Fr Bonnie's Reflections

THE NINEVEH EXPERIENCE AND THE URGENCY OF OUR REPENTANCE. HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

NINEVEH REPENTANCE

Once upon a time during my early boyhood, with all the adventures that accompanied it, I broke my dad’s favorite drinking glass cup. It was not an accident; it was my carelessness because my mum warned me twice while I was doing the dishes to be careful as I was doing an “Olympic swimming demonstration” with the cup and other cups I termed contestant in the “sport” taking place in the dishwashing bowl.

When the drinking glass dropped from my hands to the floor, my mum echoed “I warned you, your dad would soon come back from work, be ready for his punishment. My dad’s penalties were usually nerved straining, and I dared them. I could neither eat nor drink, and it seemed he was taking his time to come back. When he finally arrived and saw how pale and fearful, I was looking he sensed that something was not okay, and when my mum reported the episode to him, he smiled and asked me to be careful next time. He let me go without any punishment because he could sense my remorse and penitence.

The story of Jonah and the people of Nineveh is not strange to us. Initially, Jonah wanted to evade the divine mission to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. However, events would bring him back to the city of Nineveh and the narrative today tells us that he entered the great city, which would take a three-day journey, to preach repentance. Just on the first day, the people accepted the word of God and repented, from the king to the least person in the city.

There is a note of urgency in the three Readings of this Sunday. In the Second Reading (1 Cor. 7:29-31), St. Paul tells us about the need to become more austere with the things we have and refrain from various indulgent behaviors because the world in its present form is passing away. In the Gospel Reading (Mark 1:14-20), John the Baptist continues the message by calling for urgent repentance because of the nearness of the Kingdom of God. Still, in the Gospel narrative, we learn about the urgency of the call to discipleship which involves leaving everything to follow Jesus Christ.

The message today invites us to answer the urgent call to repentance. Repentance should be an on-going exercise in our lives. Every day provides an opportunity for us to become the better version of ourselves. Today, our lives represent the city of Nineveh. The word of God is the Jonah that is walking through the length and breath of our lives inviting us to drop the old ways and to adopt the new life. The instruction of St. Paul in the Second Reading urges us not to be complacent but to live for a positive change.

The message of this Sunday is part of the New Year reality which involves the courage to drop our old ways of life and to change like the people of Nineveh. Often it is not easy to leave the former way of life (Isaiah 43:18), but it is after all gainful when we do so; that is the route to the new reality (Isaiah 43:19).

There is nobody among us that do not need repentance. The word of God says that if we say we have no sin we lie, and the truth is not in us (1 John1:8). Our returning to God, which is repentance anyway, is an urgent activity. Isaiah (55:6-7) tells us to seek God when we can find him and to call Him when He is still near.

As we march into a new week and deeper into the New Year, there is the need for us to look inward to dictate the areas of repentance in our lives. Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

WE ARE THE NEW “SAMUEL”; GOD IS CALLING US! HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

…you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing Peter 3:9.

During my formation to the priesthood, I had one of my six weeks pastoral experiences with an elderly priest who has a hilarious way of calling people around him for assistance. He would clear his throat and ask: “onye nonso?”, which means “who is nearby?” Consequently, anyone within earshot would emerge to help him with an errand which often consisted of giving him the television remote around the corner, or to hand him a book just beside him.

During the first week of my stay with him, I discovered that I was the only one running the errand for him because I would always rush to him when he calls out: “onye nonso” (who is nearby). It dawned on me in the subsequent weeks that whenever the priest clears his throat, the young people who had been staying with him would quickly run away. The idea was to avoid his call for a nearby person because the errands are mostly annoying like he once called and asked me to search for his keys meanwhile he was sitting on them and turning off the television he was watching.

The First Reading today (1 Sam 3:3b-10,19), tells us about the call of Samuel at a very critical time in the history of the people of Israel when they sinned and lost divine communication. We could recall that Samuel was dedicated to the service of God as his mother Hannah promised when she came to Shiloh to pray for the fruit of the womb after years of bareness. Samuel thus represents God’s answer to the prayer of Hannah.

