Fr Bonnie's Reflections

“AN ENEMY HAS DONE THIS!”: GOD’S WHEAT AND THE ENEMY’S WEED. HOMILY FOR THE 16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

an enemy has done this

The worst enemy is the one the comes as a friend! Two friends work in the same organization. One has a disability that makes it difficult for him to drive and his friend decides to pick him up every morning to work and drops him off every evening after work. This support system from the kind friend continues for a very long time; running into years.

At some point, the organization opens another branch, and the man who was helping his friend to work was suggested as a capable hand to head the new office. The headquarters of the organization makes a request for four letters of attestation from four individuals who are blindly picked and asked to write secretly and independently to attest to the man’s ability to handle the new branch.

During the final screening of the prospective manager of the new branch, the general manager decides to do something very unusual. He invites the four individuals at different times and asks them to read their attestations directly to him and to defend it. Unknown to them, GM keeps the man behind a cubicle from where he could hear their testimonies. The first three read their attestation, and they are beautiful and positive.

The fourth and last person to make his presentation is the man with a disability. The voice of his friend brings joy to the man who is facing the screening. He assures himself that his friend’s attestation would be the best. But he was wrong! The man’s testimony is nothing pleasant from the beginning to the end. He thinks he is the only one attesting as the instruction makes him believe as condemns his friend’s prospective assignment at the new branch with every negative argument he finds relevant.

After reading the poisonous attestation, the general manager invites the potential manager to come out from his hiding, and he then asks the man with a disability to defend his prose, but he couldn’t. Finally, what he could say is that he didn’t want his friend to become the manager because he would miss his daily conveyance to the office and back to his house!

The general manager is hurt and tells the prospective manager that if the man with a disability is the only friend he has, he should consider himself friendless because he is worse than an enemy.

In life, we have friends as well as enemies, and this is consistent with the duality in life. It is very hard not to have enemies even when you try hard to make everyone your friend. In fact, your kindness, truthfulness, peacefulness, fairness, and other virtues could attract more enemies to you even more than those who do not possess such qualities; the same thing happened to our Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:25).

The Gospel today (Matt. 13:24-43) is part of the seven kingdom parables our Lord Jesus Christ gives in Chapter thirteen of the Gospel of Matthew. It is also one of the two parables in all the Gospels that our Lord accords an interpretation, the first being the parable of the sower.

In the parable, he tells us that a man sows good seeds (wheat) in his field and while everyone was asleep his enemy sows bad seeds (weed) among the good seeds.

As time progresses, his servants notice that there are weeds among the wheat and suggest the uprooting of the weeds. The householder discloses that an enemy has done that but tells them to leave them to grow until the time of the harvest when the weeds would be taken away for burning, and the wheat would go for storage in the barn.

Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in the interpretation that he is the householder. The field is the world; the good seeds are the children of the kingdom while the bad seeds are children of the evil one (Satan). Furthermore, the harvest is the end of time while the harvesters are angels of God.

We shall devote the rest of the reflection on the activities of the enemy and the seeds on the field while applying the fruit of the reflection to our personal lives.

The Enemy Factor

The highlight of the parable is the activity of the enemy. We already know that the enemy is the evil one. In the first place, he is an intruder; a thief and a destroyer (John 10:10a). Furthermore, he enters by leveraging on some conditions and materials that support his plan.

While the parable identifies the evil one as the enemy, it is important that we also identify two other enemies that are at work in agreement with the devil. They are the human enemies that represent men and women of bad will, like the man with a disability in our opening story, who are always looking out for an opportunity to sow bad seeds.

Another enemy which we should take very seriously is the enemy within us namely, ourselves. Yes, we could become dangerous enemies to ourselves when we continually sow negative seeds into our lives through our thoughts, words, and actions. We cannot live positive lives while operating with negative minds.

While everyone was asleep: There is a need for us to see the sleep here as referring to spiritual slumber. The enemy comes when people stop paying attention and allow all the negative things to come in and go out. For this reason, the Apostle Peter tells us (1 Pet. 5:8) to be vigilant because our enemy the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat.

Today, we have sleeping parents and guardians, we have sleeping teacher and instructors, we have sleeping religious leaders, teachers, priests, and pastors, we have sleeping leaders in the government. Everyone must not be asleep. Now is the time to wake up, the night is far gone (Romans 13:12). Remember that the enemy is always awake looking for an opportunity to sow bad seeds.

The enemy sows weeds amid the wheat: One of the weapons of the evil one is deception. Deception itself creates doubt and doubt could lead one to grave mistakes. We understand from the parable that the weeds have great resemblance with the wheat. Hence, the evil one brings something that is similar to deceive the eye while at the same time giving tough time to the wheat as they compete for space and nutrient.

In almost every good thing that comes our way, there is usually a negative replica or at best an imitation. The evil one often appears as the angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), and deceive many. Today, as our communication technology is developing, the enemy is sowing bad seeds in the form of violence, falsehood, and immoral lifestyles and contents while many are asleep.

The harvest-time: The Book of Genesis (8:22) tells us that as long as the earth endures there will be seedtime and harvest-time. The siege of the evil one would eventually end. There will always be a harvest time for every sown seed, and the word of God says that by their fruits you shall know them (Matt. 7:16).

