Fr Bonnie's Reflections

“I WANT TO SEE AGAIN”: HOMILY FOR THE 30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

“I WANT TO SEE AGAIN”: HOMILY FOR THE 30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

“I WANT TO SEE AGAIN”: HOMILY FOR THE 30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

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“I WANT TO SEE AGAIN”: HOMILY FOR THE 30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B).

                                 Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

Once upon a time I asked people in the congregation to indicate which physical challenge could be considered worst among the following: the blind, the deaf/dumb and the lame. As anyone would expect, there were various inputs; nay answers. However, those that spoke in favour of the blind were very few. I believe that the sense of sight is highly valued by a greater number of people because we all like to see things, people and events around us whether good, bad or ugly. We are in fact living in a world that is saturated with “sightable” phenomena! From the television to computers and mobile devices, the story remains the same; we want to see!

There was this blind beggar along one street who had an inscription by his side with the words: “HELP ME I AM BLIND”. Once in a long while someone will stop and drop a coin into his plate and he will say “thank you”. One man came across him, stood for a while and after examining the inscription he took it, turned the back and wrote something and left. After few minutes the blind man started getting so much patronage from people as he almost got tired of saying: “thank you”. Towards evening that man who changed the inscription came back and the blind man recognized his footstep and asked him what he wrote that made a lot of people to patronize him that much and the man said that he wrote: “TODAY IS BEAUTIFUL BUT I CANNOT SEE IT!” This inscription made many people who saw it to appreciate the fact that they could see.

In the gospel reading today we encounter our Lord Jesus Christ again on the move. He seemed to be running a mobile ministry unlike our contemporary location based ministries with imposing edifices. Jesus used any available space for preaching, consultation, prayer and counseling. Today on his way from Jericho to Jerusalem to attend the great Passover a lot of people followed him as well as his disciples. The presence of Jesus brought a lot of people out as he was teaching while taking the 15 miles trek to Jerusalem. No doubt the sick, beggars and other people also came out with their personal reasons which could have included but not restricted to asking for alms. Among the lot was a man St. Mark called Bartimeus son of Timaeus, a name which has two meanings. In Aramaic it meant “son of defilement”, while in Greek it meant “son of honour”. People could have given him the name because of his situation; of course such challenges were seen as punishment from God on account of sin and defilement. Bartimaeus was a blind beggar and when he heard that Jesus was passing by, he came out and began calling out to him: “Jesus son of David have pity on me?”

The name or title he gave to Jesus was very significant. The title “Son of David” describes the Messiah (Isa. 11:1-5 Rod out of the Stem of Jesse; Jer. 23:5-6 David’s Righteous Branch; Ezek. 34:23-24 A Shepherd like David). Furthermore, Messiah means Saviour. In essence Bartimaeus was actually saying “Saviour there is someone here who needs to be saved!” As he shouted for help something happened! The people around him tried to stop him. For them the son of defilement is not qualified to talk to the Son of God. For them Bartimaeus was so low to have anything to do with Jesus Christ. But he ignored the crowd and shouted all the more. Sometimes in life we face oppositions on our way to our positions. They may come as discouraging voices like the ones that hushed Bartimaeus; but he was not discouraged. There is a YES somewhere in your life, but for you to get to it you may experience a lot of NOS do not be discouraged.

Bartimaeus believed in the word of God in Jeremiah (33:3) which says: “call to me and I will answer you and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know”. He was also attentive to Isaiah (58:9) which says: “when you pray, I will answer you, when you call to me I will respond”. He may have heard about the promise in John 14:14 which says: “Whatever you ask in my name I will do it” He trusted in the words of Matthew (21:22); “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believing you shall receive”. He was attentive to the command in Luke (11:9): “I say unto you ask and it shall be given to you”. Bartimaeus’ cry appeared like he was saying:

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

  • Refrain:
    Savior, Savior, Savior
    Hear my humble cry,
    While on others Thou art calling,
    Do not pass me by.