It is important to note that the call of Samuel came while he was sleeping in the temple where the ark of God was. In life, where you choose to determine what happens your way. Samuel decided to stay close to God, and that was why God could reach out to him. God would always reach out to those who are nearby. In the manner of the elderly priest in our opening story, God was asking, “onye nonso” (who is nearby?); and Samuel was the closest.

The story of the call of Samuel is also our own story. God is continually calling us through His words to come out of the darkness and enter his marvelous light (1Pet. 2:9). God calls us to himself through the sacraments. Through baptism, we are called to become children of God and members of the Church. In the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we are called into union with Christ through our partaking in his body and blood (John 6:56). And in the sacrament of Holy Anointing, we are called out from infirmity to wholeness and restoration (Jer. 30:17).

The sacrament of confirmation calls us into the legion of the faithful soldiers of Christ, while in the sacrament of penance we are called to repentance and eternal life. In the sacrament of Holy Orders, we are called to become ministers of the word and the sacraments while the in sacrament of the Holy Matrimony married couples are invited to dedicate themselves to love and service for the rest of their lives while being open to procreation and training of the children God may give to them.

Today, in our day and age we have many voices calling for our attention and the question we should ask ourselves is “whom do we answer?” We are the new “Samuels” of our time, how often do we respond to God’s call. Usually, we give excuses why we should not answer the call of God inviting us to repentance, faith, charity, and hope in God. We often prefer to answer the call to social, political, and cultural lives to the detriment of our spiritual lives.

In the Second Reading (1 Cor.6:13c-15a, 17-20), St. Paul brings our attention to the call to immorality which many people tend to answer and defy the body which should be for Christ. The reality is that there is a conflict between the flesh and the spirit. St. Paul writing to the Galatians (5:16ff) tells us to live by the spirit and not to gratify the desires (call) of the flesh because the flesh is opposed to the spirit and the spirit is opposed to the flesh.

In the Gospel Reading (John 1: 35-42), Andrew and another disciple of John decided to follow our Lord Jesus Christ when John pointed out that he is the lamb of God. That decision was an answer to a divine call. Andrew extends the call by introducing his brother Simon Peter to the Lord. The invitation today is not only to answer the call but also to bring others along to come and see the Lord and what he could do in our lives.

Today, we are all invited to be attentive to the divine call at various points in our lives. God is still calling us in our minds and hearts, in our families in our daily preoccupations, in our communities, and other engagements. Let us like Samuel be ready to say, “Speak Lord for servant is listening.” Have a great day and a glorious week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

EPIPHANY: THE JOURNEY TO DIVINE MANIFESTATION. HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF EPIPHANY. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Wise Men seek Jesus

God is always manifesting Himself to us in various ways. Abraham encountered God through the divine invitation that took him away from his father’s house to an unknown destination (Gen.12:1). Moses met God at the burning bush, and he also experienced the presence of God alongside the people of Israel with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire (Ex. 13:21). Elijah had diverse experiences of divine manifestation including the still wind at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:12-13).

There are other examples of divine manifestation through the vision of angels, for instance, Abraham (Gen.18:1ff), Gideon (Judges 6:11), the mother of Samson (Judges 13:2ff), Isaiah (Is. 6:1ff), Zachariah (Luke 1:11ff), and the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26ff), to mention but these. The peculiarity of the feast of Epiphany is that God decided to manifest (show) Himself to the whole world in His Son, Jesus Christ, the word that became flesh (John 1:14) through the visit of the Wise Men. This outlook confirms the letter to the Hebrews which tells us that in times past God spoke to us through the prophets in this time He talked to us through His Son (Heb.1:1-2).

The event of the Epiphany of the Lord leaves us with a lot of lessons. Some critical questions would help us in this reflection. “Why did God choose to show His son to Wise Men from the East?” “Why was their journey such a tedious one?” “What is the significance of the visit?” “How does the visit affect our individual lives?”

The first set of people to receive the message of the birth of Jesus Christ were the shepherds who were also Israelites (Luke 2:8ff). God chose to reveal His Son to the whole world through the Wise Men from the East. The Wise Men represents all of us who are invited to come and see the revealed glory of God which the First Reading (Isaiah 60:1-6) narrates to us. To reach to the newborn King, the Wise Men had to follow the magnificent star.

