Fr Bonnie's Reflections

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B. Fr. Dr. Bonnie Anusiem

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B. Fr. Dr. Bonnie Anusiem.

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B. Fr. Dr. Bonnie Anusiem

CHALLENGES AND CHANCES OF THE PROPHETIC VOCATION: HOMILY FOR THE 15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B)- REV. FR. BONNIE ANUSIEM PH.D

 

From a very tender age as junior seminarian, I became accustomed to the saying: “Many are called but few are chosen”. Back then I wondered in my little mind if I will be among those that will be chosen. Then I will start counting the big boys in my class as those who will be chosen first because of their sizes. I would often tell myself that I had to buckle up and grow fast (I was small then) to be among the “big ones” to be chosen. It was later that I learnt that it was not all about size or even personal effort; but the grace of God understandable as unmerited favour.

Today we have interesting prophetic episodes both in the first reading and in the gospel. In the first reading from the prophecy of Amos, we are presented with the verbal attack on Amos by the priest at Bethel called Amaziah. Amos’ oracle indicated an impending disaster that will befall the King and the people in form of exile due to their dissociation from God. Amaziah who was more of a political priest accosted the prophet Amos and asked him to leave the land of Israel to Judah and earn his bread as a prophet there.

From the scenario it is clear to us that religion at that moment was a commercially political. Amaziah’s position as the (chief) priest at Bethel could have been at the instance of the political scheme of king Jeroboam who must have brought in people who will tell him what he wants to hear. One can then imagine what the prophecy of Amos portends. From Amaziah we understand that Bethel (house of God; the site of Jacob’s dream (Gen.28:18-19)) was now seen as royal sanctuary and national temple. The people at the time were seeing the worship of God as a mere religious observance not as a spiritual activity. There is a difference between religious observance and spiritual practice. It is in this sense that one can be religious without being spiritual. Religious observance includes, though not restricted to conventions like strict attention to time, context, rubrics, and other religious rituals that are external to the religion in question. On the other hand worship as a spiritual activity has to do with an inner disposition which connects the worshipper with the object of worship (Jn. 4:24). In spiritual worship of God we talk about faith, hope and love (1 Cor. 13:13; Heb.11:6).

Israel during the time of Jeroboam and Amaziah was deeply concerned with religious observances and not spiritual practice of their religion. Their worship was based on the external ritual obligations without a corresponding internal spiritual interface. Worship for them was at the service of royalty not divinity. It was more of a national affair than personal commitment. This is still very valid in our contemporary human society where people go to Church because it is Sunday and they have to carry out that religious obligation. People go to Church because others are going; some go to Church because they don’t want to be alone in the house. The question is how many are motivated by faith, love and their hope in God?

From the point of view of Amaziah the priest the prophetic ministry ought to be a commercial activity. That was why he asked Amos to leave the land of Israel to Judah and earn his living as a prophet from that region. From the words of Amaziah, he was not concerned about the prophetic message. He was more concerned about how Amos and his message would affect his business in Bethel. We see this happening in or day with so much commercialization going on with the message of God. People are asked to pay consultation fee before they could see a man of God. They are still required to pay sometimes heavily before they can be prayed for. These are the Amaziahs of our time. And they can go to any length to fight a perceived competitor or rival. Amos was of a different stock. He was called from the work of shepherding to become a mouthpiece of God. He had the mission of delivering the word of God as it is.

In the gospel today, Jesus SUMMONED the Twelve and began to send them out in PAIRS. He gave them AUTHORITY over unclean spirits. He further instructed them to take NOTHING for the journey except a STAFF, no BREAD, no HAVERSACK. They were to wear SANDALS but no spare TUNIC. They should stay wherever they are welcomed. They should preach REPENTANCE, cast out devils and anoint the SICK.

Before going into the explications I wish to call back what happened to me as a seminarian; I true confession really. I was posted on apostolic work to a certain popular town. My mates congratulated me on what everyone perceived to be a good posting. I was convinced that I was going to have a good time so I got a big bag and packed all the things I felt I would need: electric iron, electric boiler, clippers, a transistor radio and other things. After packing, I had a big bag and another hand luggage. On reaching the parish I met other seminarians posted to the same parish, we were five in number. I also saw people from the out stations that came along to pick us. Some of them came with cars, others with motorcycles and one person with a bicycle. The Parish priest wanted to be fair enough so he asked us to pick from folded papers where each will be going. I was the last to pick and opening the paper I saw myself  picking the least out station and being carried by the man with the bicycle to a remote village without signs of civilization. Consequently my electrical and electronic appliances became useless. They actually occupied spaces for nothing.

Let us go back to the gospel. We are told that Jesus SUMMONED the Twelve. This means that he called them out from the rest of the disciples for a brief apostolic work. They were chosen from the lot to set afire what they had learned from the master so far. It is actually the Lord who calls, he also chooses. The letter to the Hebrew says that no one takes the honour upon oneself each is called as Aaron was called ( Heb.5:4). From our contemporary day and age we experience a situation wherein we make a harvest of apostles, pastors, evangelists, prophets, prophetesses etc. We see such people claiming to have heard God calling and sending them to some mission. Of course for most people like Amaziah it is all about earning bread!

The Lord sent them out in PAIRS. This has a physical and spiritual denotation. Physically there is need for fellowship in the ministry. This later turned into the concept of community in the early Church. Spiritually it assures us of God’s abiding presence; hence we are not alone. Our Lord did say when two or more are gathered in my name, I am in their midst (Matt. 18:20 ).They were given AUTHORITY not just power. Authority is not something that anybody can get anyhow. People acquire powers in various ways but authority is far-fetched. Powers fail and fade but authority subsists and even survives one who holds it for instance the authority of the papacy. A further instruction was for them to take a Staff which ascertains the fact that they have authority given to them.

They were asked to take NOTHING for the journey! Why? The simple answer is that they have EVERYTHING. Yes whoever has God has everything. God is not only their provider He is also their provision. God will definitely orchestrate assistance for them wherever they go often God plants Samaritans for us in the various routes we go. We remember that God asked ravens to feed Elijah during the famine in the land of Israel (1ST king 17:4). For the journey they were asked to wear Sandals. This needs to be understood as standing for the spreading goodnews of peace (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15 & Eph.6:15). Furthermore they were asked not to be moving around in search of comfort. This means that they should accept any situation that presents itself as part of their mission. This has been overlooked in our day wherein some people are looking for financially greener pastures overlooking the spiritually needful pastures.

Finally they were asked to preach REPENTANCE. Repentance here entails denouncing evil and sin and accepting God. Accepting God also entails knowing Him. This knowledge leads us to faith, love and hope. In our day the preaching is overly based on prosperity. Some preachers paint the picture of a world without the poor or needy. A world where you get whatever you want and anytime; indeed an Eldorado! Our Lord actually said that the poor will be with us always.