The patience of the householder to allow the weeds and wheat to grow together until the harvest-time is very instructive. God is always patient. His silence over the many evil around us does not mean that He is incapable of doing something about it. The Psalmist (Psalm 37:1), using the agricultural metaphor, tells us not to worry or fret when the wicked prospers as they would fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.

Time is the best test of any situation and the best time belongs to God. One characteristic of evil is that it can only last for a while because it cannot endure. The book of Revelation (12:7-8) tells us that war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels, and they were defeated, and there was no longer a place for them. That means they had a place before, but they lost after a while.

As we march into the new week let us remember that the enemy is awake and looking for an opportunity to plant bad seeds into our fertile souls. We need to keep up with prayer, faith, and good works to avoid the schemes of the enemy. May the new week be enemy-free for you and more graces.

Fr. Bonnie

GOD’S SEED AND OUR SOILS! HOMILY FOR THE 15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

THE SEED. SOIL AND SOWER

As a kid, I mistakenly swallowed the seed of a lovely and fleshy African fruit called udara. But that was not the problem. One of my older brothers who shared the fruit with me gave me the scare of my life as he tells me with pity that the seed would germinate in my stomach and grow into a tree.

I could not sleep well during the night as I was checking to see signs of germination in my tummy. My anxiety continued in the following days until another of my brothers busted the theory by telling me that the seed has exited from my body on one of my visits to the house of ease. He also tells me that a seed could not grow inside the stomach as there is no soil in there.

Seed is the maternal home of every reality; life subsists on seed, and we are products of seeds as they determine our future. However, for any seed to germinate, it would need a favorable platform (soil for instance). A good seed can become redundant when it encounters a “bad soil.” There could also be a situation of abundance and fruitfulness when good seeds meet a good ground. We shall be leveraging on this agricultural metaphor in the parable of the sower for a proper understanding of the message today.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest story-teller ever; from my assessment. He often explores the power of narratives to deliver his message to his listeners. There are about 35-45 parabolic stories in the Gospels leaving us with one-third of entire Gospels as stories. Stories not only entertain, but they also educate and inform with greater ease compared to straight content delivered with so many words.

The parable of the sower or more appropriately the parable of the “soils,” is one of the very few parables that would receive a direct interpretation from our Lord Jesus Christ. It is worthy of note that our Lord gives the explanation privately to his disciples. He seems to imply that people should be more functional with their minds to have a deeper understanding: “Whoever has ear ought to hear!” (Matt. 13:9).

Today, we shall not concern ourselves with adding more interpretation to the parable upon the one our Lord gives. We shall be attempting to apply the parables to our lives as representatives of the four different types of soils in the narrative. We shall, however, keep the following highlights at the back of our minds:

  • The seed is the word of God.
  • The sower is God.
  • The soils represent four different types of hearts that receive the word of God.
  • The birds at the wayside soil represent the devil that takes the word away because of lack of understanding.
  • The rock on the second soil represents a lack of depth after receiving the word with joy.
  • The thorns on the third soil represent cares and anxieties in the world that choke the word of God.
  • The richness of the fourth soil shows the absence of all the obstacles in the first three soils and the presence of right conditions for fruitfulness.

WHAT IS THIS WORD OF GOD THAT THE SOWER SOWS?

 In the passage, we learn that the sower is God Himself. The word of God in the narrative becomes clearer in the light of the Gospel of John (1:1-4). The apostle here tells us that the Word was there in the beginning and the Word was with God and the Word was God and all things came through HIM.

From the passage, we understand that the Word is a person. John (1:14) goes on to tell us that: “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

The Word that the father sows in these soils is Jesus Christ himself the precious gift He gives to us out of His love (John 3:16). St. Paul gives us more content on God’s gift of His son in his letter to the Galatians (4:4-5):

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 

WHAT TYPE OF “SOIL” ARE YOU?

  • The pathway soil (heart)

From the parable, we learn that some seeds fell on the path. A typical pathway would contain constant human, animal, and even vehicular movements and would thus be challenging for any seed to germinate. Beyond the human and animal factor, our Lord tells us in the interpretation that the bird represents the devil that comes to take away the word from the pathway soil (heart).

Stealing is one of the primary tactics of the devil (John 10:10a). However, the devil cannot steal from us except we let him in. We let the devil when we are lousy about the things of God. We let the devil in when we are too busy to pay attention the word and the sacraments. We let the devil in when we are lukewarm (Rev. 3:16).

  • The rocky soil (heart)

The seeds that fell on the rock have insufficient soil to germinate because the base is not permeable. The word of God does not grow on a stony heart because there is no provision for the roots to anchor.

We become rocky when we hear the word of God without paying attention. We become rocky when we operate as nominal Christians or church-goers. We become rocky when we jump and clap in the Church and fight and curse outside the church. We become rocky when there is no connection between what we profess and what we do.

  • The thorny soil (heart)

Some seeds germinate but do not go any further because of the thorns that stifle them. The thorny heart is weighed down by cares and anxieties in the world.

The biggest problem of the thorny heart is the misplacement of priorities. In life, some things are necessary while others are not just important. Our lives become thorny when we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by things that are unnecessary.