The star represents the word of God which serves as the lamp for our steps and light for our feet (Psalm 119:105). From the Gospel Narrative (Matt. 2:1-12), we learn that the Magi saw a star that distinguishes itself from other stars. There are numerous stars (words and voices) around us today, but the word of God remains the unique and special star, and following the word of God would lead us to God and life eternal.

Following the star, nay, the word of God is not usually a jolly ride. Often, we encounter and face some hindering Herods on the way who make false promises to us. It takes passionate commitment, faith, and attention to the divine direction to get to the end of our journey like the Wise Men. In life, whoever you listen to determines what becomes of you. The Wise Men in the Epiphany narrative chose to listen to the voice of God instead of the voice of Herod. We could want to listen to the numerous Herods around us or pay due attention to the voice of God.

The journey of the Wise Men reflects our journey of faith to encounter God. The star appears when we are reborn in baptism to direct us towards a profound encounter with Jesus Christ. On our journey of faith, there are sometimes when our star seems to go down and out of sight like in the experience of the Wise Men. Those moments represent low spiritual moments. Like the Wise Men, we should not be discouraged either by our thoughts nor the people around us.

Our journey of faith represents the ultimate search for God, which is also the search for eternal life. We need to follow the word of God like the star. We need to remain committed, focused, and faithful. Ultimately, we need to make a unique offering following the adoration of Jesus Christ. The narrative tells us that the Wise Men gave offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gifts represent a total donation of ourselves to God; that is the body, mind, and soul. When we give all to God, He blesses us with more than what we offer.

As we celebrate the feast of Epiphany, let us remember that we are the new Wise Men and Women of our day and age still searching for Jesus Christ. The word of God tells us that those who seek the Lord would find Him (Jer. 29:13).  The New Year would become a gracious one for us if we focus on seeking after God first and all other things would be added unto us (Matt. 6:33). Have a joyful celebration and remain in God’s love.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE NEW YEAR, NEW ATTITUDE, NEW ALTITUDE, NEW YOU! A REFLECTION FOR THE NEW YEAR Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

new year new attitude

This may not be your first New Year, and it will not (deo volente) be your last! Every New Year comes with great expectations, and we make positive utterances as we enter the New Year and anticipate wonderful things to happen in our lives. There are prayerful wishes for open doors, fresh beginnings, divine victory, an immense success, divine expansion, and other supplicatory statements.

After a long period of introspection, I have come to understand that we consistently forget a very important thing in our New Year prayers and wishes and that is the attention to a renewed life. We want new things to happen in our lives, but only very few us want to develop new dispositions and renewed lives. We want new things to happen in our lives when we are still moving about with our      old selves.

There is a new version of yourself that is hidden somewhere, and there is every need for you to let it out. You can let out the new version of yourself when you decide to quit the old self. You cannot expect something new when you are still living with the old disposition and the old way of life. Our Lord Jesus Christ urged us to put new wine into an old wineskin Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22).

The New Year can become a great blessing for you if you change the way you live your life. You cannot expect a different result from old ways of doing things. Something must change in you before you climb to a new reality. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul tells them to cast off the works of darkness because the night is far gone (Romans 13:12).

Somewhere I read that attitude is everything. My reflection affirms this claim. Attitude has to do with a way of thinking and doing things. Your attitude determines your altitude in life. This New Year should offer us an opportunity to reflect on our attitude towards life. Often, we do not believe that we need improvement in our way of acting and reacting. The following practical steps could be helpful to us:

  • Talk less and do more productive things.
  • Give more attention to your family.
  • Cut down on Some friendships could be draining and time-consuming.
  • Create more time for God; you cannot do without Him. Pray always and never lose heart (Luke 18:1).
  • Develop a more positive mental attitude with life.
  • Forgive and let go; to not allow hurtful thoughts to preoccupy your mind.
  • God has given you life, and you must take care of it. Live a healthy life, eat well, and avoid harmful habits that would affect your life.
  • Avoid and cut down on time wasters like television, social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, snapchat, etc), internet, and unfruitful visits.
  • Owe nobody nothing except love (Romans 13:8).