This cry must have touched Jesus in a personal way. Firstly he was called by his proper title and secondly he was called to do what was prominent in the Manifesto of the Messiah (Luke 4:18); to give sight to the blind! The productive thing he had to do was to stop his journey and attend to a faith-filled man who needed a divine touch. Our Lord needed to stop to attend to a would-be disciple of his. He needed to stop to bring light to the darkened world of Bartimaeus. Our Lord then asked him to come! Instantly, with the encouragement of those who despised him earlier he jumped up and throwing his cloak away he ran to Jesus. We need to examine the story so far! His persistence brought about the attention of Jesus and consequently he was invited by him. It is worth noting that those who hushed him down earlier changed their words. They moved from hushing to helping. This is very true in our lives, if we refuse to be distracted by criticisms and focus on our goal those who shouted at us saying: “who are you?” will turn back with a mild voice to ask us:”how are you?” It is also very significant to note that Bartimaeus threw away his cloak before running to Jesus. The cloak served as his mattress, blanket and pillow. It was his comforter. With the call from Jesus he discarded that material comfort and went to embrace an eternal comfort. On our way to answer the call of Jesus there is need for us to discard our material comforts. There is need for us to move away from those comfort zones. There is need for us to move to a new position. We cannot be doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. Bartimaeus had to do things differently in order to get a different result.

Coming to Jesus was not enough as Bartimaeus was expected to be specific in his request. Jesus thus asked him: “what do you want me to do for you?” Jesus knew he was a blind beggar but he wanted him to make his request a specific one. Perhaps he wanted financial assistance not divine healing. This is a lesson for us to be specific in our requests. Generalizations would not help us: “I want God to bless me, I need divine assistance, I want things to get better etc”. These are generalizations. You must be as specific as Hannah (I Sam. 1:11). Bartimaeus was very specific: “I want to see again!” That was very a very specific and focused request and it actually got the approval of our Lord as he told him to go as his faith had saved him. This is a pointer to us that Bartimaeus came to Jesus not only with a specific request but also with a deep faith.

The next point of interest is the action of Bartimaeus after receiving his sight. We are told that he followed Jesus Christ. That meant that he became a disciple. He did not run back to reply his critics, he did not run to his home to make case against those who may have taken away his properties. He rather saw clearly the right person to follow (Jesus Christ-the Saviour) and the right place to go (Jerusalem- the rain of Peace). Bartimaeus could not have made a better choice than the choice of following Jesus. Turning to ourselves we ask: “what do we do when we receive favours from God?” Do we turn to him in appreciation and follow him wherever he leads us or do we take a vacation from him to take care of our material and selfish interests. There is no doubt that many of us are seriously indebted to God for innumerable favours we have received. There are some of us who have never processed to the Alter for thanksgiving to God for His blessings in our lives.

From all indications there is need for us to have our sights back! We may be physically seeing but morally and spiritually we may be blind. Our ingratitude to God and to our fellow human beings are borne out of inner blindness. Our inattention to the word of God is a product of severe spiritual blindness. Like Bartimaeus some of us are sitting comfortably by the roadside of life without realizing that we are blind, and that we need to get up, get back our sights and move ahead with the Lord into the Jerusalem of peace. Some of us are still focusing of the crowd and their discouragement instead of calling out on the Lord. Some of us are still covering ourselves with the cloak. We have to throw away the cloak covering our sins and come to God the way we are in order to get to the next level. Some of us have refused to call on the Lord as he is passing by. There is still time, even today as we encounter him at the Eucharistic table. Do not allow him to pass you by without effecting that healing in your life; without giving you back your sight! O Lord heal us so that we may see!

Happy Sunday and have a splendid week ahead!

Fr. Bonnie.

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THE DUE PROCESS TO GREATNESS: HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

THE DUE PROCESS TO GREATNESS: HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

THE DUE PROCESS TO GREATNESS: HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

THE DUE PROCESS TO GREATNESS: HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B)

Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

 

This story drew my attention while reflecting on the gospel. A man promised his children who were in primary school that he would buy a bicycle for any of his kids that would take the first position in their respective classes. By the end of the term they brought their results home. His eldest child and only son who happened to be in a different primary school from others came home with a result indicating a first position! The amazement was high because the boy in question never came close to the 15th position in the class of 25 children. His father looked at the result closely to see if it bore his name and it was really his name and the position was first. The man was very glad but skeptical at the same time. He didn’t want to fail his promise but at the same time he wanted to be sure that his son really came first in the class. He decided to take the boy to the shop to buy bicycle for him but silently decided to stop by his son’s teacher’s house to ascertain the credibility of the result.