Our lives become thorny when we allow material things to master us instead of mastering them. Our lives become thorny when we seek to gain the whole world to the detriment of our souls (Mark 8:36).

  • The good soil (heart)

The good soil has all the working conditions that make it possible for seeds to germinate and grow into what they ought to be. The good heart from the interpretation of our Lord Jesus Christ pays due attention to the word of God (John 10:27) understands it and puts it into use like the man who builds his house upon a solid rock (Matt. 7:24).

Furthermore, the testimony of a good heart is dependent on the fruits it bears. Our Lord tells us that by their fruits you shall come to know them (Matt. 7:20).

As we march into a new week, let us ask God to give us the grace of a renewed commitment to the word of God by becoming that soil that will produce significant and enduring fruits.  Have a glorious Sunday.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

 

THE HUMILITY CHALLENGE. HOMILY FOR THE 14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

STAY HUMBLE

Once upon a time, a university undergraduate gets a vacation job in an oil servicing company. He resumes at the company as the personal assistant to the Chief Executive Officer for the summer. Next day, the boss (CEO) tells the boy that he would accompany him to an interview for a contract the company is seeking at the largest oil company in the country and that he should clean up very well as he would be riding in an expensive car for the first time in his life. The young man appreciates the offer and goes ahead to prepare.

The boss brings along the most expensive car in his fleet for the interview and asks the undergraduate to sit in the front and close the door gently while he sits at the back as a chauffeur drives the car. Halfway to the venue of the interview, the boss orders the driver to fill the gas as he would like the vehicle engine to be running throughout the duration of the meeting while parking at a strategic place.

Unfortunately, after the purchase of gas, the car could not start. The boss is frustrated and begins to curse the hell out of everyone as his “show” is about to go down. The young undergraduate sees his frustration and quietly places a phone call. In five minutes, the latest version (three years ahead) of the CEO’s car drives in, and the young man tells his boss that his dad has come to take them to the interview since they are running late.

The CEO becomes speechless as he enters the car to discover that the man who has come to pick him to the interview is the owner of the largest oil company in the country. Furthermore, he is head of the panel that would interview him. The CEO comes face to face with a humility challenge.

The next day at work, the CEO sees the young man and asks him why he did not disclose that he is the son of the richest oil magnet in the country and why he is not working in one of his father’s numerous firms. The young man replies and says: “my dad tells us every day to be humble in everything and at all times and that it is the secret of his success.” He also says to him that his father would not allow him to work in any of his organizations as he wants him to go through life without special treatment as the son of a wealthy man.

The First Reading today (Zechariah 9:9-10) reminds us of our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The King of kings and Lord of lords enters the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey (ass) alongside a colt.  What is very significant here is the fact that the great one decides to ride on something of a lower standard. Kings ride on horses and camels, not on donkeys that usually carry loads.

Our Lord’s ride on a donkey demonstrates that he came to carry our weight of sin and he does so with deep humility. The word of God tells us more precisely that though he was in the form of God, he did not count on his equality with God but humbles himself taking the form of a slave (Phil.2:6).

The Gospel Reading begins with our Lord’s gracious thanksgiving to God for hiding “THESE THINGS” from the wise and the learned and revealing them to little ones. You will be as curious, as I am, about what “THESE THINGS” could be. We can search for the answer from the statement that follows immediately.

In the subsequent verses, our Lord extends an invitation to those who labor and are burdened with a promise of giving them rest. Furthermore, he tells us to take up his yoke and learn from him for he is meek and humble of heart.

If we take a reflective look at that passage, we could see some words that could be meaningful for us if we put them together: LABOR, BURDENED, YOKE, LEARN, MEEK AND HUMBLE. We can decipher from the above that our Lord is saying that If we learn to be meek and humble (like him) there is no labor, burden nor yoke we cannot contain. Hence the secret or hidden things are meekness humility.

Humility poses a challenge as well as a chance for us. St. Peter tells us (1 Pet. 5:6) to humble ourselves under the mighty arm of God so that at the proper time he would exalt us. Humility goes before exaltation just as pride goes before a fall (Prov. 16:18). The Apostle James (4:6) recalls the books of Proverbs (3:34) where it says that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

How can we positively scale through this humility challenge that the liturgy of today places before us? St. Paul gives us an answer in the Second Reading of today (Romans 8:9, 11-13). According to him, we live either in the flesh, or we live in the spirit. Life in the flesh leads us to worldliness and pride. On the contrary, when we live in the spirit, we are quickly drawn to be genuinely meek and humble.

As we march into a new week, may we open our hearts and minds to be humble in all things as we pay attention to these:

  • No matter the position you have, someone is greater than you; be humble.
  • No matter how rich you are, someone is richer than you; be humble.
  • No matter how fortunate you are, someone is more fortunate than you, be humble.
  • No matter how important you are, someone is more important than you; be humble.
  • No matter how intelligent you are, someone is more intelligent than you; be humble.

Finally, there is the need for us to know that we are nothing without the grace of God and if we think we are something when we are nothing we deceive ourselves (Galatians. 6:3). But when we come to God in our nothingness he can turn it into something else.