Have a prosperous and blessed New Year.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

BUILD A BRIDGE, LOVE YOUR FAMILY, SAVE YOUR FAMILY! HOMILY FOR THE FEAST THE HOLY FAMILY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

family

Once upon a time, a carpenter approached a house early one morning and asked the owner if he could be of help for any repair in the house. The owner of the house thought for a while and says to the carpenter “look at that neighboring house, it belongs to my younger brother and we do not get along. Please erect something that would block us from seeing each other!” The carpenter assures the house owner that he would do a good job and he started the work while the house owner leaves for a business meeting.

By evening, the house owner returned to discover that the carpenter had erected a beautiful and simple bridge connecting his house to that of his brother. He was still admiring the bridge from his side when his brother emerged from the other side, and they met in the middle of the bridge with a warm hug. The younger brother says to his elder brother, “I am sorry for all that I did. You are so kind to build this bridge which indicates that you still want to have something to do with me, I am sorry”. They hugged each other and cried.

The house owner was so pleased that he decided to give the carpenter other jobs to do in the house, but the carpenter replies and says to him, “Let me go because I have seen that there are still many bridges to build for other families out there. Call me when there is the need for another bridge”. Indeed, many families need bridges.

There are many things we consciously choose in life, but not the family into which we are born. If we were to pick our respective families, most people would prefer royalty and wealth as birthplaces while poor and dejected homes would remain childless. The family is not all about riches and comfort. The family is not all about good times and laughter. The family is a full package: the joyful and the sorrowful, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs!

Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus Christ, Mary, and Joseph, we consider our contributions to the building or destruction of our various families. Do we bring light or darkness? Do we bring pain or gain? Do we help or hinder? Do we pray together or prey on each other? Do we support or separate? Do we understand or misunderstand each other? Do we build bridges or block the link we share?

The story of the childlessness of Abraham in the First Reading (Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3) after years of waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise of making him the father of a great nation, leaves us with the central lessons of patient and faithful waiting. The word of God tells us in in the Book of Isaiah (40: 31) that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. Patience is a virtue that every family needs. We need to be patient with God (Psalm 37:7) and with one another (Eph. 4:3). The Holy Family of Nazareth gives us a perfect example of a patient household especially with the events surrounding the Nativity, the search to kill the child Jesus and the flight to Egypt.

Every family that overlooks the virtue of patience would have pains. All the members of the family may not be equally gifted. Some could be stronger than others. Patience should be an essential compass in the family navigation. To be patient with each other is an evidence of love and care. St. Paul writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 13:4), says among other things that love is patient, love is kind.

The family is both a sacred institution and a gift from God. Like all the gifts from God, the family is also under the furious attack of the devil. It is very evident that the easiest way to destroy the world is to destroy families. The family is the most vulnerable group in the world, and there is a need for the various families in the world to bring God into the daily life of the family.

The Gospel Reading (Luke 2:22-40), tells us about the presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the temple. One could wonder why the narrative of the Presentation of the Lord is essential on the feast of the Holy Family, but the reason is obvious. It was both the presentation of Jesus Christ as well as the presentation of the Holy Family to God. By implication, we are invited to present our families to God.

The variety of family problems that are evident in our day and age are indications of the absence of God in the family. Most families could boast of several luxury cars, massive buildings, very fat bank balances but lack the smallest reflection of God. The Holy Family is celebrated today to demonstrate to us the importance of family and how to achieve optimal family life.

In Second Reading, option one (Col. 3:12-21), the apostle Paul takes the time to enumerate the virtues we need to maintain a holy family: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, patience, peace, and forgiveness. Furthermore, wives are instructed to submit to their husbands and husbands are asked to love their wives while children are taught to obey their parents. We can summarize these by recommending mutual love, respect, and commitment to God as dependable grounds for a holy and wholesome family.