On reaching the teacher’s house, they met him on his way out. Before the boy’s father could say a word, the teacher started scolding the boy for his poor performance of 21st out of 25. The man was shocked! He brought out the result he was holding and handed it over to the teacher. The teacher was shocked too and after a careful examination he discovered that the little boy doctored his result by carefully removing the “2” and leaving 1st. What he however failed to do was to change the teacher’s remark which the father did not notice because of his level of literacy and which read “very weak pass work hard to improve!”

The desire to be great seems to be a very central factor in human life. A careful reading of the world history will show that it is all about the struggle for power, influence, position, supremacy and greatness. From the First World War to the current uprising in Syria the story is the same; the struggle to be and remain in power. Have you ever wondered why some people, tribes and nations attach “Great” to their names? The likes of Alexander the Great, Great Britain, Great Roman Empire, Great Wall of China, etc. The simple answer is that they intend to create standards; an effort to establish inequality, the desire to create superiority as opposed to inferiority. This seems to run throughout the whole gamut of life, among plants some are more outstanding than others in size, beauty and utility; among animals there is a continuous quest for superiority, and among human beings the discussion continues. Even in the spiritual realm there are also comparative and superlative attributes for instance God is the Greatest.

The desire to be great starts with us as little children when we engage ourselves in little competitions to know who gets the first position. It could be in race, recitations, dancing and a lot more. In fact you can only reckon any of your playmates to be greater than you after series of competitions. We grow with this disposition as we mature.

It may not be too surprising for us to discover that the two famous brothers, James and John came to Jesus Christ to make a request. They actually came to our Lord to lobby for positions at his right hand and his left hand in his GLORY. This means that they were sure of a glorious moment. There is a clear indication here that the apostles still didn’t fully understand the identity and mission of Jesus Christ. They were still assuming him to be a political messiah; a worldly king. We remember that this contention for first position and greatness began in Mark (9:33-37) when they were arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest. Jesus did settle the situation for them, but the reoccurrence of this ultimate search for foremost positions by James and John showed that the quest for greatness did not end after our Lord’s instructions.

The two brothers were ambitious and I admire them for that. But in their quest they were focused on the glory and not the path that would lead to the glory. It was on account of this oversight that our Lord asked them if they will be able to drink the cup he would drink, namely suffering. Their ambition to get to the glorious realm was so strong that they did not express any fear of drinking the cup. They were sure that the cup will come and pass (and may not be as painful as that) but the glory will be established thereafter.

The request that James and John made was a very outstanding and specific one: to sit at the right hand and the left hand of our Lord Jesus Christ in his glory. From their request we can see that they intended to lead the parade. From their request they wanted to make the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ a family affair of the Zebedees. From their request we deduce selfishness and exclusion. I wonder the position they intended for Mary the Mother of the Lord.

The two brothers were really very ambitious like most people in our contemporary societies where people get into positions based on who-knows-who syndrome. The two brothers wanted to act fast before the rest would out-do them. It may be wrong to assume that they were the only people among the apostles that desired to take important positions in the would-be kingdom of Jesus Christ. Rather they were bold enough to declare their intentions.

The answer our Lord Jesus Christ gave to the two brothers showed that there is a due process to greatness. In our technology driven human society, computers and other devices give us shortcuts as options in some operating systems. Consequently most of us have linked that idea of shortcut to other spheres of life. Today people want to get rich without working for it. People want to rise to great heights without the drudgery of climbing a ladder, people want to get into the Promised Land without passing through the desert, and people want to wear the crown without carrying the cross. Mahatma Gandhi summarized these dispositions in his seven deadly sins of the modern world:

  • Wealth without Work.
  • Pleasure without Conscience.
  • Science without Humanity.
  • Knowledge without Character.
  • Politics without Principle.
  • Commerce without Morality.
  • Religion without Sacrifice.

It is good to be ambitious but only if our ambition is on eternal values (Matt 11:12). Furthermore our ambition must go through a due process. In Nigeria we are used to “due process” which explains the path through which a project goes. For instance the awarding of a government contract involves a set of rules and formalities which a bidder and awarder must adhere to. The same thing is applicable to greatness in divine things. One must necessarily pass through some  corridors which may not really be all sweet and rosy.