Today we are called upon receive the word of truth in our lives and not to replicate Amaziah. We are called upon to worship God in spirit and not like a mere religious obligation. We are called upon to reflect the missionary script given by our Lord Jesus to the apostles. Among other things we should know that if God has called, chosen and sent us, He will also provide for us. Thus there will be no need for struggling over material remunerations; they are distractions from the main purpose of our ministry as ordained priests and our vocation generally as Christians. There is also need to fight the Amaziah in us. This Amaziah comes in various shapes and shades. It stands for jealousy which is one of the viral attacks we face in our vocation. We should recognize that we are differently gifted and appreciate and encourage one another. Amaziah also stands for materialism that is rocking the foundation of our ministry.

Have a wonderful Sunday and a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

FAMILIARITY VS FAITH PRACTICE: HOMILY FOR THE 14TH SUNDAY IN ORDIANRY TIME OF THE YEAR (B) FR.DR. BONNIE

 

FAMILIARITY VS FAITH PRACTICE: HOMILY FOR THE 14TH SUNDAY IN ORDIANRY TIME OF THE YEAR (B)

BY REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM Ph.D

 

To be familiar with somebody or something is to have a good knowledge or encounter with the person or thing; it can further entail being informally friendly with the person or thing in question. This is the kind of connection we have with our families, relations, friends, colleagues, mates and our living spaces. Another way of understanding familiarity is to say that we are conversant with somebody or something. While it is advisable to be familiar with persons and things, there is always the danger of our familiarity blocking us from perceiving essential values.

The gospel of toady fits into the explanation above. Our Lord Jesus Christ began his ministry outside his local community Nazareth before making the historic pastoral visit (See Luke 4:23). A little more on this town will be helpful in our explication of the gospel of today. The Name Nazareth has more than one denotation. The most common understands it as meaning branch or shoot. From the Jewish map it lies at the northern end of Israel. At the time of Jesus, it had low estimation among the people. Nathaniel made us know the common saying of the time (Jn 1:46): “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” It could be that it was then a place for the desperately poor, antagonistic and even violent people as we can see in Luke (4:29) where they attempted to murder Jesus Christ. We can imagine any town around us that has a never-do-well character attached to it; that was the nature and character of Nazareth at the time.

Jesus left Nazareth for more than one month. He left as a carpenter; he left as the son of a lowly woman called Mary. He left as a common Nazarene who was very much like other inhabitants of the town facing the same socio-economic challenges. However after the forty days retreat in the wilderness, Jesus came to Nazareth no longer as a mere citizen of the town, but as the messiah with power and authority. He came to the familiar ground with quite unfamiliar arsenals. He came not as a wood carpenter, but as a spiritual carpenter; he did not come to repair broken tables, chairs and farm implements, he rather came to repair the lives of the people. He came as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel (in the first reading) which promises the sending of a prophet among the rebels who turned against God. He came not only as Jesus (a common name at the time), but also as the Christ (the anointed one, a name that is peculiar). Our Lord visited not as a member of the community but as its master, teacher and Lord.

Our Lord visited on a Sabbath day. He entered the Synagogue and began to teach. In Luke’s gospel we are told that he stood up to read and they gave him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and he read the prophecy of Isaiah (61: 1ff). Now why did they give him the scroll to read since they did not see him go through any rabbinical school or saw him understudy any teacher? This tells us more about how mischievous the people were. They actually gave him the scroll thinking that he will be unable to read and consequently he will not give any meaningful explanation; hence they were prepared to ridicule him with laughter. But to their amazement and chagrin he not only read the passage well, he went further to explain and interpret the passage in a very challenging way. You can now understand why they had to flash back to the familiar platforms they knew him with. They reminded themselves that he was the carpenter who operated from their neighbourhood (carpenters do not have knowledge beyond hammers and nails), they remembered his poor mother who was not among the women of substance of the time. They knew his cousins or playmates (referred to as his brothers and sisters) who were no more than common folks around. Searching through his maternity, paternity and relationships they could not understand how he got his wisdom and knowledge. We may not really blame them so much because they could only operate from the limits of their knowledge and insight. The people of Nazareth could not also accept the fact that their town is capable of offering something good. They already accepted the common opinion that nothing good can come from among them. Often in life we get what we believe in. The passage ended with Jesus’ amazement at their lack of faith in him. It was upon this that he announced that prophets are worthless among their own people. Because of their lack of faith he could only cure few sick people.

When we get so familiar with people and things, we tend to undermine their fecund and actual propensities. Some parents still do not believe that there children have grown and could cater for themselves. Most great men and women we know in our local and international history as shakers and movers in various fields were not really valued by people very close to them. There may not be need to mention names. I had an experience visiting a certain town in the southwest of Nigeria. As I was in the taxi that took me to the parish of the priest I was visiting, I saw the magnificent house of a known figure in Nigerian history. I was overwhelmed and excited. But the taxi driver who happened to be from the town was unexcited as he managed to answer some of my questions regarding the late legend. I was curious to know why he was not connecting with the story of the man and he bluntly told me that the people of the town disliked the man. He went further to say that the man in question took all their lands to erect plantations for himself and only employed the people to work as slaves for him. I was touched by his details and I wondered how such a man who was in the forefront of Nigerian independence and actually brought the west to lime light could be disliked with such passion; it is all about familiarity.

The rejection of Jesus today at his home town shows us the tension between familiarity and our faith practice. The rejection of Jesus has continued in our day and age though occurring in different ways. We have grown too familiar with the house of God (the church building) that we often fail to remember that it is the house of God. Some of us have grown so familiar with the church that we don’t mind making noise and chatting while the liturgy is going on. We have become so conversant with the church that we don’t mind making and receiving calls, sending and receiving text messages while the Holy Eucharist is being celebrated. Some questions need to be answered: “Do we receive the Holy Eucharist as a faith practice or as a mere familiar practice?” “Do we approach the sacrament of penance as a faith practice of as a conventionally familiar practice?” Do we connect to the word of God in faith or as a normal routine?”

We need to underline the fact that our Lord was unable to do more works in Nazareth because of their lack of faith. The same experience is valid in our day and age. Jesus is ready to do more for you but the quality of your faith can make him do less or none at all. There is need for us to move away from Nazareth. Nazareth here stands for doubt and faithlessness in God which gives rise to rejection of Jesus Christ. Nazareth here also stands for our inattention to God’s unlimited power in any circumstance in our lives. In Nazareth we will fail to see beyond the physical familiar grounds, in Nazareth we can only see Jesus as the mere carpenter of woods and not the spiritual carpenter of our souls. The Nazareth in your life may be as mind boggling and as weakening as the cross of St. Paul in the second reading of today. Like unto St. Paul God is telling us that His grace will be sufficient to lead us out of that Nazareth.

