enjoins us to follow him by representing him in our lives. While taking up the cross that brought our salvation, our Lord did not complain. Though he failed three times and had someone help him at some point, he did not give up until the purpose reaches fulfillment.

As we enter into the new week, let us keep our minds on the vocation to deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow our Lord. The journey will not end in suffering rather it would be a triumphant victory through the cross through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“WHO DO GOD SAY I AM?” BETWEEN GOD’S AFFIRMATION AND PEOPLE’S OPINION. HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

GOD'S OPINION

Our world runs on “who is who.” Put in another way, identity thrives so much in the human society, and that discloses why individuals, corporate bodies, organizations, governments, and nations expend resources and time to build, maintain and rebrand their identities to gain appraisal from people. Only a few of us can deny the fact that we leverage on “good name” and we make efforts to have people say good things about us.

In our day and age employers carry out background checks and ask employees to get recommendations as preconditions for employment. Most intending couples ask questions about each other’s past before they agree to tie the nuptial knots. Most people now look at customer’s reviews on products and services before they let go their hard-earned money. All these checks and balances ball down to the search for identity, “who is who?” put in another way, “who people say you are.”

A little  bit of psychology would help our reflection today as we consider the “Johari window” which is a personality awareness model by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in the 1950s. The “Johari window” discloses four types of selves or identities we have.

The first shows things about us that other people and we know (open space). The second tells us about the things about us we do not know, but others know (blind spot). The third reveals things about us that we are aware, but others do not know (hidden space). The last window talks about things about us that are unknown to both ourselves and others (unknown space).

           Image result for johari window

Some of us may be wondering why we should go through this analysis to understand the message today, but the reason will become clearer in a short time.

In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 16:13-20), our Lord Jesus Christ attempts a survey with his disciples on his identity with two interrelated questions: “who do people say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?”. Looking at the Johari window, our Lord seems to want to know his blind spot; that is information about him which others know and he “does not know.”

The popular opinion about our Lord Jesus Christ describes him as John the Baptist (the new testament prophet who was killed by Herod), Elijah (the greatest of the Old Testament prophets) or any of the prophets. The blind area identity shows half-truth about our Lord; yes, he is a prophet, but that is not the whole story.

The next question goes directly to the disciples, “you who do you say I am?” Peter’s answer goes this way: “You are Christ, the Son of the living God.” Looking again at the Johari window, where can we place Peter’s answer?

The mistake the inventors of the Johari window is to exclude God in the fourth window. God knows everything that is why we call Him omniscient (Isaiah 46:10; Psalm 139:1-4). To answer the question Peter speaks about a truth that no human could give except by divine revelation. Hence our Lord says to him: “Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my heavenly father.”  The statement of our Lord confirms the fact that God Himself tells whom the Son is using Peter. In order words, whom God says we are is who we are!

Today many people worry and fret over what people say or would say about them. The truth is that we cannot stop people from tagging us and talking about us especially in the negative. Most People will only remember the things you did not do well and name you after such things. I have a message for you today:

  • When people call you a failure, God says you shall succeed in all your ways (Prov. 16:3).
  • When people say, you are worthless; God says, you are the apple of His eye, and he who touches you touches the apple of His eye (Zecharia 2:8).
  • When people say, you are a sinner God says I will blot your transgressions for my sake and your sins I will remember no more (Isaiah 43:25).
  • When people call you rejected and abandoned God says to you even if your father and mother abandon you, I will take care of you (Psalm 27:10).
  • When people call you poor and empty, God says that He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
  • When people say you are darkness and there is no hope for you. God says he will deliver you from the kingdom of darkness and transfer you into the marvelous light of His Son (Col.1:13).
  • When people call you sick and wounded God says that he will restore you to health and heal your wounds (Jeremiah 30:17).

It does not matter who people say you are, what matter is God’s affirmations about you. However, God will not just affirm you without your faith and good works (James 2:22) shown in who God is for you. God knows beyond every window in your life. Often, we waste our time and resources trying to make people feel good and confident about us while we worth nothing in God’s estimation.

The message today is a direct call on us for a deeper reassessment of who we are not the impression we give to people or what they feel about us but through a life that glorifies God. Remember life is not all about people’s opinion about you but who God says you are and the position you give God in your life!

Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

THE POWER OF “POSITIVE DISOBEDIENCE”. HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Canaanite woman

Somewhere I read about three disobedient young men. A certain King makes a golden statue and gives a command that everyone in the kingdom must bow and worship the huge image at the sound of the musical ensemble. The penalty for a default is a forced visit to a deathly burning furnace.