From the gospel reading James and John intended to place themselves where their egos suggested to them. It happens that often we tend to do the things that are reserved for God alone; we tend to take up God’s tasks. God is the person who can appoint us to places where He has divinely willed for us. When in Jeremiah (29: 11) we are told that”God has a plan for us” it means that He has designed a position for us where His plans for us will be realized.

Often we can only reach the place God has appointed for us through series of disappointments. The first reading from Isaiah (53:10-11) tells us that it is the will of God that his servant be bruised; experience grief and suffering as the due process that will lead to the salvation of all. If you examine the bible very well you will discover that God’s appointment to positions of greatness would always follow a due process. Abraham’s rise to the status of father of a great nation took a due process spanning up to twenty-five years (Gen.12:2). Joseph’s appointment to greatness came after series of disappointments that started with his brothers (Gen. 37:18).The Promised Land was realized after due process of forty years in the desert (Joshua 5:6). After being anointed king, David had to pass through a due process of fighting with Goliath and out-doing Saul before he could sit on the throne (1 Sam. 17:45; 19:10). To redeem us our Lord Jesus had to follow the due process of passion and death.

Wherever you will be in life has been designed by God. If you are connected with him in faith and obedience you will rise to your position. It does not really matter how long it takes you or how tough the road is (the due process); the point is that you will get there. Many people are not successful in life because they gave themselves positions that God never intended for them. Some people are in the wrong places in life and if you are in the wrong place it will all be wrong. To get to the right place follow God, it may not be an easy road but you will get to your rightful place after all.

I wish you a blessed Sunday and happy week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

WHO IS REALLY RICH? HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B) REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD

WHO IS REALLY RICH? HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B) REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD.

WHO IS REALLY RICH? HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B) REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD

WHO IS REALLY RICH?: HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B)

                       Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Phd

 

We may not find it difficult to identify the richest man in the world. According to Forbes as of March 2012 Carlos Slim Helύ of Mexico is the richest man in the world with a net worth of 69 billion US dollars followed closely by Bill Gates with a net worth of 66 billion US dollars as of September 2012. Beyond these the question still remains as to who is really rich?

In a certain town in the Southeastern region of Nigeria, a very rich man died after a protracted illness. It took about six months to prepare for his burial which was expected to be a very huge ceremony with grandiose festivities.

The burial day was more of a carnival than a mournful solemnity. People from different groups and associations the man belonged were clad in radiant outfits and flocked together in solidarity. Before the interment of the great man, as the funeral undertakers were digging the grave, a mad man that was known in the community for his wits came close to the grave and started shouting! Indeed on top of his voice he was lamenting that the funeral undertakers had made a big mistake. The undertakers wanted to ignore him but on a second thought they asked him what it was. Answering he pointed out that the dimensionality of the grave was so small. They asked him why and he went on to say that the grave they had dug won’t be able to accommodate the dead man’s cars, shops, wears, houses and other investments he refused to share with people while he was alive. One of them told him that those things won’t go into the grave with him so there was no need of expanding the grave. With this final answer the mad man walked away disappointed by the fact that the stingy rich man could not be buried with at least one of his cars! For him the stingy rich man ended up amassing so much wealth which other people will eventually share. This is a clear indication that our material wealth and possessions will lose their relevance at death. The question is: “Who is really rich?”

In the gospel reading today (Mark 10:17-30) we have an interesting encounter between our Lord Jesus Christ and a man who was referred to as a rich man. (Luke 18:18 would add ruler to the designation). From the gospel reading today we are told that the man ran up to Jesus while he was setting out on a journey, knelt before him and put this question before him: “Good master what must I do to inherit eternal life?” After instructing him not to refer to him (Jesus) as good, our Lord reminded him that he should keep the known commandments and the man agreed that he had been doing that since his earliest years. Then Jesus looked at him and loved and then said to him: “there is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Upon hearing this, the man’s face felled and he went away sad because he was a man of great wealth.

 

There is need to examine this encounter very closely. We are told that the rich man in question ran to Jesus. This is a typical indication of the urgency in the man’s desire to meet up with Jesus while he was setting out on a journey. Our Lord could stop his journey to give attention to this man who came kneeling before him in humility not minding the fact that he was a man of great wealth. We are told that those who search for the Lord will find him; especially those who do so in humility (Deut.4:29). The Lord will always attend to us when we run up to him not minding other preoccupations. Coming to Jesus the rich man started by calling him good master. At this, Jesus directed his attention to God who alone is good. What Jesus did was to make the man understand that the inquiry he was making was not from the usual masters of their time, but from God who is infinitely good. He wanted to let the man to know that only God is capable of giving the good answer to his question not man.