Have a wonderful Sunday and a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE TOUCH OF FAITH: 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B. FR. DR. BONNIE

EXPERIENCING THE TOUCH OF faith: HOMILY FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B)

By rev. fr. Boniface nkem anusiem ph.D

 

Touch is a sensation that is processed by the somatosensory system. It has to do with coming into physical contact with somebody or something. This is what we experience in hugs, handshakes, pats, blows, punches, tickling, slaps and others. There is another sense in which touch supersedes physical touch; this is where the mind, soul and spirit are involved. From this viewpoint we often say that we are touched by what we heard, saw, imagined, thought and so on. Here we speak of emotional, psychological, and spiritual touch. There are no doubts that in some situations a physical touch can have some emotional, psychological and spiritual effects. This connection between physical touch and the resultant spiritual effect informs our reflection this Sunday.

Today we are reflecting on the healing touch of Jesus Christ. We are reflecting on how a physical touch can effect total healing operating on the platform of faith. The healing touch of Jesus Christ in this exposition can be seen from two angles: from the point of view of US touching Jesus and from the point of view of Jesus Christ touching US.

A reflective overview of the gospel of today will be helpful to us. The gospel begins with the information that Jesus Christ crossed over to the other side with his disciples. “Crossing over to the other side” is reflected in several places in the gospels. Wherever we see it occurring there is always an indication that something very important will be taking place. Our Lord would always cross over to the other side to save a situation, to heal, to teach a historic lesson or to show forth the active power of God.

  • In Matthew (14:22-36), he crossed over to the other side to show the redeeming power of God over the storm by walking on the sea and also curing the sick in Gennesaret.
  • Mark (1:38-45), he crossed over to the other side (neighbouring towns) to preach, cast out demons and to cleanse a leper.
  • In Mark 4: 35-5:1-13, he crossed over to Gerasene to calm the storm and heal the man possessed by a legion of demons.
  • Today in the gospel of Mark (5:21-43) he crossed over again to the other side to raise Jarius’ daughter and for the woman with the issue of blood to be healed.

Life is generally filled with constant crossing over to the other side. Those who refuse or fail to cross over to the other side often experience failure. Abraham had to cross over to the other side before God fulfilled His promises to him (Genesis 12:1). Joseph had to cross over to the other side to attain the height God planned for him (Genesis 37:28) Moses and the people of Israel had to cross over to the other side to get to the Promised Land (Exodus 14:21-22). There are indeed many instances. We shall come back to this crossing over to the other side to see how it affects us in this periscope.

As Jesus our Lord crossed over, Jarius one of the leaders of the local Synagogue came to him fell at his feet and earnestly pleaded that he save the daughter who was at the point of death. Among the Jews felling at someone’s feet indicates humility and need. The man Jarius was an important person in the community. He had easy access to Jesus Christ. The great crowd of people recognized him and gave way for him to meet Jesus. His prostrating before Jesus and asking for the healing of the daughter meant a lot. He recognized Jesus as the only solution to a problem that nobody could solve. He kept aside his position and the general aversion for Jesus by the officials of the day. This man whose name (Jarius) means “he will awaken” came with faith; he was sure that with Jesus the child will rise again. He was not in doubt if Jesus could heal the daughter; he only wished that Jesus had the time to come to see the child. The response Jesus gave was prompt and immediate (Mark 5:24).

The large crowd still followed Jesus as he was going to Jarius’ house. However something happened along the way. A woman whose name was not given because she was “nobody”, she was unclean, she had suffered from hemorrhages (issue of blood) for twelve years, the exact age of the daughter of Jarius appeared. She had been unclean and “unclean” actually became her name. She was not supposed to touch or be touched because that would make a clean person ceremonially unclean for the rest of the day. This woman heard that Jesus was passing by. She reasoned that this same man who changed water into wine, who cured the famous demoniac the other side of the sea could as well make her clean. She marched out with faith to Jesus. But unlike Jarius she had no easy access. However she was not discouraged. She struggled through the crowd meaning to touch the helm of the garment of Jesus Christ. She believed that she will be healed by doing so. We can imagine her plight, she was evidently weak and frail, she could have been pushed down several times in the bid to touch our Lord, she could have been insulted, scolded, antagonized, but she did not relent until she touched the helm of the garment of our Lord. When she finally did she was instantly healed.

The touch Jesus received was significantly different from the ones he had been receiving so he stopped and asked who touched me! This might have appeared to be a senseless question as the disciples established. This was because the crowd was so much and many people were pressing round him. But Jesus was right; someone actually touched him in a way that was different from others. Now there were three different types of  touches Jesus received on that day:

  1. Familiarity Touch: Some people purposefully touched Jesus in that crowd to establish that they were familiar with him. It is like saying “Waooo I touched him, have you touched him?” If it were to be in our technology driven day and age such people would stand beside him and take pictures and upload same on facebook for friends to see that they had one-on-one with him. Those who made this kind of touch remained the same; nothing happened.
  2. 2.     Accidental Touch: Some people touched Jesus accidentally. I could be said that they didn’t know that they actually touched him. This is the kind of touch we give and receive in crowded places like in the market, stadium, social ceremonies, and other places. In the midst of the pushing and struggling in the crowd some people accidentally made touches on Jesus Christ but nothing happened.
  3. 3.     Faith Touch: Among the crowd only one person purposefully made a touch of faith on Jesus Christ. The woman whom was known as “Mrs Unclean” or “Madam with the issue of blood” was the only one who made a touch of faith on our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon this faith motivated touch, the woman in question instantly received her healing. The pain of twelve years turned into pay, the challenge of twelve years became a chance, the stumbling block of twelve years became a stepping stone, and the problem of twelve years became a prospect.

While all these were happening, Jarius was patiently waiting and surely the child was also dying or had died as was reported later. Jarius was not only humble; he was also a patient man. Patience is another virtue we can take home from today’s gospel. While the woman who had the hemorrhages waited patiently for twelve years, Jarius had to wait patiently for few minutes for the woman to be healed. This is reminiscent of the word of God in Psalm 37:7 (Be patient and wait for the Lord to act). We really have to be patient because God’s own time is the best. On the part of our Lord Jesus Christ he had no preferential treatment for the rich and the more important in the community. His coming is for all. St. Paul made this very clear in the letter to the Galatians (3:28-29). Jesus did not see his stopping to attend to the woman as waste of time. Though the woman had been healed but he wanted the crowd to know that there is a touch of faith that is more rewarding and helpful than the familiarity and accidental touches. Jesus used the opportunity to rename the woman from Mrs. Unclean to Mrs. Cleansed and Healed! He used the opportunity to make a public acknowledgement of the power of faith in God, which is the assurance of things hoped for, and certainty of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).

It seemed useless continuing the journey to the house of Jarius because the little child had died. But for Jesus she was sleeping, if you like she was waiting for the Lord to ask her to get up. This was not the only place Jesus made reference to death as sleep. In John (11:11) when Lazarus died he said that he was sleeping and he was going to wake him up. It is actually clear that only Jesus can wake us up from any kind of sleep. Sleep here can mean sickness, problems, difficulties, challenges, temptations, and all forms of evil. No sleep will be too deep for our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus entered Jarius’ house with three of his apostles and there he asked the little girl to get up. (Talitha Cum). And she got up and began to walk around.