The three young men, also known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, decide not to obey the command of the king because they cannot worship any other apart from the Almighty God. For their disobedience, they are forced to visit the burning furnace, but to the amazement of all, nothing happens to them. God saves them because of their “positive disobedience.” (See Daniel 3).

Somewhere I also read a story about a woman who wanted justice done in her favor. Unfortunately, the best person who could adjudicate in her case is known to be godless, ruthless and lacks every trace of human affection.

The importunate woman, who is also a widow tries to talk to the judge to assist her, but he refuses. She decides to disobey the rules restraining her from coming to the judge. It takes a while, and the judge finally decides to grant her request because of her positive disobedience. (See Luke 18:1-8).

India got independence from the Britain in 1947. The independence comes following the persistence and positive disobedience (ethical or civil disobedience) of people like Mohandas Gandhi.

Following the British restraint of Indians from collecting and selling salt in their country, Gandhi led about 60,000 Indians on the 240 miles Salt March to the Arabian Sea in 1930. The impact of the civil action results to the emancipation of the people from colonial rule in less than two decades.

Today, the Gospel gives us a typical instance of “positive disobedience” within the dramatic encounter between our Lord Jesus Christ and a Canaanite woman. The woman comes to Jesus Christ and says: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon”.  Our Lord ignores her, and the disciples ask our Lord to send her away.

At a time, our Lord stops and tells her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” When the woman hears this statement from Jesus, she COMES CLOSER and PAYS HOMAGE (worship) to our Lord and insists by saying: “Lord help me”!  

Again, our Lord tells her: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replies and says that even the dogs could eat the scraps from the master’s table. At this point, our Lord praises the woman for her faith and asks her to go in peace for an affirmative answer and her daughter receives healing at that hour.

What do you when someone says “NO” to your request or pretends not to hear when you call? The usual reaction would be to back off with some feelings of regret and even self-pity. When someone refuses to take a “no” for an answer, the individual appears to be disobedient or defiant.

The preceding is what the Canaanite woman did in the narrative. The initial silence of our Lord was enough to make her drop her request, but she decides to “disobey” and bugs our Lord Jesus Christ the more. We learn from the narrative that her “positive disobedience” leads to the answer to her request.

Another way to examine what the Canaanite did is to ask if it right or wrong. In other words, “is it right to pray for the healing of her child or not?” The First Reading (Isaiah 56:1,6-7) among other things gives us this answer:

 Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.

On the other hand, St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading (Romans 11:13-15, 29-32) that God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.

Our Canaanite friend was not wrong in her request. In fact, her insistence (positive disobedience) is what God requires of us as a proof of our faith whenever we are facing difficult situations.  God wants us to be unrelenting, consistent, and insistent when we approach Him in our prayers.

The Canaanite woman leaves us with some lessons:

  1. She comes close to the Lord.

The Gospel narrative tells us that she comes closer to the Lord. Coming closer to God is important in our relationship with Him. St. James (4:8) tells us to come near to God, and he would come near to us, and the Book of Psalms (145: 18) says that the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.

  1. She pays homage to the Lord.

Paying homage means giving great respect and honor to someone publicly. In a religious sense, it means to worship. The Canaanite woman sacrifices the cultural divide between the Jews and the Canaanites and pays homage to the Lord.

Genuine worship demands deep sacrifice which entails giving up something of value for a greater value. Many people today attach so much importance to their material concerns that they have little or no time for God.

Our Lord tells us that everyone who acknowledges him publicly before others, he will also acknowledge before the angels of God (Luke 12:8). Exodus (23:25) says: “worship the Lord your God, and His blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you.

  1. She never gives up

God’s silence is never a denial; it is rather and an invitation to pray more and believe more. The woman believes that our Lord Jesus Christ can heal her child and she could not take a no for an answer. She does not give up even when there are reasons for her to do so which includes our Lord’s silence and the disciples’ rude suggestion of outright eviction.

  1. She remains patient

The Prophet Isaiah says that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength (Is. 40:31). David says that he would be patient and wait for the Lord to act (Psalm 37:7). The Canaanite woman would have missed the chance of obtaining healing for her child if she was not patient with the Lord. Sometimes we need to be a little more patient, and things will turn out well.