The man’s question was what he could do to inherit eternal life. The man knew that there is life after this earthly life which is eternal. He had inherited wealth in this world and he was desirous of inheriting eternal life. That was a very positive and commendable desire. Jesus pointed out the conventional commandments and the man asserted that he had kept all of them. And our Lord looked at him and loved him. It is interesting that Jesus loved him. He loved his heart not his face, he loved the worth of his soul and not the weight of his wealth; he loved his earnest desire to inherit eternal life. With that same look our Lord discovered that the man was lacking something in his life. He had done all things well except one thing; charity to the poor. Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor and thus gain eternal treasure in heaven and then follow him.

Going back to the man, his face felled at the words of our Lord that he should sell everything and follow him. This confirms the fact that the man had a deep seated attachment to his wealth. In fact from his reaction, he could not do without those material possessions. Though he was a good man in observing the laws, he was bad in terms of the practice of charity. His treasure was on his wealth and that was where his mind was. The man had faith but no good work to show (Jas.2:17). He received so much but refused to give anything.

The rich man not only walked away from Jesus Christ, he walked away from performing charity, he walked away from the vocation to be a disciple and he finally walked away from eternal life. When the man had gone Jesus told his disciples that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (a small city gate which a camel can enter by kneeling and without load) than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The disciples were amazed at what Jesus Christ said because the conventional assumption at the time was that wealth is a blessing from God indicating righteousness (See Psalm 37:25). Seeing how surprised they were and their question: “who can be saved?” He told them that with God all things are possible but not with men. This fact is very true because with God a carpenter can become a captain, with God a bus conductor can become a contractor, with God a driver can become a director, with God a maid can become a madam, with God a poor man can become suddenly rich (Sirach 11:21). Peter came up to inquire about what would be the fate of those who left everything and followed him and he was assured by the Lord that the reward will be full that is hundred fold.

We resemble the rich man in many ways. In fact his name was not given so that we can insert our names. Sometimes we feel that we have done everything well and that we are qualified to go to heaven. Sometimes we assume that being a member of this or that religion, church, denomination or group would qualify to adopt eternal life for us hereafter. Often time we are so comfortable with our material possessions that we walk away from the face of the Lord. We are often overwhelmed by our material wealth that we neither hear nor see the Lord calling us to follow him. We are often blinded by material wealth that we do not see the poor and needy around us. It takes divine direction to see, appreciate and give hand to the poor. A story is told about a priest who brought food for a family known to be so dejected and poor in his parish. After receiving the food from the priest, the mother of the family divided it into two equal parts and walked away from the house! She came back after some minutes with bare hands. The priest who was wondering why she walked away asked her why she divided the food into two and where went to you drop the part she took away. The woman responded: “we have a family living down the street and I thought we could share the food with them because they are as well starving!” The priest could not utter a word as he was overwhelmed by such act of selflessness. Nobody is too poor that he or she cannot give. You are better than someone (be kind enough to give). Someone is better than you (be humble).

This night about 850 million people will go to bed hungry. This actually happens every day yet many of us throw food away into the trash every hour. The wealth in the world generally can make each and every one of us comfortable and happy. The problem is that those who are custodians of wealth are not ready to share. Just recently in Nigeria, the Federal Government released a total sum of N17.6 Billion (aprox. 112 Million dollars) for victims of flood in some states in the country. We are praying and hoping that those who are genuinely affected by the flood receive the money. How often do many rich people ignore the cry and plight of the poor among us and focus on their personal interests and comforts. It takes the wisdom, Knowledge and understanding that comes from God (as the first reading showed) for us to see, appreciate and assist the poor and thus be acceptable to God (Matt. 25:31ff).

May the word of God which is alive and active direct the course of our lives to be able to appreciate and assist the poor among us. The really rich person is one who is wise enough to be God’s hands towards the poor. Today we are called to rewrite the story of the rich man by giving. God actually wants us to give all by giving ourselves to him. That is why we sing: “My life time I will give God my life time. If I give God my life time, he will take care of me…he will never never let me down… I will give God my life time!