Have a great week ahead and may the grace of God lead you to the noble paths of humility.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

THE POWER OF GOOD WORKS! HOMILY FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

kEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

One fateful day, a homeless man approached a lady on a busy street in Manhattan, New York and asked for a quarter of a dollar. She was willing to give him something more, but she could not find her wallet. The lady instantly realizes that she has been robbed by some street urchins as her handbag remains unzipped. The homeless man sees her frustration and tapping her on the shoulder; he asked her how much it would cost her to go home. The lady tries to dismiss the question with a “don’t worry attitude” but the man insists, and she says, “just $20”.

Surprisingly, the beggar brings out all the money in his pocket, and after counting, it comes up to $25, and he gives $20 to the lady and offers to help her with one of her bags to the subway where she would board a train. The beggar’s overwhelming kindness baffles the woman, and before she boards the train she requests for a hug from the man, and she gets a good one.

While on the train, the lady starts to feel guilty for accepting the money from the old man. She keeps wondering where the man would sleep that night as she heads home to the comfort of her home; thanks to a homeless beggar. She gets home and through the whole evening, she ponders on the kindness of the homeless man.

Few days after the event, after sorting out her cards and other documents, she goes to search for the man but could not find him. The extraordinary kindness of the homeless beggar prods her to seek for a volunteer work with an organization that assists the homeless in New York City.

After some months, the organization appoints the lady to head a team that would search for a genuine homeless person among the lot in New York City who would receive a special housing facility and provision from the organization. Her mind goes to the homeless beggar that helped her, and she prays that she finds him.

The lady w as on her way to the train station the same day when someone approaches her for a quarter of a dollar. Guess who? Well, you can imagine what happened afterwards. The homeless man who helped the lady to get home became a home owner; his good work made way for him.

There is something about good works the liturgy of today wants us to learn. St. James reminds us about the importance of good works when he says that faith without good works is dead (

The First Reading today (2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a) tells us about a couple who finds favor with God through their selfless provision for Elisha the prophet of God. From the narrative, we could see that their charity towards Elisha was not in anticipation for an immediate reward; they were simply compassionate and hospitable to the man of God.

The unassuming couple did not bug the prophet about the lack in their family. They were more interested in the comfort and needs of the prophet. By divine direction, Elisha discovers during his interaction with his servant Gehazi that the couple has a need for a son and he gives this divine oracle to the woman: “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.”

In the Gospel Reading today (Matt. 10:37-42), our Lord Jesus Christ takes the time to dwell on some characteristics of genuine discipleship. He begins by saying that anyone who loves father, mother, son or daughter more than him is not worthy of him.

Our Lord’s first instruction here does not tell us to hate our family as it may appear. The instruction says that we should love Christ in people around us starting with our family. Our love for Christ begins with our Love for one another. St. John tells us that we cannot say we love God and hate our neighbor (1 John 4:20). Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us that our entrance into heaven depends on our love and benevolence to people around us (Matt. 25:40).

In the later part of the Gospel, our Lord deepens the instruction on good works. He makes it clear that every good work would be rewarded. When we open our arms to people, we are at the same time opening our arms to God. When we receive people, we are receiving God. When we provide for those who work in God’s vineyard, we are “providing for God.”

Our good works could open great doors for us. Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek, the priest gained blessings for him (Gen. 14:20; Heb.7:1-2). Furthermore, his hospitality to “three men” who were passing through his neighborhood became the key that opened the womb of his wife Sarah to give birth to Isaac. (Genesis 18:1ff). Rahab and her household were spared during the destruction of Jericho for her good deed of hiding the spies who came to survey the land of Jericho (Joshua 2).

Peter and his companions receive a great catch of fish and become disciples after donating their boat to serve as a platform for our Lord Jesus Christ to preach (Luke 5:1-11). Five thousand men (excluding women and children) were fed through a little boy’s donation of five loaves of bread and two fish. I imagine he received part of the remaining twelve baskets (John 6:8-9).

The word of God says that silver and gold belong to God (Haggai 2:8). Hence, whenever we engage in doing any good work, we invariably give back to God. As our good works speak for us, our evil works would, in turn, speak against us. Life is all about sowing and reaping whatever we sow.

When we give, we receive even a full measure pressed down and running over (Luke 6:38). As we march into the new week, may we focus on good works. Those good works of ours would eventually plead for us before God’s throne of mercy; do not get tired of doing good; you will receive your reward.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16).

I wish you glorious days ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

DO NOT BE AFRAID! GOD’S GOT YOUR BACK. HOMILY FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

GOD'S GOT YOUR BACK

There is a famous story about a young man of seventeen years whose life could serve as an odyssey; yes, a long adventurous journey. He was the beloved of his father not only because he was the youngest of all, but he was also upright.

The young man had older brothers who disliked him for a variety of reasons which included his dream of a future greatness above them and the love of their father towards him. One day, they had an opportunity to kill him in the woods and end his potential fame but later decided to sell him off to some merchants who were on a business trip to a distant land.

In the distant land, things went from bad to good and from good to bad and again from bad to good and finally to excellent. He later became a great man, a renowned Prime Minister in the palace of Pharaoh of Egypt. Of course, we are talking about Joseph the dreamer (Genesis. 37ff).