Today we are presented with so many lessons. Firstly there is need for us to undertake the crossing over to the other side. Jarius left his house and crossed over to meet Jesus. The woman with the issue of blood had to cross over the teeming crowd in order to reach and touch Jesus. You may have been at this side of hopelessness, you may have been at this side of despair, and you may have also been at this side of fear, doubt and pride. This is the time for you to cross over to the other side of faith and trust in God. Secondly you are crossing over to the other side not like the crowd who went to make familiar and accidental touches. You are crossing over to the other side so that you can make the touch of faith. Jarius made a touch of faith and the daughter was healed. The woman with the issue of blood made the touch of faith and she was healed.

Using the woman with the issue of blood as an instance, she had faith and was ready to make a touch of faith, but she did not have easy access to Jesus. In our time we have free and easy access to Jesus Christ especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament, but how many of us touch (receive) with faith? Today we have allowed the crowd of sin, the crowd of godlessness, the crowd of worldliness to stand between us and our Lord Jesus Christ the author of our faith.

Often we allow the crowd in form of tribulations to render us faithless and thus unpleasing to God (Heb.11:6). It is always at the most trying times that our faith can be gauged rightly. I will like to end with this story. In 1871, tragedy struck Chicago as fire ravaged the city. When it was finally extinguished, the fire had taken over 300 lives and had left some 100,000 homeless. A man by the name of Horatio Gates Spafford was one of those who tried to help the people of the city get back on their feet. Spafford, a Chicago lawyer, who had invested heavily into the downtown area, lost everything as a result of that fire. More tragically, Spafford had also suffered the loss his only son just a year earlier. Still, for two years Spafford assisted the homeless, impoverished, grief-stricken and others ruined by the fire.

After about two years of such work, Spafford and his family decided to take a vacation. They were to go to England to join Moody and Ira Sankey on one of their evangelistic crusades, then travel to Europe. Horatio Spafford was delayed by some business, but sent his family on ahead. He would catch up with them on the other side of the Atlantic.

Their ship, the Ville de Havre, never made it. Off Newfoundland, it collided with an English sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and sank within 20 minutes. Though Horatio’s wife, Anna, was able to cling to a piece of floating wreckage (one of only 47 survivors among hundreds), their four daughters Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie were killed. Horatio received a horrible telegram from his wife, only two words long: “Saved alone.”

Spafford boarded the next available ship to be near his grieving wife. When the ship passed near the spot where his daughters died, Spafford penned these precious words drawing strength from 2 kings 4:26:

When peace, like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Tho Satan should buffet, tho trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!

Like Spafford we always need to keep a touch of faith on God no matter the situation in our lives. We need to cross over to the other side and repose our faith and trust in God whose grace is sufficient for us.

Do have a happy Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

HOMILY ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST. REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM Ph.D

HOMILY ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

 

Today the Church is celebrating the Solemnity of the birth of John the Baptist. This is no doubt a special celebration and that is why the Church could still celebrate it on a Sunday. John the Baptist occupies a very expedient position in the history of salvation being the forerunner of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord himself made it clear that John the Baptist occupies a very important position in the entire framework of his salvific mission. That is actually why he would in the gospel of Luke (7:28) say that among all those born of women none is greater than John.

In this reflection, we shall be looking at the birth of John as heralding the immediate coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. His birth marks the bringing forth of the object of proximate preparation for the coming of the messiah. John thus qualifies as an inter-testamental prophet. He carried on the message of the Old Testament (prepare a way for the Lord and make his paths straight… Isaiah 40:3-5) into the New Testament and went ahead to witness its fulfillment.

John’s birth actually followed the trend of the birth of great and significant figures in the bible. The trend among these figures is that their parents went through years of turbulence and searching before their birth. The following make the list:

  • Isaac (Genesis 18& 21)
  • Jacob & Esau (Genesis 25: 21ff)
  • Joseph (Genesis 30: 22-24)
  • Samson (Judges 13:3ff)
  • Samuel (I Samuel 1&2)
  • John the Baptist (Luke 1:7; 57ff)

John the Baptist actually came for the sole purpose of preparing the way for the messiah. Hence the bareness of Elizabeth all the while was within divine plan. Her womb had been prepared to carry the immediate herald of the advent of the messiah. John the Baptist couldn’t have been born at any other time and for any other purpose apart from the time and season of the Messiah. He was born for that purpose and he knew it from the mother’s womb. No wonder then he leapt for joy when Mary the Mother of the Lord greeted her mother (Luke 1:41).

The birth of John the Baptist served as a strong indicator that God’s plan for the salvation of mankind was near. Hence we can make bold to say that there was need for a John the Baptist before the coming of the Christ. This is actually contained in God’s nature and character; the art of preparation before undertaking any activity. There are numerous references from the Genesis to Revelation. We shall make few references here:

  • Before the creation of man and woman God prepared the earth for them (Genesis 1:1-31).
  • Before the flood God prepared Noah and his family (Genesis 7)
  • God asked Moses to prepare the people for three days before the encounter at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:10).
  • The Judges and Prophets were prepared before they undertook divine tasks.
  • John the Baptist came to prepare the spiritual ground for the messiah through his preaching and baptism of repentance.

The celebration of the birth of John the Baptist is in a way a remote celebration of our redemption. This is because he prophesized about the coming of the redeemer (There is one coming after me who is more powerful than me….Mark 1:7-8), and showed him to all when he finally came (…This is the Lamb of God…. John 1: 29-34).

We have a lot to learn today from the birth John the Baptist.

  • In the first place his life and ministry was totally under divine will and direction. He cued into this divine plan and direction till he died in active service. We have been called individually for specific missions. God has a plan for each and every one of us (Jer. 29:11). We are blessed and greatly too if we discover and work in accordance with God’s plan. Do not work in another person’s plan. Work with the plan God has set for you. Most people have abandoned the life they should live and are living the lives of others. You are special the way you are and God loves you that way.
  • We see in the life of John the Baptist humility at its best. He never arrogated to himself anything that did not pertain to him. For those who here confusing him with the messiah he said: “I am not the messiah!” (John 1:20). He went further to state that the messiah is greater than him. On the day of Christ’s baptism he also displayed a heart touching humility by asking Christ to rather baptize him. (Matt. 3:14). We are called upon to reflect humility always in our lives. One of the best ways to achieve this is to know our positions and maintain them.
  • Truth was the hallmark of John’s ministry. We all know that he came to bear witness to the truth. Of course our Lord is the Truth itself (Jn. 14:6). His martyrdom was entirely on account of the truth (Matt. 14:1-12). Our advertence to the truth must be in season and out of season. Truth must always be told because it exalts God.

Happy celebration.