More practically these suggestions could help our families become holy and more wholesome:

  • Spend time with your family.
  • Pray together.
  • Settle quarrels and forgive as often as a problem arises.
  • Invest in your family.
  • Do not forget your parents.
  • Teach the children the right things; never lie to them.

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, let us remember to build bridges in our families instead erecting blocks. Have a wonderful celebration.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE “YES” OF MARY IN THE NATIVITY STORY: THE LESSONS WE LEARN. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Mary and the Holy Spirit

Once upon a time, a young man decides to propose to his girlfriend. Their friendship had lasted for five years, and the guy felt it is high time he proposed to her so that they could seal it up in a marriage bond. The young man decided to add drama to the proposal by taking her to an expensive restaurant and had a famous musical group give a prelude to his somewhat poetic proposal. After going through his well-rehearsed lines with his kneel on the ground, the lady said a disheartening “no” and walked away when the guy concluded with the conventional “would you marry me?”. The young man was distraught and broke down in tears.

There are some moments when a “no” as an answer instead of a “yes” could be a devastating experience. That explains why most people shy away from asking because they feel terrible when they get a “no” as an answer to a passionate request. You may connect with some experiences where you honestly intend to help, and you are utterly turned down or when you give out something of great value and someone turns it down with an attitude.

The visit of God to Mary through the messenger, angel Gabriel, as the Gospel tells us (Luke1:26-38), appears like an event of a proposal that needed an affirmation or a denial. Without prescience, Virgin Mary was visited by an angel with a divine proposal to become the mother of the savior. Mary was not forced to become the mother of God. Instead, she accepted and gave a “yes.”  She was initially confused on how she could conceive while still being a virgin and the angel tells her about the action of the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of God will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

The fruit of Mary’s acceptance of the proposal of the Holy Spirit is what we celebrate at Christmas. Without Mary’s “yes” the Annunciation and Nativity would not have been fruitful at the time. We are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ because Mary accepted to become his mother and our mother too. We are celebrating the Christmas because the Blessed Virgin Mary said a big “YES” to the proposal of the Holy Spirit. We are celebrating the Christmas because Mary reversed the disobedience of Eve. In the garden of Eden, Eve accepted the proposal from the serpent to disobey God and humanity lost its relationship with God. Contrarywise, at the small town of Nazareth, Mary (the second Eve), accepted the proposal to do the will of God and that brought humanity back to God.

The Holy Spirit is still making proposals to us every day and in various ways. What answers are we giving to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is making proposals to us to live the life in the Spirit rather than the life in the flesh, for the Spirit is at war with the flesh (Gal. 5: 17-22). The Holy Spirit is proposing repentance; the spirit is calling us to love, the Holy Spirit is giving us the proposal to live the life of strong faith in God.

The Holy Spirit is ready to come upon us (like Mary) if we could say “yes” to Him. Christmas is not all about food and drink; we have been eating and drinking before now. It is not all about new clothes, shoes, and other things; most people have no spaces for new ones. It is a time of intense spiritual encounter with God and appreciation for sending us the redeemer.

In the Book of 2nd Samuel (7:5), God questioned David’s plan to build a house for him to dwell. God is still questioning people in our day and age who are building Christmas trees without Christ. It is not all about erecting the tallest Christmas tree; it is about making a small space in our hearts, the new Bethlehem, where our Lord’s would be born. We need to accept the proposal from the Holy Spirit to give as we have received and to forgive as God forgives us (Luke 6:37-38).

May the Christmas celebration bring Christ into our lives and may the grace of the Holy Spirit that overshadowed Mary consequent upon her acceptance of the proposal to become the Mother of God continue to radiate in our lives every day. I wish you every spiritual blessing this Holy Season and in the coming New Year.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

REJOICE THE LIGHT IS COMING! HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

 

RJOICE

 

During the hurricane episodes in some parts of Texas and Florida, someone shared an experienced with me that turned out to be a framework for reflection. According to Nelson, his family had a sad experience because they had to stay all night in darkness because of an unscheduled power outage due to the hurricane siege. He goes further to tell me that joy only returned to their home at the restoration of the light the next day. While listening to him, I was at the same time reflecting on the connection he was making between darkness and sadness on the one hand and light and joy on the other hand.