There is one lesson we could learn from the story of Joseph; he was never afraid, and the reason is that: “GOD’S GOT HIS BACK.” The Bible gives us several references about the abiding presence of God in the life of Joseph. The following passages tell us that “God was with him and he prospered”: Genesis 39: 2, 3, 21, 23.

Way back in my younger years as a soccer player, we had a “BACKMAN.” The Backman was our amateur way of describing one of those playing the center full-back. The primary duty of the Backman is to build defences against the attacks of the opposing team; he’s got the back of the team.

We also notice that top government officials and prominent individuals often have security men standing behind them when they step out. The security designates work as “Backmen” against possible physical attacks.

Among all the “Backmen” we can think of there is none as formidable and enduring as God Himself. The key message we have today is that “God has our backs” against all possible physical and spiritual oppositions there could be in life.

The First Reading of today (Jeremiah 20:10-13) opens the discussion by describing to us how God rescues the life of the poor from the power of the wicked. The victim in the passage suffers in the hands of friends who turn out to become persecutors. They devise various means to bring the victim down. However, he tells us this: “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion.” Put in another way; God’s got the back of the victimized.

In the Gospel Reading today (Matthew 10:26-33), our Lord Jesus Christ tells the twelve not to be afraid. Fear is an emotion that could wrap and wrinkle us when we allow it to rule us. There are reasons why we should fear, but our fear should not replace our faith. Faith tells us to accept facts without proofs (Heb.11:1). Faith tells us to come to God believing that He can do all things even the impossible ones (Mark 11:22).

If we take a closer look at the Gospel Reading, we could see that we have a kind of contradictory instruction: “not to fear and to fear.” Let us look at the passage again and make a little sense out it.

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

Some people naturally assume that the one who can destroy the body and the soul in hell is the devil. If that is the case, then we should fear the devil. The passage refers to God. He is the “One” who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Gehenna). The soul faces destruction when it does not enjoy eternity with God (John 15:5). God is the author of our being, and He takes the final decision about us.

You may be passing through tough moments in your life; do not be afraid, God has your back. Are you struggling with so many things? Is your life going to the brink? Do not be frightened! God’s got your back. Your relationship or marriage may appear to be in a trouble mode, do not be afraid, God has your back. You may be suffering from betrayal from those you trust; your friends may be turning into enemies; do not be scared. God has your back.

The word of God says in Book of Psalms (30:5): “For His anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning”. Here we learn that every ugly situation would eventually give way to God’s glorious blessings. The tribulation might be many, but God will deliver us from them all (Psalm 34:19).

God is so detailed in His care over you that He knows the number of hairs on your head. You are not alone in your challenges; God knows your issues, He has your back and like the response to the Psalm today says, “He would answer you in His great love.”

Good parents look out for their children, provide for them, and protect them. God does more than good parents. God has comprehensive care over you even before your conception in the wombs of your mother (Jeremiah 1:5). God lacks nothing, and He can do all things without limitations. God has your back:

  • God says to Paul (Act 18: 9b-10a): “Do not be afraid…For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you.”
  • God assures Joshua (1:5): “No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
  • Moses assures Joshua that God will not fail nor forsake him (Deut. 31:6b).

As we march into a new week, let us strive to erase our fears, bring forth our faith and God will show us His faithfulness. In all circumstances, remember that He’s got your back! Have a great day!

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEYOND THE EUCHARISTIC AMAZEMENT! A REFLECTION FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

CORPUS CHRISTI

Food and drink are very essential for the physical functioning of the human being. The food and drink we take give us nutrients like vitamins, minerals, water, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. These are in turn helps in the building and reconstruction of our body tissues, organs, and the release of energy.

Without food and drink, our body metabolism slows down, the immune system is affected, and we become vulnerable to various kinds of diseases that could predispose us to death. Apart from eating, another concern is what we eat; “WE ARE WHAT WE EAT.” There is thus a strong relationship between what we eat and how we appear physically. Malnutrition could also have a mental consequence.

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which our Lord himself gives the appellation: “REAL FOOD AND REAL DRINK” (John 6:55). Why did our Lord Jesus Christ give us his body and blood to eat and to drink? How does this “Holy meal” affect our lives?

Rekindling our understanding of the Eucharist

The Holy Eucharist is the true body and blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist on the night before he was betrayed and arrested.

Before the institution proper, our Lord made statements pointing to the power and reality of the Eucharist. The Gospel John (6:53-59) says:

 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.

Our Lord Jesus institutes the Holy Eucharist before he enters the passion that led to his death and eventually his resurrection. We could recall that the first sin of Adam and Eve came because of eating the wrong thing which brought death. Similarly, our Lord intends to give us eternal life through right eating; namely, his Body and Blood.

The Synoptic Gospels and the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians agree that our Lord took bread and after giving thanks (blessing it), he tells the apostles to take and eat his body. He also took a cup filled with wine, and after giving thanks (blessing it), he gave them to drink his blood. He added that they should do what he did in his memory. (Matt. 26:26-28, Mk.14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1Cor. 11:23-25).

The key learning about the Holy Eucharist is that in the sacrament, we receive the totality of Jesus Christ. We thus receive not only the incarnated Jesus Christ but also the resurrected and ascended Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that we maintain that in the Holy Eucharist we receive the TRUE BODY AND BLOOD, SOUL, AND DIVINITY of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Holy Eucharist, we receive the FULL PACKAGE of Jesus Christ. Even in the tiniest piece of consecrated bread contains the whole of Jesus Christ.