Fr. Bonnie

 

  

THE STORM IS OVER: HOMILY FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B. BY REV. FR, BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM Ph.D

 

THE STORM IS OVER NOW: HOMILY FOR THE TWELFTH      SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B)

                                           BY REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM Ph.D

In the year 2000 Robert Sylvester Kelly released into market the song that touched many people. R. Kelly (his stage name) came out with the block buster R&B “The Storm is over”. Beyond the beautiful rhythm, the song’s lyrics present a situation of turbulence and hopelessness which suddenly gave way to libration through the intervention of a formidable power. R. Kelly did not mention God in the song, but there is no doubt that only God can activate and actualize such an awe-striking intervention. It may not be out of place to review some of the lines from the lyrics:

I was in a tunnel
And couldn’t see the light
And whenever I’d look up
I couldn’t see the sky
Sometimes when I’m standin’
It seems like I done walked for miles
And my heart could be cryin’
Dead in the middle of a smile

But then I climbed the hills
And saw the mountains
I hollered help ’cause I was lost
Then I felt the strong wind
Heard a small voice sayin’

The storm is over
(The storm is over now)
And I can see the sunshine
(Somewhere beyond the clouds)
I feel Heaven, yeah
(Heaven is over me)
Come on and set me free, whoa
!

Going through the gospel periscope today we can say for sure that Jesus and his disciples were in a more precarious situation than R. Kelly. In the case of R. Kelly, he could climb the hills, but from the gospel of today Jesus and his disciples were overwhelmed by the storm at the middle of the Sea of Galilee with no hope of any humanly possible movement that could bring about a change. They were practically trapped within the tempest!

Before going into the stormy experience proper, it will be worthwhile to reconsider what brought them to the Sea in the first place. After the teaching on the mustard seed, it was evening and Jesus announced to his disciples that they will be going over to the other side of the Sea. Note that it was evening, and that was a time to retire, but he requested that they cross over to the other side, that meant that something important is waiting on the other side of the Sea. A task needed to be done on the other side.

This is not the first time Jesus requested that they go over to the other side. Notably too each time there will always be a remarkable event. In Matthew 14: 22-32, Jesus asked them to go over to the other side while he went up to pray. Later when they were faced with a storm he came to them walking on the water. In Mark 1:38 Jesus also asked that they move over to the other side to preach and while doing that a leper was cleansed. Significantly whenever there is a moving over to the other side like we said earlier, something very important and salvific will take place. In the case of today’s gospel which can also be found in all the synoptic gospels (Matt. 8:23-27; Luke 8: 22-25) Jesus was on a specific mission. If you read Mark 5: 1-20, you will find out why he had to take an evening sail to that awful region of Gerasene. He was actually going to grant release to someone whose life had been besieged by storm; he went to set a man free from demonic tempest.

While going on this mission, a great gale arose and the waves went against the boat. The tempest was really very turbulent and it seemed that they were going to head down to the floor of the sea to become food for the carnivorous seat creatures. The storm at that point has a lot to tell us. When you are out to accomplish some good and helpful tasks you will often experience stormy oppositions on the way. It happened to our Lord and you may not be an exception.

Going further in our exposition we are told that Jesus our Lord was sleeping while the boat was tossed about by the storm. This will remind us about Jonah (1:3). In the case of Jonah he was cause of the storm, his sleep was an effort to evade blame. We could say he was not actually sleeping but dodging the obvious situation. In the case Jesus he was (and still remains) the solution, the remedy for the storm. Jesus was not actually sleeping. He was attempting to teach a lesson. In any challenge in our lives we need to be calm and repose our confidence in God. We need to realize that God is with us. This was what the disciples did not realize immediately that if Jesus is in our midst then no situation can outdo us. No storm can claim our lives. In their fear and desperation (not in faith) they called on the Lord to come to their rescue; in fact their question is most undeserving: “do you not care that we are perishing?” A question that has been answered in Psalm 27: 10; Isaiah 49: 15-16; Isaiah 54:4; Rom 8:28,31; 1 Pet 5:7. We can call on God either in faith or in fear and desperation. Often most people call on God with rumpled faith. Often we call on God only to blame him on the storm facing us! We waste time asking God why instead investing our faith in His unfailing power to save us. The disciples at this point were more hopeful of dying than living because they lacked faith in God who was actively in their midst.

Storms still rage in our lives till date. There are many who are facing storms in their relationships, in their marriages, in their work places, in their businesses, in their studies, in their plans and aspirations. It is important to note that storms are existential facts of life. God did not promise us that we will not face stormy situations but he assured us that in them all He will be with us. This simply tells us that the storm we experience today will come to pass. Like R. Kelly suggested, the STORM WIILL BE OVER. It is said that after the storm comes sunshine. We are required to do one thing. To have faith in God because he cares about us no matter the situation. In fact our lack of faith is a way of belittling God’s power to save us. The letter to the Hebrew (11:6) tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith.

A story has it that a retired army General went on a leisure boat sailing with the wife. At the middle of the sea a gale began to blow and the boat began to face furious turbulence. The wife of the General was greatly alarmed and she fretted and shouted. However the General was calm, recollected and had his head bowed down, not moving or saying anything. The wife became more angry and questioned his lax attitude in the face of such a tempestuous situation. The General was still calm. Later he brought out his rifle, pointing it at the wife; he adjusted it to shoot at her. At this point the woman started laughing and told the husband that she knew that he was joking. However the General was looking very serious and moved nearer meaning to shoot her at close range, but she was so sure that he was joking. Suddenly he lowered the rifle and laughing said: “You were so sure that I was not going to shoot you because of how much I love you, but you fretted and worried about the storm not trusting that God loves and care about us and that He will calm the storm!” It was at this point in their dialogue that they discovered that the storm had long stopped and they continued their sail with the lesson that God is even nearer when the storm is high.

You may be going through a storm at this time in your life. It may be financial, it may be health, it may be employment, it may be academic, it may be political, it may be social, and it can also be spiritual. You have to be sure of this; every storm must come to pass. With your faith in God’s unfailing words, those storms will pass away and like God assured his people in Exodus 14:13, you will not see them again. We are encouraged by the word of God today to go over to the other side. You have always being on this side of fear and hopelessness; you have always been on this side of doubts. Now there is an invitation for us to sail over to the other side of divine encounter, the other side of faith, the other side of perseverance. Evidently it is on the other side that we can record an effectual divine encounter. It is on the other side that we can experience divine liberation. Like R. Kelly there is need for us to climb the hill. The hill here stands for faith. It is only by climbing upon this hill that we can see the heavens and experience the sunshine. On the other side the storms will be over.  Let us meet then at the other side.