Before God started the creation of the world, the first facility He provided was light: “and God said, let there be light, and there was light” (Gen.1:3). Light, in the form of fire, often heralds the presence of God and we can attest this with some biblical examples:

  • Moses encountered God by the burning bush (Exo 3:2).
  • God marched with the people of Israel through the desert by the pillar of fire at night to give them light (Exodus 13:21-22).
  • David tells us the word of God is his light and salvation (Psalm 27:1).
  • The prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Messiah indicates that those living in darkness would see a great light (Isaiah 9:2).
  • Saul encountered our Lord Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus through a great light (Acts 9:3).
  • Peter tell us that God called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1Pet. 2:9b)

On this Third Sunday of Advent, the Readings invite us to rejoice because the light is close coming to us. We are like people waiting for a delivery package, and a message comes saying that the package is on its way and would be arriving soon. The joy of someone waiting for a delivery leverages on the utility of the content of the package.

Today, we are invited to rejoice because our liberation is at hand. This announcement indicates to us that Christmas is a time of spiritual liberation. The birth of Jesus Christ marks the beginning of a new era for us. The First Reading (Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11) tells us that he is coming:

  • To bring good tidings to the poor.
  • To heal the broken-hearted.
  • To proclaim liberty to the captives.
  • To release the prisoners.
  • To announce the Lord’s year of favor and vindication.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12). He is coming to dispel and overcome the darkness in our lives (John 1:5). The darkness includes all the evil things that hurt us, our spiritual captivity and imprisonment. In the Second Reading (1 Thess. 5:16-24), St. Paul tells us to rejoice always but also to pray without ceasing as we await the coming of the Messiah. He also encourages us to refrain from every evil while praying to God to make us entirely holy in spirit, soul, and body for the coming of the Lord.

Do not allow anything or anyone to take away your joy as the Lord’s coming draws nearer. Do not worry about anything,  but pray about everything (Eph. 4:6). I repeat it, rejoice and keep rejoicing your liberation is nearby. Remain committed, hold firm; the darkness would soon turn into light, and the glory of God will dawn in your life. Rejoice and keep rejoicing.

I wish you a beautiful and joyful Third Week of Advent and a glorious week.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

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

 

EVERY HEART PREPARE

Once upon a time, Dave’s mom comes home to announce to him and his dad that her closest friend Mrs. Brown would be visiting them by the weekend with her husband and their only daughter Jane. Dave is excited about the visit though he tries not to show it because his mum noticed he was bonding with Jane the last time the family visited.

With the announcement of the visit of the Browns, the entire house turned into a hub of activities. Dave’s dad had to put the lawn mower into action, fix new curtains, and rearrange the dining. Dave’s mum did extensive shopping and even got something they never used. Dave had only one thing to do, and that is to appear in clean clothes on that day.

On the day of the visit, as Dave’s parents  make the final preparations, Dave decided to draw and paint some animals to impress Jane who may be coming into his room. He spent some time drawing and painting various animals from the letter A to Z. The family finally arrives and receives a warm welcome from the host family.

Dave could hear them coming in and decides to do the last painting on the Zebra. As he was finishing, his father invites him to welcome Jane and the parents. Dave rushes out to greet them, but Jane remarks with disappointment that his clothes are spotting with paints all over. At that point, Dave takes a closer look at himself to realize how awful he is looking. His parents could not hide their anger as they order him to change into new clothes immediately. “Did Dave prepare for the visit of the Browns?” We shall find out later in the reflection.

The central message of this Second Sunday of Advent is about preparation. The rhythm of life functions with preparations. We could also learn that from God. Before He created the creeping things and sea animals he already prepared the land and the sea. Before he created Adam and Eve, He prepared a garden for them. It is one thing to prepare but another to prepare well; in the case of God, the Bible tells us they (all his preparations) were all excellent. Hence, preparation can be done well or poorly like in the case of Dave who messed up his clothes while preparing to entertain Jane with his drawings.