In the Holy Eucharist, we also receive the Holy Trinity; hence we not only receive the totality of Jesus Christ, but we also receive the entirety of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. We understand that we receive the Holy Trinity in the Holy Eucharist from our knowledge that the three divine persons share one essence. In the Holy Eucharist, we receive the divinity of Jesus Christ which he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

If you pay attention to the words of consecration, you will discover the action of the Holy Trinity in the action of TRANSUBSTANTIATION which means the change of the substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ while still retaining the physical qualities of bread and wine. The preface prayer (IV), for instance, runs thus:

Therefore, O Lord, (God the Father) we pray: may this same Holy Spirit (God the Holy Spirit) graciously sanctify these offerings, that they may become the Body + and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (God the Son) for the celebration of this great mystery, which he himself left us as an eternal covenant. (The words in brackets are mine).

We shall use the rest of the space in this reflection to examine how the Holy Eucharist can become more meaningful for us as we make a daily encounter with this most wondrous sacrament that forms the source and summit of the Church’s life and ministry.

Rekindling a worthy reception

The first thing we should know is what the Centurion taught us in the Gospel of Matthew (8:8) “I am not worthy to receive you under my roof.” It should amaze us that God has given us the privilege to be his host; to have him under the roof of our mortal mouths.

If we can prepare and put our houses in perfect shape when someone very distinguished is coming for a visit to us, we are even more challenged to make a more detailed preparation to have the totality of Jesus Christ in us; his body, blood, soul, and divinity.

To rekindle a worthy reception, we need to prepare our souls by eliminating all known sins. This means that we need to avail ourselves the opportunity of receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. Why it is important that we cleanse ourselves of sins before we approach the Holy Eucharist, we are not expected to repeat the mistake of Judas Iscariot who received in an unworthy manner, and the devil entered him (John 13:27). Our disposition would determine the efficacy of the Holy Eucharist in our lives.

Rekindling our awareness of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is consistently present in the Holy Eucharist; we are only unaware of his presence. The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is not what we can verify physically because it is substantial. One of the Eucharistic miracles at Lanciano, Italy, in the eight century AD, tells us about the physical change of the bread and wine to real flesh and blood when a Basilian Monk was celebrating the Holy Eucharist and was doubtful of the Real Presence.

We do not need to see like Thomas, the apostle before believing and accept the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. When we recognize his Real Presence, we can transcend to another level which involves prayerful communication with him both at the raising of the body and the cup, when we receive him during communion, and when we adore him; the three most remarkable moments of our Eucharistic experience.

Rekindling our Communion with Jesus Christ and with one another

Our Lord Jesus Christ says to us “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (John 6:56). The statement above forms the basis of our description of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as communion.

We become what we eat! By participating in the Holy Eucharist, we enter communion with Jesus Christ whose body and blood, soul, and divinity we receive. This communion should also predispose us to communion with one another and thus realize the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father: “The glory you have given me I have given, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:22).

Our reception of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ should not only bring us closer to him but should also create a community of love amongst us. We cannot be partaking from the same table while living in anger and resentment with one another. We have one table, one sacrifice, one Lord and one community of love.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us take some time to re-examine our understanding and appreciation of the wonderful privilege we have in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Have a transforming celebration of “Corpus et Sanguinis Christi.”

 

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

“THREE-IN-ONE”: A CONCISE TEACHING ON THE HOLY TRINITY. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

trinity Sunday 2

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is in the foreground of our Christian faith. We can thus say that without the Holy Trinity, Christianity would be vanity. The doctrine simply states that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. In other words, God is ONE in essence and THREE in persons.This doctrine, however, is not as simple as stated.

We need to know from the outset that anyone who professes Christianity but does not accept the doctrine of the Holy Trinity lives in perversity. The Holy Trinity is the language all Christians speak and understand; it is our meeting point.

The doctrine of the Trinity, which is also a mystery, has been under severe debate from the time God revealed His identity as a community of three persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We may not waste our time with the crossroads of ideas and debates in this reflection; we shall thus proceed to understand the Trinity with our rather limited human insight.

We shall begin by going through some passages in the Bible that point to the diversity of persons in one God. It is also pertinent to establish that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity grew out of the Bible. Our study will begin with the book of Genesis and run through other parts of the Old and New Testaments.

The Holy Trinity Identified in the Old Testament

< >Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Firstly, we need to understand that the word “beginning” as used here points to God. Revelation (21:6) says: “God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.”

From the original Hebrew text, the name “God” translates as “Elohim” which is the plural noun of “Eloah.” God (Elohim), in the sense of the passage, indicates the fullness of Godhead, that is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The participation of the community of persons will become clearer in the next passage we shall examine.

<>Genesis 1:26a. “Then God said,  Let US make mankind in OUR image, and in OUR likeness.”

Here we connect the plurality of persons in one God. God the Father was referring to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God was not referring to angels because they are creatures and do not bear the image and likeness of God as we do. In fact, God could have also said: “let us make persons like us!”

<>Genesis 11:7. “Come, let us go down and confuse their language, so they will not understand each other.”