  Have a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE STORM IS OVER: HOMILY FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B. BY REV. FR, BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM Ph.D

 

THE STORM IS OVER NOW: HOMILY FOR THE TWELFTH      SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B)

                                           BY REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM Ph.D

In the year 2000 Robert Sylvester Kelly released into market the song that touched many people. R. Kelly (his stage name) came out with the block buster R&B “The Storm is over”. Beyond the beautiful rhythm, the song’s lyrics present a situation of turbulence and hopelessness which suddenly gave way to libration through the intervention of a formidable power. R. Kelly did not mention God in the song, but there is no doubt that only God can activate and actualize such an awe-striking intervention. It may not be out of place to review some of the lines from the lyrics:

I was in a tunnel
And couldn’t see the light
And whenever I’d look up
I couldn’t see the sky
Sometimes when I’m standin’
It seems like I done walked for miles
And my heart could be cryin’
Dead in the middle of a smile

But then I climbed the hills
And saw the mountains
I hollered help ’cause I was lost
Then I felt the strong wind
Heard a small voice sayin’

The storm is over
(The storm is over now)
And I can see the sunshine
(Somewhere beyond the clouds)
I feel Heaven, yeah
(Heaven is over me)
Come on and set me free, whoa
!

Going through the gospel periscope today we can say for sure that Jesus and his disciples were in a more precarious situation than R. Kelly. In the case of R. Kelly, he could climb the hills, but from the gospel of today Jesus and his disciples were overwhelmed by the storm at the middle of the Sea of Galilee with no hope of any humanly possible movement that could bring about a change. They were practically trapped within the tempest!

Before going into the stormy experience proper, it will be worthwhile to reconsider what brought them to the Sea in the first place. After the teaching on the mustard seed, it was evening and Jesus announced to his disciples that they will be going over to the other side of the Sea. Note that it was evening, and that was a time to retire, but he requested that they cross over to the other side, that meant that something important is waiting on the other side of the Sea. A task needed to be done on the other side.

This is not the first time Jesus requested that they go over to the other side. Notably too each time there will always be a remarkable event. In Matthew 14: 22-32, Jesus asked them to go over to the other side while he went up to pray. Later when they were faced with a storm he came to them walking on the water. In Mark 1:38 Jesus also asked that they move over to the other side to preach and while doing that a leper was cleansed. Significantly whenever there is a moving over to the other side like we said earlier, something very important and salvific will take place. In the case of today’s gospel which can also be found in all the synoptic gospels (Matt. 8:23-27; Luke 8: 22-25) Jesus was on a specific mission. If you read Mark 5: 1-20, you will find out why he had to take an evening sail to that awful region of Gerasene. He was actually going to grant release to someone whose life had been besieged by storm; he went to set a man free from demonic tempest.

While going on this mission, a great gale arose and the waves went against the boat. The tempest was really very turbulent and it seemed that they were going to head down to the floor of the sea to become food for the carnivorous seat creatures. The storm at that point has a lot to tell us. When you are out to accomplish some good and helpful tasks you will often experience stormy oppositions on the way. It happened to our Lord and you may not be an exception.

Going further in our exposition we are told that Jesus our Lord was sleeping while the boat was tossed about by the storm. This will remind us about Jonah (1:3). In the case of Jonah he was cause of the storm, his sleep was an effort to evade blame. We could say he was not actually sleeping but dodging the obvious situation. In the case Jesus he was (and still remains) the solution, the remedy for the storm. Jesus was not actually sleeping. He was attempting to teach a lesson. In any challenge in our lives we need to be calm and repose our confidence in God. We need to realize that God is with us. This was what the disciples did not realize immediately that if Jesus is in our midst then no situation can outdo us. No storm can claim our lives. In their fear and desperation (not in faith) they called on the Lord to come to their rescue; in fact their question is most undeserving: “do you not care that we are perishing?” A question that has been answered in Psalm 27: 10; Isaiah 49: 15-16; Isaiah 54:4; Rom 8:28,31; 1 Pet 5:7. We can call on God either in faith or in fear and desperation. Often most people call on God with rumpled faith. Often we call on God only to blame him on the storm facing us! We waste time asking God why instead investing our faith in His unfailing power to save us. The disciples at this point were more hopeful of dying than living because they lacked faith in God who was actively in their midst.

Storms still rage in our lives till date. There are many who are facing storms in their relationships, in their marriages, in their work places, in their businesses, in their studies, in their plans and aspirations. It is important to note that storms are existential facts of life. God did not promise us that we will not face stormy situations but he assured us that in them all He will be with us. This simply tells us that the storm we experience today will come to pass. Like R. Kelly suggested, the STORM WIILL BE OVER. It is said that after the storm comes sunshine. We are required to do one thing. To have faith in God because he cares about us no matter the situation. In fact our lack of faith is a way of belittling God’s power to save us. The letter to the Hebrew (11:6) tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith.

A story has it that a retired army General went on a leisure boat sailing with the wife. At the middle of the sea a gale began to blow and the boat began to face furious turbulence. The wife of the General was greatly alarmed and she fretted and shouted. However the General was calm, recollected and had his head bowed down, not moving or saying anything. The wife became more angry and questioned his lax attitude in the face of such a tempestuous situation. The General was still calm. Later he brought out his rifle, pointing it at the wife; he adjusted it to shoot at her. At this point the woman started laughing and told the husband that she knew that he was joking. However the General was looking very serious and moved nearer meaning to shoot her at close range, but she was so sure that he was joking. Suddenly he lowered the rifle and laughing said: “You were so sure that I was not going to shoot you because of how much I love you, but you fretted and worried about the storm not trusting that God loves and care about us and that He will calm the storm!” It was at this point in their dialogue that they discovered that the storm had long stopped and they continued their sail with the lesson that God is even nearer when the storm is high.

You may be going through a storm at this time in your life. It may be financial, it may be health, it may be employment, it may be academic, it may be political, it may be social, and it can also be spiritual. You have to be sure of this; every storm must come to pass. With your faith in God’s unfailing words, those storms will pass away and like God assured his people in Exodus 14:13, you will not see them again. We are encouraged by the word of God today to go over to the other side. You have always being on this side of fear and hopelessness; you have always been on this side of doubts. Now there is an invitation for us to sail over to the other side of divine encounter, the other side of faith, the other side of perseverance. Evidently it is on the other side that we can record an effectual divine encounter. It is on the other side that we can experience divine liberation. Like R. Kelly there is need for us to climb the hill. The hill here stands for faith. It is only by climbing upon this hill that we can see the heavens and experience the sunshine. On the other side the storms will be over.  Let us meet then at the other side.

  Have a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

PRAYER FOUND UN…

PRAYER FOUND UNDER CHRIST’S SEPULCHRE 1503 AD

God Almighty, who suffered death upon the cross, particularly for my sins, be with me. 
Holy Cross of Jesus, have pity on me.
Holy Cross of Jesus, be my protector.
Holy Cross of Jesus, take away all bitter pains.
Holy Cross of Jesus, take away all evil.
Holy Cross of Jesus, let me walk in the way of salvation. 
Preserve me from any temporal accidents; take away any danger of sudden death. I always adore the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ: Jesus of Nazareth crucified, have pity on me; make the spirit of evil leave me for all times. 
O Mother of Perpetual Succour. I come before Thy Sacred picture and with a child-like conscience invoke thine aid. Show Thyself a Mother to me now. Have pity of me. O, dearest Mother of Perpetual Succour, for the love Thou bearest to Jesus and in honour of His Sacred Wounds, help me in this my necessity..
(Mention your intentions here…)
O Loving Mother, I leave all to thee in the Name of the Father. I leave all to thee in the Name of the Son. I leave all to thee in the Name of the Holy Spirit. 
Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, pray for us
Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, pray for us.
Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, pray for us.
Amen. 