In the First Reading (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11) and the Gospel Reading today (Mark 1:1-8), the Old and New Testament prophets Isaiah and John the Baptist, give us the dynamics for preparing for the coming of the Lord. The prophet Isaiah tells us to do three important things while making way for the Lord before the appearance of his glory:

  • Fill the valleys: This points to the emptiness in our lives which we need to fill with virtues. The virtues we need this time among others are patience, watchfulness, and love.
  • Level the mountains: We often have a lot of destructive mountains in the form of sins in our lives. This season invites us to level these mountains. The presence of these mountains in our lives would block us from seeing the Lord when he comes.
  • Make the rugged land plain: This has to do with the straightening out of our attitudes and making positive changes. Often, we are lukewarm; neither hot nor cold. The word of God says He will spit us out if we are lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-16).

The Gospel Reading shows us the operationalization of these three steps in the ministry of John the Baptist through the administering of the baptism of repentance. To repent is to turn around and to do something differently. John the Baptist appeared wearing camel’s hair with a belt around his waist, and for food, he ate locust and honey.

There is a message for us with the description of his wardrobe and diet. The materials mentioned may look common but to get each of them requires thorough work. We are therefore instructed to not only to be modest in our clothing and diet this season but also to be ready to tie up our waist in readiness for the coming of the Lord. In the Second Reading (2 Peter 3:8-14) Peter tells us that it will be like the coming of a thief so we should conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion.

Have a beautiful Second Sunday of Advent and more blessings ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

“KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL” HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR B). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

In every ball game, all good coaches have one common instruction for the team members, “keep your eye on the ball.”  The instruction does not only mean having a watchful connection with the ball, but it also means being on the alert to receive the ball when it comes and to make a skillful use of it. It is common for teachers to tell their students to keep an eye on the ball for academic excellence, employers say the same to their employees for organizational growth, and mentors equally say the same to their mentees to attain success in life.

The Advent period gives us the same instruction “keep your eye on the ball.” It will be helpful for us to identify what the ball means for us and what we can achieve with it this season. We understand the Advent period as the time of WAITING for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas. It is clear from the above description that we should keep our eye on our Lord Jesus Christ while waiting for his coming at Christmas; that is the Advent message.

How do we keep our eye on the “ball,” that is on our Lord Jesus Christ this season of Advent? The reflection today supplies us with the strategies. The First Reading (Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7) gives us the indication among other things that we are clay and God is the potter. This introduces a relationship of dependence on our part. We keep our eyes on God and allow Him to mold us and not us trying to mold God into what we think He should be. We are invited to become docile to God whom the prophet Isaiah, in the First Reading, begs earnestly to come down quickly.

In the Second Reading (1 Cor. 1:3-9), St. Paul enjoins us to adopt the attitude of WAITING which is very fundamental for the Advent period. In the Gospel Reading (Mark 13:33-37), our Lord Jesus Christ tells us to be watchful and to be on the alert.  From the Readings, we understand the following procedure while keeping our eyes on our Lord Jesus: waiting, watching, and being on the alert.

In our day and age, Christmas, like other Christian celebrations has been commercialized. Advent has also been transformed from a time of waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ to the time for waiting to celebrate ourselves. Instead of keeping our eyes on the Lord, most people keep their eyes on fashion, sales, money, and worldly cares.

Advent is a time of watchful waiting. We are invited to keep our eyes on the Lord by paying attention to the Word of God which is God Himself (John 1:1). We also keep our eyes on the Lord by exercise our Christian duties diligently. The Gospel tells us that the man who was traveling placed his servants in charge, each with his work. Each of us has an endowment from God, and we are expected to be active while waiting and watching for the coming of the Lord.

As we march into the Advent period, let us remember to “keep our eyes on the ball.” Active watching should empower our waiting,  doing good and being on the alert to resist sin. May the grace of God during this season help us to live up to the demands of the Advent season.

Have a glorious Advent Season.

Fr. Bonnie.

CHRIST THE UNIVERSAL SHEPHERD- KING. HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING (YEAR A). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

SHEPHERD AND KING

There is a story about a good King who loved his subjects so much that he decided to leave his palace to dwell with the people in their ordinary habitation in the inner cities of the Kingdom. The people found it incredible that the King could abandon the comfort and luxury of the palace to stay with them in their low standard habitation. They accepted with joy.