Here we see an action by the community of persons in the Holy Trinity during the time the people of Shinar were building the tower of Babel. God the Father was again referring to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

<>Genesis 18: 1-2. “The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw THREE MEN standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them and bowed down to the ground. He said, my LORD if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.”

The passage above is one of the aptest descriptions of the Holy Trinity. Here we learn that the LORD appeared to Abraham and he looked up and saw THREE MEN. Furthermore, when greeting the supposed THREE MEN, he said, my LORD not my LORDS.

<>Deuteronomy 6:4. “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is ONE Lord.” In Hebrew, the revealed name of God is YAHWEH (I AM). The name is so holy that people are not allowed to mention it anyhow (in vain). The word “Lord” is thus used in place of “Yahweh” in most passages in the Old Testament including the one above.

With regards to the Holy Trinity, the passage above mentions that the “Lord our God is ONE Lord.” In Hebrew as in English, “ONE” could refer to number (yachid), or unity (echad).

In the passage above, the description is about unity (echad). The same usage is what we see in Genesis (2:24) “ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become ONE flesh.

<>Isaiah 6:8a. “And I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?”

In the vision of Isaiah, God the Father spoke about a mission which He shares with the Son and the Holy Spirit. That explains the “US?”

The Holy Trinity Identified in the New Testament

The New Testament gives us a more vivid presentation of the reality of the Holy Trinity. Though many people accepted that God the Father is God, some people doubt the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Creeds we recite in the Church (Apostles and Nicene) came as a definitive statement to demonstrate the reality and faith in the three Persons in one God.

<>John 1:1.In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Earlier, we understood “beginning” as referring to God. Hence, we could say: “In God was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John (1:14) went further to explain this “Word” thus:

”And the Word 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.”

Here, John gives a proof that shows that Jesus Christ is God.

<>Matthew 3:16-17. “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

At the site of the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have a representation of the Holy Trinity.As our Lord Jesus Christ emerges from the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descends upon him, and God the Father declares him His beloved Son in whom he is well pleased.

<>John 14:9b-10a,16. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,(the Holy Spirit) to be with you forever.

Our Lord here demonstrated the unity and equality he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit whom he identified as another advocate after him. The reality of the Holy Trinity is evident here.

<>2 Cor. 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

This short Pauline greeting is a concise expression of the Trinity of persons in one God.

Identifying With The Holy Trinity In Our Lives.

  • Building unity in our vast diversities.
  • Encouraging love and trust in our relationships.
  • Working together for the common good.
  • Keeping to our positions and respecting those of others.
  • Maintaining functional balance for the body, mind, and spirit.

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, let us pray that for unity and mutuality in our relationships, and our communities Have a laudable Trinity Sunday and a graceful week ahead. May the Grace of the Holy Trinity; Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit abide with you now and forever. Amen.

Fr. Bonnie

HOLY GHOST 101: UNDERSTANDING THE PERSON AND MISSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Pentecost 2

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Understanding the person, mission and work of the Holy Spirit is one of the great challenges that has been confronting Christianity from the apostolic times to our day and age.  We, therefore, need to understand whom the Holy Spirit is, and leveraging on that, we can move further to appreciate His mission and work in our lives.

The First thing we need to know is that the Holy Spirit is a person and not a thing! The Bible presented us with some symbolic images that indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit; they are just symbolic manifestations. We have some examples like mighty wind and fire (Acts 2:2-3). During the baptism of our Lord, the Holy Spirit also came in form of a dove (Matt.3:16).

The Holy Spirit is God; the third person of the Trinity. Oftentimes most people think that the Holy Spirit is only a New Testament reality. But the Holy Spirit has been working and we could locate His action from the moment of creation. The Book of Genesis tells us that “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2).

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was not identified as a distinct person from God the Father. Often, He is called the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2; 6:3; Ezekiel 37:1, Neh. 9:30). He is also called the breath of God (Gen. 2:7; Job 32:8; 33:4). Furthermore, He is called Good Spirit (Neh. 9:20). Above all, David identified and called Him the Holy Spirit. (Psalm 51:11).

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon people at needful times but His presence was not permanent; in other words, He did not dwell in people. For instance, Joseph had the spirit of God (Gen.41:38), at the instance of Moses, the Holy Spirit came down on the seventy elders and they prophesied once and never again (Num. 11:25-26). During the time of Moses, the Spirit of God came down on a man called Bezalel and gave him intelligence and knowledge of every kind of craft.

The Judges were men and women who worked under the impact of the Holy Spirit. Among them were Othniel (Judges 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), Jephthah (11:29), Samson (Judges 13:25). The prophets were also in touch with the Spirit like Balaam (Numbers 24:2), Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:9, 13-15), Isaiah (Isaiah 48:16-17), Daniel (Daniel 4:8-9) and others.

Before starting his public ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ declared the word of God which says “the Spirit of God is upon me!”. (Luke 4:18) The Spirit did not only come upon him like He did in the Old Testament, but He also remained with him. John the Baptist confirmed this in the Gospel of John (1:33) where he says:

I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit DESCEND and REMAIN is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

From the foregoing reflection, we can see that the difference between the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and in the New Testament is that in the former, the presence was not permanent but in the latter (New Testament) the Holy Spirit comes to stay. We could confirm this from the words of our Lord in the Gospel of John (14:16) where he says:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[Holy Spirit] to be with you FOREVER.