Happy Sunday and do have a wonderful week ahead. 

Fr. Bonnie      

WHO IS REALLY RICH?: HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

We may not find it difficult to identify the richest man in the world. According to Forbes as of March 2012 Carlos Slim Helύ of Mexico is the richest man in the world with a net worth of 69 billion US dollars followed closely by Bill Gates with a net worth of 66 billion US dollars as of September 2012. Beyond these the question still remains as to who is really rich?

In a certain town in the Southeastern region of Nigeria, a very rich man died after a protracted illness. It took about six months to prepare for his burial which was expected to be a very huge ceremony with grandiose festivities.

The burial day was more of a carnival than a mournful solemnity. People from different groups and associations the man belonged were clad in radiant outfits and flocked together in solidarity. Before the interment of the great man, as the funeral undertakers were digging the grave, a mad man that was known in the community for his wits came close to the grave and started shouting! Indeed on top of his voice he was lamenting that the funeral undertakers had made a big mistake. The undertakers wanted to ignore him but on a second thought they asked him what it was. Answering he pointed out that the dimensionality of the grave was so small. They asked him why and he went on to say that the grave they had dug won’t be able to accommodate the dead man’s cars, shops, wears, houses and other investments he refused to share with people while he was alive. One of them told him that those things won’t go into the grave with him so there was no need of expanding the grave. With this final answer the mad man walked away disappointed by the fact that the stingy rich man could not be buried with at least one of his cars! For him the stingy rich man ended up amassing so much wealth which other people will eventually share. This is a clear indication that our material wealth and possessions will lose their relevance at death. The question: “is who is really rich?”

In the gospel reading today (Mark 10:17-30) we have an interesting encounter between our Lord Jesus Christ and a man who was referred to as a rich man. (Luke 18:18 would add ruler to the designation). From the gospel reading today we are told that the man ran up to Jesus while he was setting out on a journey, knelt before him and put this question before him: “Good master what must I do to inherit eternal life?” After instructing him not to refer to him (Jesus) as good, our Lord reminded him that he should keep the known commandments and the man agreed that he had been doing that since his earliest years. Then Jesus looked at him and loved and then said to him: “there is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Upon hearing this, the man’s face felled and he went away sad because he was a man of great wealth.

 

There is need to examine this encounter very closely. We are told that the rich man in question ran to Jesus. This is a typical indication of the urgency in the man’s desire to meet up with Jesus while he was setting out on a journey. Our Lord could stop his journey to give attention to this man who came kneeling before him in humility not minding the fact that he was a man of great wealth. We are told that those who search for the Lord will find him; especially those who do so in humility (Deut.4:29). The Lord will always attend to us when we run up to him not minding other preoccupations. Coming to Jesus the rich man started by calling him good master. At this, Jesus directed his attention to God who alone is good. What Jesus did was to make the man understand that the inquiry he was making was not from the usual masters of their time, but from God who is infinitely good. He wanted to let the man to know that only God is capable of giving the good answer to his question not man.

The man’s question was what he could do to inherit eternal life. The man knew that there is life after this earthly life which is eternal. He had inherited wealth in this world and he was desirous of inheriting eternal life. That was a very positive and commendable desire. Jesus pointed out the conventional commandments and the man asserted that he had kept all of them. And our Lord looked at him and loved him. It is interesting that Jesus loved him. He loved his heart not his face, he love the worth of his soul and not the weight of his wealth; he loved his earnest desire to inherit eternal life. With that same look our Lord discovered that the man was lacking something in his life. He had done all things well except one thing; charity to the poor. Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor and thus gain eternal treasure in heaven and then follow him.

Going back to the man, his face felled at the words of our Lord that he should sell everything and follow him. This confirms the fact that the man had a deep seated attachment to his wealth. In fact from his reaction, he could not do without those material possessions. Though he was a good man in observing the laws, he was bad in terms of the practice of charity. His treasure was on his wealth and that was where his mind was. The man had faith but no good work to show (Jas.2:17). He received so much but refused to give anything.