Every day, the King would follow them in their daily activities, eat with them and even play with them. He made himself available for them for direction, advice, and all manner of assistance. After some time, the people became conversant with the presence of the King that most of them could no longer connect with the awe that goes with royalty. Most people took him for granted and would often pass him without greeting. Some would appear before him in rags and others would even speak to him as they would to an ordinary person in the Kingdom.

With the progress of time, a more significant majority of the people lost touch with the King entirely and didn’t feel the need for a King. In fact, most of them would tell stories and display the pictures of “powerful Kings” from other Kingdoms who live in magnificent palaces and attract great admiration and fear from their subject. The King became so insignificant to the people that nobody knew when he left the Kingdom to an unknown place. Just very few who were loyal noticed and followed him.

Sometime later, the Kingdom started experiencing a lot of problems and was disintegration as strange Kings besieged the kingdom from various directions. At this point, the people began looking for their King to help, but it was too late. They could not find the King, and they could not trace his whereabouts. Could this be like our encounter with Jesus Christ the King of Kings, and Lord of Lord’s who humbled himself to come among us and became like us in all things except sin (Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 4:15)? Do we recognize the privilege of having Jesus Christ always with us?

Kings live in palaces and wield enormous influence over their subjects. In a typical Kingdom, subjects serve the King with fear and trembling, and the King is not usually accessible; some people live their whole lives without making a personal experience with their King. Today, as we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King, our attention goes to one of the most significant images and characteristics of God in the Old and New Testaments, namely, shepherd.

Going back through the scriptures, we could see a pattern of God’s choice of shepherds among the Patriarchs, Judges, Kings, and Prophets (Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Saul, David, Amos, Ezekiel). There is something about the shepherding that is so special that God adopts it to describe His relationship with us. Like a shepherd who turned to a King, David was inspired in Psalm 23 to declare that God is our Shepherd who has a detailed plan for our protection, provision, and guidance. We could also recall that angels announced the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ through shepherds (Luke 2:8-20).

In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ takes up the image of the shepherd when in the Gospel of John (10:11) he says, “I am the good shepherd” and goes further to elaborate on the functions of the good shepherd which relates to the details of Psalm 23. Furthermore, before his passion and death, our Lord declares that he is a King though his Kingdom is not earthly (Luke 23:2-3; John 18:33-37).

Jesus Christ the King is unlike the Kings of this world. Earthly Kings stay in their palaces, and their subjects provide for them and protect them even with their lives. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Shepherd-King who provides for the sheep, knows each one by its name and also lays down his life for them (John 10:11-18). In the First Reading today (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17), the oracle of the prophet assures us that God will look after and tend his sheep. However, He will also judge our deeds. The Gospel Reading (Matt. 25:31-46) confirms the judgment while stating that God will separate the sheep from the goat.

Beyond the celebration of Christ as our universal King, there is the need for us to recognize, appreciate and cooperate with the presence of the King of Kings in our lives. We could recall in our opening story that we could become too accustomed to the presence of the King among us that we fail to give him honor and acknowledge his power working in us. Are we not getting used to his presence in our Churches that most of us do a lot of banal things inside the church which includes but not restricted to making phone calls, chatting on social media, hating and gossiping just to mention but four?

Our Lord Jesus Christ will be happy that we are proclaiming him the universal King today, but he will be happier if we could acknowledge his presence and follow his words; “the sheep that belong to me hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Our Lord will be happier if we make him the Lord and King of our lives. Today, there are many “kingdoms and kings” that we have allowed into our lives and which are also misdirecting our lives. They are in modern technology, fashion, consumerism, and secularism.

A very typical question we could ask ourselves today is: “who is the King of my life?”. If we declare that Jesus Christ is the King of our lives, we should make his Lordship real in our lives by fearing God and walking in His ways (Psalm 128:1).

May you have a resounding celebration of Christ the Universal King and may what you proclaim with your lips today manifest in your life.

Fr. Bonnie.

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