I believe that we are privileged to be among the beneficiaries of the new dispensation of the Holy Spirit. It now makes more sense why our Lord asked the apostles and few others including the Blessed Virgin Mary not to leave Jerusalem until they receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. The power is meant to stir up the Holy Spirit he already gave to them in during one of his post-resurrection visits (John 20:21-22) when he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

The apostles needed the Holy Spirit to empower them to begin to function effectively. What happened on the day of Pentecost was a commissioning ceremony. It is one thing to be named for something and another thing to be confirmed and commissioned to act.

By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were strengthened, they spoke in strange tongues, they became bold to speak in public and were no longer “afraid of the Jews”. When the Holy Spirit is lacking in our lives, we become afraid of the Jews. The Jews stand for all the variety of oppositions in our lives. The Jews here stand for all the odd experiences that make us hide and shy away from witnessing to God.

Today is also our own Pentecost. The Church is the new Upper Room. On this Upper Room, heaven will meet the earth. On this Upper Room, gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, piety, courage, fortitude and fear of God are available for us. On this Upper Room, we have baskets of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

It is very important for us to remember that before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the apostles and others were together in ONE ACCORD. Even when they spoke in different tongues there was mutual understanding unlike what at the tower of Babel where they spoke one tongue but lacked understanding. The Holy Spirit cannot come where people are not in one accord; disunity displaces the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Today we ask the Holy Spirit:

  • To recreate us and make us the newest versions of ourselves (Psalm 104:30).
  • To help us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).
  • To Empower us (Act 1:8).
  • To reborn us (1 Pet. 1:23).
  • To teach us (Luke 12: 11-12).
  • To Guide us (John16:13).

May this Pentecost celebration bring amazing transformation and graces upon your life. Have a great week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

PRAYING AND WAITING FOR THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER. HOMILY FOR THE 7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR A). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

 

PRAY AND WAIT

“While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to WAIT there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5).

Waiting is one exercise that could be draining, physically and emotionally. However, life is all about waiting. In fact, we just have to wait and be patient in waiting (Psalm 37:7). Today, the First Reading (Acts 1:12-14) tells us that after the ascension of our Lord into heaven, the apostles returned to Jerusalem and “were CONSTANTLY devoting themselves to PRAYER” (vs. 14). We can see clearly that the gap between the ascension and the  coming of the Holy Spirit was a time of WAITING which was also filled with “CONSTANT PRAYER.”

Prayer could be defined as our communication and connection with God. This communication and connection would become more efficient when we make our prayer constant (Luke 18:1;1Thess.5:17). Like most people would say, we become better at something when we do it repeatedly. The same dynamic applies to praying.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost not just because it was a promise, but more immediate, because of the prayers that stormed the heavens from the Upper Room where Mary and the apostles gathered together in one accord (Acts 2:1-2).

Before something would come from heaven something must leave the earth. The prayers at the Upper Room in Jerusalem opened the Upper Room of heaven for the Holy Spirit to pour forth on the apostles. This demonstrates a strong and effective communication between earth and heaven which brought forth the promise of the father; namely, the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel Reading (John 17:1-11), our Lord Jesus Christ renders what we know as the High Priestly prayer. He prays heartfully and intensely. His prayer is not only for us but also about us. The passage began by telling us that after Jesus had spoken THESE WORDS, he looked up to heaven and prayed.

One would be curious to ask, “which words.” The answer could be found in preceding Chapter (John 16). An attentive look at the Chapter tell us more about the promise of another advocate; the Holy Spirit whose coming would complete and confirm the work of Jesus Christ.

Our Lord takes the route of prayer to match his words with action. We learn from the priestly prayer of Jesus Christ the need for us to pray and remain in prayers. Prayer is the only tool we can use to communicate and connect with God. When we stop praying we lose our communication and connection with God.

As we look forward to the Pentecost, we are invited to climb to the Upper Room of prayer and raise our voices to God who would not delay in answering us even when it lingers (Heb.10:37). The Holy Spirit will not force his way into our lives; the prayerful disposition of our Lord encourages us today to invite the Holy Spirit to come into our lives.

As we march into this week that will lead us to the Pentecost. Let us continue to storm the heavens with our constant prayers as we await the outpouring and baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Have a wonderful week as you keep up the communication and connection with God in prayer.

Fr. Bonnie.

KEEPING UP WITH THE ASCENSION POWER HOMILY FOR THE ASCENSION THURSDAY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

Fr Bonnie's Reflections

ascension

Going up or ascending could be fun for instance flying in an airplane for those who do not have an issue with height. “To ascend” means to rise or move to a higher point, degree or rank. To make a transition from a lower level to a higher level. There is usually a great feeling of elation and promotion that goes with moving up or going up as opposed to moving down or going down. While moving up or going up is associated with success, great accomplishment, and other positive things, moving down or going down is associated with failure, degradation, and hopelessness.

Today is a very important and remarkable day for us as we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven. The Ascension is an inevitable bus stop on the highway of our redemption. Without the Ascension, the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ would not…

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