  1. She speaks out

The Canaanite woman is not only insistent with her presence, homage, and patience, she also speaks out and answers every statement with a positive submission. There is power in spoken words; our words go a long way to form of lives. The Prophet Isaiah (65:24) says: “It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”

As we reflect on the actions of this noble woman of Canaan whose name we do not know, let us adopt the lessons in her experience into our daily struggle with the events and situations that challenge our faith.

Do not give up even when no answer seems to come from the Lord. Last Sunday notice that our Lord calls Peter a man of little faith because he gave up today the Canaanite woman gets the title of a woman of great faith because she held onto her faith knowing that the Lord can help her situation.

May your steadfast grip on the Lord bring graces into your life.

Fr. Bonnie.

FAITH, IN THE EYE OF THE STORM! HOMILY FOR THE 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Peter and the storm

A preacher relates an experience of turbulence while aboard an aircraft. The pilot announces an oncoming storm that would give the aircraft a very tough time. He is still speaking when the storm arrives, and the turmoil is extremely distressing as the plane battles in mid-air.

The impending air disaster devastates everyone as people keep screaming and making endless supplications to their respective subjects of creed. Amid the frenzy is a girl of about seven years who appears unperturbed as she holds onto her story book.

The preacher could not understand the calm disposition of the little, and he decides to keep cool because he is as worried everyone. Thanks to God the turbulence comes to a stop.

When it was conducive enough to have a conversation, the preacher approaches the little girl to ask her why she did not worry when the aircraft was in turmoil. She replies and says that the pilot is her dad and he often tells her that storms sometimes come during flight but they also pass and the journey continues. The preacher prods her further and asks, “so you believe that your dad will get the aircraft through the storm and the girl replies and says “Yes! He does that every time this is not the first time”. What a firm faith in an earthly father!

The First Reading (1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a) tells us about Elijah’s appointment with God at Mount Horeb. God gives him a command to stand out and await His coming. We could recall that during Elijah’s last encounter, God answers Him by fire (1 Kings 18:38). Hence, standing there at Mount Horeb he looks out for a violent manifestation of God. But he is wrong. God decides to come in using a gentle wind. The message Elijah learns here is that God takes us through the turbulence and meets us at the end of it. His presence could calm every storm; no matter the magnitude.

The Gospel Reading (Matt. 14:22-33) gives us a more vivid picturesque of God’s timely intervention in the storm situations of our lives. After the dinner that catered for five thousand men, excluding women and children, our Lord Jesus Christ asks his disciples to go over to the other side of the lake by boat while he goes to pray.

While on their way to the other side, the disciples meet a great storm and it was night and dark. As they battle with the waves, Jesus Christ comes to them walking on water, and they are terrified mistaking him to be a ghost.

Our Lord identifies himself, but the disciples are still in doubt. At this point, Peter extends a challenge: “Lord if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” When he gets the command, he started walking to him on the water. However, when he shifts his focus from the Lord to the waves, he begins to sink. Then he cries out “Lord save me!” And the Lords saves while calling him a man of little faith. As they get into the boat, the storm dies down.

A brief analysis of the events would help us to understand the message beneath. Our Lord tells them to move over to the other side while he goes to pray. What could be the reason for going over to the other side and what could be the content of his prayer?

The Gospel of Matthew (14:34-36) tells us that when they arrive at the other side, Jesus heals ALL who were sick and ALL who touched the fringe of his cloak experience healing. Here we see a very outstanding miracle of healing different from other instances in the Gospels. In a single day, ALL the sick receive healing.

We understand now that the going over to the other side is a mission for healing. It is a task that also requires prayer especially against oppositions like the storm in the middle of the night and lack of faith in the presence of the Messiah.

Let us turn our reflection on Peter, the principal actor in the narrative. When our Lord tells them that he is the one walking on water and not a ghost, Peter asks him to COMMAND him to come to him. I love Peter for calling for a command. Sometimes we do not wait for God to command before we act. The word of God says: “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or the left.” (Deut. 5:32).

When Peter gets the command to come to the Lord, he moves. He keeps going to him until he gets distracted by the stormy waves and decides to shift his gaze. As soon as his focus changes his position begins to change as he goes down; almost lost in the water. At this point, our Lord’s rescues him and points out that his little faith is the cause of his failure.

Like Peter, we all have faith. Like him also we often lose our faith when we face some turbulence or when we find ourselves in the eye of the storm. We are familiar with the definition of faith as the assurance of things we hope and conviction of stuff we have not seen (Heb. 11:1). These let us know that faith is a perspective and needs focus.

In the narrative, we discover that when Peter’s perspective changes he loses his focus and begins to go down. It is at this point that our Lord rescues him and calls him a man of little faith.