The rich man not only walked away from Jesus Christ, he walked away from performing charity, he walked away from the vocation to be a disciple and he finally walked away from eternal life. When the man had gone Jesus told his disciples that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (a small city gate which a camel can enter by kneeling and without load) than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The disciples were amazed at what Jesus Christ said because the conventional assumption at the time was that wealth is a blessing from God indicating righteousness (See Psalm 37:25). Seeing how surprised they were and their question: “who can be saved?” He told them that with God all things are possible but not with men. This fact is very true because with God a carpenter can become a captain, with God a bus conductor can become a contractor, with God a driver can become a director, with God a maid can become a madam, with God a poor man can become suddenly rich (Sirach 11:21). Peter came up to inquire about what would be the fate of those who left everything and followed him and he was assured by the Lord that the reward will be full that is hundred fold.

We resemble the rich man in many ways. In fact his name was not given so that we can insert our names. Sometimes we feel that we have done everything well and that we are qualified to go to heaven. Sometimes we assume that being a member of this or that religion, church, denomination or group would qualify to adopt eternal life for us hereafter. Often time we are so comfortable with our material possessions that we walk away from the face of the Lord. We are often overwhelmed by our material wealth that we neither hear nor see the Lord calling us to follow him. We are often blinded by material wealth that we do not see the poor and needy around us. It takes divine direction to see, appreciate and give hand to the poor. A story is told about a priest who brought food for a family known to be so dejected and poor in his parish. After receiving the food from the priest, the mother of the family divided it into two equal parts and walked away from the house! She came back after some minutes with bare hands. The priest who was wondering why she walked away asked her why she divided the food into two and where went to you drop the part she took away. The woman responded: “we have a family living down the street and I thought we could share the food with them because they are as well starving!” The priest could not utter a word as he was overwhelmed by such act of selflessness. Nobody is too poor that he or she cannot give. You are better than someone (be kind enough to give). Someone is better than you (be humble).

This night about 850 million people will go to bed hungry. This actually happens every day yet many of us throw food away into the trash every hour. The wealth in the world generally can make each and every one of us comfortable and happy. The problem is that those who are custodians of wealth are not ready to share. Just recently in Nigeria, the Federal Government released a total sum of N17.6 Billion (aprox. 112 Million dollars) for victims of flood in some states in the country. We are praying and hoping that those who are genuinely affected by the flood receive the money. How often do many rich people ignore the cry and plight of the poor among us and focus on their personal interests and comforts. It takes the wisdom, Knowledge and understanding that comes from God (as the first reading showed) for us to see, appreciate and assist the poor and thus be acceptable to God (Matt. 25:31ff).

May the word of God which is alive and active direct the course of our lives to be able to appreciate and assist the poor in among us. The really rich person is one who is wise enough to be God’s hands towards the poor. Today we are called to rewrite the story of the rich man by giving. God actually wants us to give all by giving ourselves to him. That is why we sing: “My life time I will give God my life time. If I give God my life time, he will take care of me…he will never never let me down… I will give God my life time!

Happy Sunday and do have a wonderful week ahead.    

Fr. Bonnie    

 

THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE: HOMILY FOR THE 27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B) By Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE: HOMILY FOR THE 27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B)

                                                                                       By Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

 

This story struck my mind. A Bishop visited a rural parish on one of his numerous pastoral visits. One of the outstanding activities that usually mark such visits included the administering of the Sacrament of Confirmation. During the homily on the Confirmation day, the Bishop decided to ask the candidates questions to know how vast they were in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He picked candidates randomly and asked any question he wished. The final question he asked was: “What is the Sacrament of Matrimony?” He picked one boy to answer the question and the boy said “Matrimony is a place where souls suffer a while for their sins…!” The catechism instructor stood up and was making effort to signal to the boy that he was giving answer to what is Purgatory not Matrimony. The Bishop instantly asked the instructor not to stop the boy because God could be telling the congregation something about Matrimony through the boy’s misplaced answer!