 

N.B.
Sent by the Pope to Charles when he went to fight the enemy in France? He who wants or hears someone else read it or carries on his person, will not die suddenly, drown, burn, be poisoned or lose battle or be taken prisoner. *During childbirth, a woman who reads or listens to someone else read the prayer, or carries it on her person will have a short labour. *When the child is born, place the prayer on his or her right side and it will be preserved from evil. When walking in the street and you find anyone in a fit, put the prayer on the right side and they will recover. He who writes this prayer whether for himself or another, I will bless him, says the Lord and he who ridicules it will perish. When this prayer is placed in a home, such a home will be preserved from lightning and thunder. He who reads it daily will be given a sign 3 days before his death.

 

 Image

Homily for the eleventh Sunday of the Year (B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Anusiem Ph.D

GREAT THINGS BEGIN SMALL: HOMILY FOR THE 11TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B)

Life actually begins from the simple to complex forms. This can be seen both in human beings, animals and plants. In all these phenomena tiny seeds either mate or mutate to bring forth life in their simple forms which are open for further development and growth to complexity. Hence a woman does not give birth to a man or a woman but to an infant that eventually matures into a man or a woman.

Today the first reading and the gospel both speak about seeds. I am drawn to talk about seed as the inception of life. I wish to talk about seed also as the root of great things following the words of our Lord in the gospel today about the mustard seed which though the smallest of the seeds germinates and grows into a great tree with accommodative branches for birds of the air. Life is generally dependent on seeds. Seeds are little but what comes out of them in form of harvest are enormous. Of course the harvests are always greater than the seeds planted. One grain of corn can brings forth two or three strands of maize. It is also worth noting that a seed requires a fertile soil to germinate and to produce abundantly. A good seed would thus need a good soil; if either is deficient the outcome will be a depreciated harvest.

Most people in life have not been able to rise to even to the average level of livelihood because they do not appreciate the fact that great things begin small. Many who have the intention of becoming successful businessmen and women wish to start with a big capital, big shops, large number of employees, and so on. Often such people experience great setbacks before the first anniversary of their enterprise. If we take a cue from history we will find out that this reality runs in the universe. Let us begin with biblical examples:

  • Abraham whom God made the promise of being the father of a great nation came from the then small insignificant pagan city Ur of the Chaldeans (Gen. 11:28, 15).
  • Joseph who became a prime minister in the palace of Pharaoh was a prime suspect awaiting death sentence. (Gen. 39:20; 40:41-45).
  • Moses who later became the instrument of liberation for the people of Israel from Egypt was salvaged from the riverside by the daughter of Pharaoh (Ex. 2:5).
  • David the youngest of the sons of Jesse was finally chosen and anointed the king of Israel. (1 kings. 16: 11-13).  The smallest became the greatest.
  • Most of the Judges and Prophets were men and women of little worth, but the little in them became great and helpful for the entire nation.
  • Our Lord Jesus Christ came from the small and insignificant town of Nazareth to become the saviour of the world. Of course we are familiar with the saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth”. (John 1:46).

These are not the only biblical examples. In any case let us cite some extra biblical examples of individuals who made it in life starting small. Brian Tracy did say that: “80% of millionaires are self made”. That means they started out almost penniless; with nothing. There are so many examples like David Murdock, Ralph Lauren, Ken Langone, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Peterffy, Dan Abraham, Howard Shultz, and even Aliko Dangote of Nigeria. Beyond individuals, small groups that are organized have shown the power in small things. If you cue into history, you will find organized minority groups giving tough moments to disorganized majority. References can be seen in groups like the Nazi, Al queda, Boko Haram etc.

Behind these achievers one could detect ambition and energy. Furthermore as Dan Abraham would say they have three things moving them: perseverance, perseverance and perseverance! Evidently one of the little secrets of success in any undertaking is: “never to quit until you finish”. Actually winners never quit but quitters never win! This disposition to remain steadfast and never quitting is the functional aptitude of a seed planted on a good soil. Our Lord Jesus Christ exemplified this when he admonished about discipleship that: “No one who puts his hand on the plough and looks back is worthy of the kingdom of God” (Luke 9: 62).

We will at this point get back to the first reading and the gospel reading to situate our reflection more concretely. In the prophecy of Ezekiel (17: 22-24) God promised that he will take a twig from the cedar tree and plant it on the mountain and it shall grow, bear fruits and be a place of comfort for the birds of the air. In the gospel reading (Mark 4: 26-34), our Lord likened the kingdom of God among other things to a mustard seed which though small grows to become a great tree with comfort rooms for the birds of the air. From the two readings we discover that the seed and the twig (as in the first reading) are at first small tender and vulnerable. They could at most be neglected. The power is not actually physical, hence it lies within them and they begin to manifest their innate potentials when they are planted on a receptive soil.

In a sense we are connected with this parabolic seed. Left alone we are nothing; we are small, fragile, vulnerable and even powerless. But through baptism we are united with Christ and it is through this union; as in being planted on a good soil,that we grow, mature and become big solid tress. It is not surprising then for St. Paul to say that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength (Philippians 4:13). There is yet another important issue here, the tree that eventually comes out of the small seeds bears fruits and also accommodates all kinds of creatures. As Christians we are highly expected to bear fruits, we are also expected to be charitable and accommodating. If God has given us increase we are expected to give others increase. We have seen that businessmen and women could start small with little or nothing and become renowned millionaires in the secular world, why won’t you and I, who are supported by divine power and grace not be able to grow in all ramifications? Often we lose sight of the fact that God is with us.

Some of us are so sure of failure more than they trust in the power of God to lead them to the next level. This is entirely offensive to God. No wonder the letter to the Hebrews would say that it is impossible to please God without faith. (Heb. 11:6). What God requires is your faith no matter how small it may seem. (Mark. 11:22). You may find yourself small in the midst of those you consider great. You may be feeling that one good thing or the other, one success story or another cannot come to a small person like you. Remember that those great men and women out there were like you and you can as well make a difference. Remember David. Though Goliath was great in the human eyes and in the human eyes he was small. However because he knows who planted him and with which power, he used the smallest of stone to pull down the greatest of warrior in his own time.

The kingdom of God on earth is represented in a larger sense by the Church. Like a small seed sown in the Palestinian land it has grown beyond that location and we all like birds are congregating on it. To maintain the growth of this kingdom until the final unification with the celestial kingdom is our baptismal obligation. In many places the church had faced serious attacks and polemics, yet we are sure that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Let us remain steadfast and persevere as we strive to grow in faith and commitment to God.

Happy Sunday.

Fr. Bonnie.

HOMILY FOR THE …

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST.

By Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D

 

Today we have another special celebration in the Church. We are celebrating the solemnity of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the most important treasure of the Church, the most precious of the gifts we received from our Lord Jesus Christ. We are today celebrating the summit of the Church’s life and ministry.

On Holy Thursday evening we marked the institution of the most wondrous sacrament of the Holy Eucharist but today we celebrate it with joy and appreciation.

Without much involvement in the historical development of the solemnity, we shall settle on making explications as well as drawing out its implications to our Christian life.

THE HOLY EUCHARIST AS A SACRAMENT

The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ known as the Holy Eucharist is actually a sacrament. As a sacrament it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ together with his soul and divinity, substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine.

Like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, we are again faced with a mystery which human reason alone unaided by faith cannot grasp. The puzzle here is how the bread and wine we perceive with the senses can at the same time be REALLY (not like) the true body and blood soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Chris

THE BIBLICAL INSTITUTION

The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ during the last supper with the apostles. The references to the institution can be found in the following passages

  1. Matt. 26:26-30
  2. Mk. 14:22-26
  3. Luke 22: 14-20
  4. I Cor. 11:23-25

Before the institution as found in the above mentioned passages, our Lord gave an extensive teaching on the nature and importance of the Eucharist in the gospel of John (6:33-58). Among other things our Lord said: “I tell you the truth if you do not eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you will not have life in you.”

On the institution proper we are told that on that night before he was betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, gave thanks to God and breaking it, he gave it to his disciples and said: “Take and eat this is my body” and taking the cup filled with wine he gave it to them saying: “take and drink this is my blood”. Concluding he said: “Do this in remembrance of me”.

THE SUBSTANTIAL CHANGE (TRANSUBSTANTIATION)

The puzzle or better put, the mystery of “the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” under the appearances of bread and wine is embedded in the doctrine of TRANSUBSTANTIATION.

In metaphysics the substance of any reality is said to be that which lies beneath the reality in question and makes it what it actually is. The substance of a reality is not actually what is perceived by the senses physically. (It is not what you see, touch, feel, smell, or taste). It goes beyond these. The substance of a tree for instance is beyond the size, leaves, branches, colour and texture. The substance is “treeness” which exists substantially not physically.

Now during consecration undertaken by a validly ordained Catholic Priest there occurs what is called substantial change (transubstantiation) of the bread and wine. The bread will lose its “breadness” and becomes the body of Jesus Christ and the wine will as well lose its “wineness” and becomes the blood of Jesus Christ. In any case all these will still retain their physical attributes like tastes, colours, texture and so on.

This is actually another mystery which human reason cannot easily grasp unaided by sublime faith. It is important to note that once there is a substantial change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, they will remain even after the Eucharistic celebration. This is actually why the sacred specie of Christ’s body is preserved in the tabernacle and (or) exposed for adoration.

Transubstantiation which is creedal to the Catholic faith is distinguishable and opposed to the following:

  1. Consubstantiation (an error which says that at the words of consecration the bread and wine exist together with the body and blood of Christ).
  2. Transignification (an error which says that at the words of consecration there is a change in the significance or meaning of the bread and wine to symbolize the body and blood of Christ).
  3. Transfinalization (an error which says that the purpose and end of the bread and wine is changed at the words of consecration).

Many people have found this doctrine a lot puzzling and difficult to contain. In response to this, some miraculous events had taken place to convince doubting minds; these are called the Eucharistic miracles.

  • At Lanciano Italy about the 8th Century AD, a Basilian Monk was in doubt about the substantial change and real presence of Jesus Christ. One day while celebrating mass, after the twofold consecration the bread physically turned into real flesh and the wine turned into real blood. After many years of scientific examination involving pathological histology and clinical microscopy, it was discovered that the flesh is real flesh (muscular tissue of the heart) and the blood is real blood; blood type AB, The same that was found at the Holy Shroud of Turin. (The clothing that was used to wrap the body of Jesus at the burial). The flesh and blood are still preserved till date.
  • Consecrated hosts have been found preserved for 250 years in Sienna Italy. (August 17, 1730).
  • In Holland in 1345 the Holy Eucharist was found untouched within a fierce fire outbreak.
  • The sacred host that felled from the mouth of a woman turns into blood in Blanot France (March 13th 1331).

 

THE EFFECTS OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST IN OUR LIVES.

 

We can use the analogy of what food does to our body to understand what the Holy Eucharist does for us. Food helps in our body metabolism just as the Holy Eucharist assists in our soul metabolism.

  1. UNITY: When we eat ordinary food it is assimilated into our body and blood stream. In the reception of the Holy Eucharist, we are assimilated into Christ and become one with him. For this reason in John 6:56 Jesus said:”Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood abides in me and I abide in him”. Our unity with Christ in the Holy Eucharist also brings about our unity with one another. That is why it is called Holy Communion. In the Holy Eucharist we see a fulfillment of the words and promise of Christ: “I will be with you till the end of time”. (Matt.28:20).

 

  1. Spiritual Growth and Development: As the ordinary food we eat helps us in physical growth and development, the Holy Eucharist assists us in our spiritual growth and development.

 

  1. 3.      Spiritual Strength: Spiritual strength is given to us by our reception of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We ingest ordinary food in view of various nutrients to assist us in our daily lives. The Holy Eucharist helps us to gain spiritual vigour and energy.

 

  1. 4.      Eternal Life: Eternal life is set in motion by our steadfast reception of the Holy Eucharist. In John 6: 54 our Lord said: “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.

 

  1. Safeguard against sin especially mortal sin: Ordinary food helps us to build antibodies and physical immunity. The Holy Eucharist received worthily continuously helps us to build immunity against sin. By becoming one with Christ, it becomes difficult for us to relapse into sin which is actually estrangement from God. It solidly builds a wall around us from the poisonous sting of sin.

These special attributes of the Holy Eucharist can only come to fruition in our lives if we are spiritually and inwardly ready to participate without the consciousness of any sin. Judas received and the devil entered into him. When you receive, do you experience something positive or do you relapse into further sin. What comes over you after partaking? Do you receive because other people are receiving or because you are in a state of grace? When last did you receive the Holy Eucharist in absolute state of innocence? It is called the sacrament of Holy Communion; do you experience by your reception a Holy Communion with Jesus Christ and with the members of the worshipping community? Will Jesus Christ be glad to dwell in you as you come along today to receive him?

There is a story about a group of Americans and Russians undertaking a joint exploration in the high sea. During lunch they usually bring along their respective country’s delicacies to share among themselves. One day a Russian came along with the Russian bread which is black, hard and sweet. An American took interest in the bread and taking a slice, he took a bite and instantly he snapped a tooth. In desperation he said: “What a lousy communist bread” and threw the piece over board. The Russian who brought the bread said: “No it is rather your rotten capitalist tooth that made you snap a tooth”. The Holy Eucharist is powerful itself as the true body and blood, soul and soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence if you do not get the spiritual effect from its reception then you must check your life very well. May the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist help us to be more resolved and committed in its reception and adoration.

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