The message today gives us a perfect opportunity to access our faith quotient in the face of various storms in our lives. Storms come in different shapes and sizes. Some could be facing health storms; some have marriage or relationship storms, some may be grappling with financial storms, for others it could be a job, career, or academic storms. All of them have one common characteristic; they do not last and mostly when we confront them with our faith perspective and keep our focus on God.

God needs us to show Him our faith, and He would show us his faithfulness. You have a choice before any storm in your life either to faith it and make it or fear it and fail it!

I wish you a beautiful Sunday and more graces upon you in the week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

LESSONS FROM THE MOUNTAIN! HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

 

 

transfiguration

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matt. 17:1-3).

The event of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ stands at the middle of his ministry. Six days earlier, our Lord prods the apostles on a survey about the popular and in-house opinions about him. Hence comes the two-fold questions: “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?”

The transfiguration answers the question of the identity of our Lord Jesus Christ with his glorious transfiguration before three of his apostles who stand as witnesses. The event further confirms Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi “You are Christ the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). As a beatific vision, it settles our Lord’s promise: “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they SEE the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. 16: 27–28).

  • The ascent to the mountain with the three disciples

Our Lord invites three of his apostles to undertake a pilgrimage with him to the mountain. He chooses Peter, James, and John. The number “three” not only reminds us about the Trinity, but it also indicates completeness, and regarding bearing witness, it is apt.

He chooses those who are willing to climb the mountain with him (Psalm 24:3). From the Gospels, the three represent the highly ambitious trio within the apostolic college. Peter is determined to stand with the Lord (Matt. 26:33) while James and John request for seats at the right and left hand of the Lord in his GLORY (Mark 10:35-45) and they would experience that glory on the mountain of transfiguration.

  • The mountaintop transfiguration

Transfiguration means change and not just regular change but significant change. The word means a change in the figure but more technically it means incredible positive change.

The Gospel tells us that when our Lord and the three disciples reach the mountaintop, something amazing happens. While the disciples watch, our Lord’s appearance changes as his face shine like the sun and his clothes become dazzling white.

What could be the meaning of this luminous apparition? The vision of Daniel in the First Reading today (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14) tells us among other things:

I saw: One like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; and when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the One like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship….

We can see here that what happened at the mountaintop, also known as Transfiguration represents the unveiling of the glory of heaven on earth with the appearances of glorified men of the mountain; Moses, and Elijah. No wonder Peter declares as the vision lasts: “It is wonderful for us to be here.” Yes, it will be more wonderful if we all could make it to heaven and be in God’s presence for ever.

  • Lessons from the mountaintop transfiguration

The description of the kingdom of heaven has been the theme of the Gospels since the last three Sundays. The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord seems to be the last in the series but with a deeper and more involving description the Kingdom of heaven.

From the premise above, we can say that the kingdom of God is beautiful, glorious, and comforting. However, before we get there, we need to ascend the mountain. Mountain climbing is not an easy exercise as it requires resilience, commitment, and discipline.

To get to the mountaintop, one would need to drop one’s baggage at the foot of the mountain. Dropping our baggage entails disengaging from the distractions of the lower region to advance to the upper area. It involves change and profound change as such. It requires disengagement from sin.

The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ is a divine facility at our service; it is also our transfiguration. The Transfiguration is a call for us to rise from our preoccupation with lowly things while striving and longing for higher values. The Transfiguration encourages us to rise from the base to the tops.

In life, we grow by changing. Those who do not grow are those who refuse to change. But those who embrace positive change improve, obtain new values, opportunities and new beginnings.

As we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ may we strive daily to respond to the invitation to change by ascending to the mountain with the Lord for a better and more resplendent life. May we also accept the instruction of God the Father to listen to His Beloved Son who is pleasing to Him.

Happy Feast of Transfiguration and may you experience positive changes in your life as you go through a deep and lasting transfiguration in your life. Amen.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

DISCOVER THE WAY OF WISDOM. HOMILY FOR THE 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

THE WAY WISDOM

An old man finds a precious stone in a stream as he travels along a mountain region. Later he meets another traveler and decides to share his lunch with him. The traveler sees the precious stone in the old man’s bag while they eat and requests for it. The old man gladly offers it to him, and he leaves immediately with an immense joy at finding a great treasure.

After walking for a considerable distance, the traveler stops and decides to go back to the old man and to give him back the precious stone for a reason we shall discover shortly.

He meets the old man and asks him if he knows the value of the precious stone, and he says yes, and the traveler says to him: “I would rather have that thing which made you give me the precious stone; it should be more valuable than the precious stone itself.”  The old man who is a wise man says to him in reply: “It is what you and I have; our souls, the difference is what each soul sees as having more value than other things.” Your life runs on your values.

The Gospel of today (Matt. 13:44-52) concludes the seven parables of the kingdom of heaven by our Lord Jesus Christ in the thirteenth Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. In fact, we have three parables in the Gospel of this Sunday, and one thing that joins them together is the wisdom to search for the greatest value.

Wisdom as a phenomenon is not easy to define. You can try a definition! The only way to understand wisdom is to view it first as a gift from God. In the First Reading, today (1 Kings 3:5, 7-12) Solomon prefers wisdom as a gift from God to material wealth, long life, and fame but God gives him all of them. Secondly, wisdom is the ability to understand what is ultimately right and go for it. It is all about making the best choice.

In our world today, we talk about high intelligence quotient, emotional intelligence and more recently, social intelligence. Above all these comes wisdom which comes from God. If you take a little time to read the epistle of St. James (3:13-17), the Apostle differentiates between the wisdom of the world that is impure and the pure wisdom that comes directly from God; this we can also call spiritual intelligence.

Wisdom, nay, spiritual intelligence helps us to see, accept and do the will of God. True wisdom helps us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and not the passing things of this world (Matt. 6:33). True wisdom tells us that our life on earth is short but the life after is eternal and needs to be secured. We shall be looking carefully to learn the lessons of wisdom in the three parables.

Hidden Treasure

Great things are not usually visible. Consider precious stones like diamond, gold, silver, and others. In the human body too, the more valuable components are not visible, and we may never see them all through our lives like the heart, the brain, liver, kidney, and others.

In the first parable, our Lord says that the Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure a man finds in the field and covers up. Then selling everything he has, he buys the field. The man discovers the treasure by digging deep, and he was wise enough to give up everything to own the field which also entails owning the hidden treasure.

Three important things the man does in the parable are: digging deep, selling all he has and buying the field. To dig deep requires patience, commitment, and resilience. To sell everything one has is not an easy thing to do. Wisdom sustains faith and it believes without a doubt (Mark 11:22-13). Finally, the man buys the field which may be a senseless thing to do regarding the location or other physical attributes. However, he is more concerned about what lies beneath the field.

Fine Pearls

Pearls develop under the sea. They are hard, bright, and iridescent objects that grow on oysters that live on the sea bed. They don’t need to be refined like precious stones as they come shimmering and glowing. Fabricators use pearls in the making of various kinds of jewelry, ornaments and for different kinds decorations.

Pearls are valuable, and it is not surprising that the merchant who finds ones of great value sells all he has and buys them. We need to pay attention to the fact that the merchant goes for the pearls of GREAT VALUE.

Sometimes we settle for less when we can even get more. Often, we misplace values by assuming that certain things are valuable when indeed they are of less value. Wisdom consists in searching for the higher value even when they appear to be of less value now.

People struggle daily to make ends meet. We work to get paid and to be able to provide for our material needs. But come to think of it; life is short. All our efforts would end one day; then another life begins which will never end.

True wisdom helps us to secure eternal life while dealing with this physical life. Our Lord says: “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? (Mark 8:36).  True wisdom helps us to search for the kingdom of heaven beyond various conflicting kingdoms in our world today.

Collecting the good and discarding the bad

The parable tells us that a fisherman collects all sorts of fish in the net and later settles down to sort the good ones out and discard the bad ones. It is instructive to know that not all the fish in the sea are edible. Some are very poisonous though they may appear good.

One of the characteristics of wisdom is the ability to differentiate between what is worthwhile and what is worthless. There is a need for us to sit down and sort out from our collections, the things that are helpful and needful for our salvation and those that are not just helpful. Most of the choices most of us make in life are useless and unhelpful for our lives. It takes true wisdom to sort out the good from the bad and to make the right choices (Luke 10:42).

Today, we are invited to pray for true wisdom after the manner of King Solomon. Wisdom is a key that is capable of opening so many doors for us especially the door to eternal life; the kingdom of heaven. The choice for wisdom conforms us to the will of God. The choice for wisdom makes everything to work for our good as the Apostle Paul tells us in the Second Reading (Romans 8:28-30).

May we journey with divine wisdom as we enter a new week and may the grace of God take us beyond our dreams. Have a “wisdomable” week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

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