From the narratives of the first reading (Genesis 2:18-24) and the gospel reading (Mark 10:2-16) we are presented with the issue of marriage. It really seems that we could call today “Marriage Sunday”. It is also upon this platform that our reflection is built. From the first reading, it seemed that God made a “mistake” during the creation as he realized after the creation of Man that he (the Man) needed a helpmate. With this realization, God fashioned wild beasts (animals) and birds of heaven and brought them to the Man to see what he could call them. The man gave them names but none could qualify as a helpmate or companion (Gen.2:19-20). We have to look into this passage very well. God actually wanted the Man to give names to the animals and the birds and his choice of name would indicate that he had found or not found companionship in any of them. It happened that after naming them he could not establish companionship with any of them. So God took another step  by making the Man to fall into a deep sleep and from his side he took one of his ribs (that could have been the first surgery ever) and with the rib he had taken from the Man he fashioned another creature  and brought the creature to the Man to name. The Man exclaimed this is at LAST (the final point) the bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. He went further to give the creature a name, which is WOMAN because she was taken out of MAN. That was how the first marriage bond was contracted under divine supervision and direction (no bride price was paid). The Woman was actually taken from the Man hence they were not really two but one!

In the gospel reading our Lord Jesus Christ made emphatic statements about the indissolubility of marriage while fielding questions from the Pharisees who wanted to put him to the test. Their question was “is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?” Put in another way, they were asking: “is it right to divide what God has joined together?” In the Law of Moses (Deut 24:1-4) a man can divorce his wife if he no longer likes her. It could be on the grounds of infidelity which requires at least two witnesses, it could even be as irrelevant as bad cooking or breaking of something in the house. Answering the Pharisees our Lord took them back to the beginning. He said in the beginning (we should remember that God is the beginning) God made them male and female. That means in the mind of God a man and a woman should be joined to form one flesh (note very: “a man and a woman” not: “a man and a man” nor: “a woman and a woman”). He concluded by saying that what God has joined no person should put asunder. I wish to take up the issue of putting asunder. The word asunder (adverb) means torn to pieces, apart, divided. In relation to the biblical usage in this context our Lord is saying that what God has joined nobody should torn to pieces or set apart. What we have not yet understood is that PUTTING ASUNDER can happen in two ways; from inside and from outside. It is from inside when either of the couple or both destroy the union by commission or omission. Asunder can happen from outside when someone or some persons outside the union bring destruction to it by commission or omission.

It is most disheartening that divorce and separation have wrecked many marriages. It has become a common phenomenon in our society as innumerable applications for divorce besiege courthouses on daily basis just as marriage tribunals are getting busier every day. Today people are getting married not for better and for worse but as long as the parties are finding it convenient. Problems and challenges are not strange in marriage unions. Adam and Eve who began this enterprise had their challenge at the time they ate the forbidden fruit and their eventual fall (Genesis 3). This did not set them apart as they went further to live together and to procreate.

In most marriages couples are not living together, they are just staying and existing together. Some marriages at most have lost taste and vitality. Problems arise in marriages because from the outset some married for the wrong reasons or the wrong persons. There is a story about two married women who went out for lunch break. While they were eating one of them discovered that her friend was wearing her wedding ring on the wrong finger and she inquired: “Hey you are wearing your wedding ring on the wrong finger!” The other immediately replied “Yes because I married the wrong man!” It is a fact that marriages are crumbling because those who went into it did so with some motives that have no relationship with love. Love here is not merely based on physical and material attributes (for instance what you see or feel) which are bound to fade. The love that we mean is the one St. Paul took time to examine in 1 Cor 13:1-13. Among other things St. Paul established that love is patient and kind, selfless, truthful, hopeful, it neither is jealous, irritable nor glory in evil things. (4-7).

There is no doubt that some people are in purgatory in the name of marriage as the boy who answered the bishop indicated. As a married man or woman if you cannot find happiness in your home you are in a serious problem. The following points can be helpful to recreate your marriage:

  • Married life should be enjoyed not endured.
  • Married life should be celebrated not tolerated.
  • If there is no TRUST in your marriage it will RUST.
  • If you are not patient in your marriage you will have pain.
  • If you don’t have a common vision you will have common division.
  • If you stop growing together you will start growing apart.
  • If you stop loving you start losing.
  • If you stop praying together you will start perishing together.
  • If you fail to understand yourselves you will not withstand yourselves.
  • I am sorry can solve problems and stop fights.
  • Understand your differences and help each other to grow together.
  • If your marriage has not been blessed that hour has come to do so (do not give the devil an opportunity 1 Pet 5:8).
  • Be careful with the following modern necessary distractions in marriage: friends, television, mobile phones and internet!

Instructions for Men.

  • Love your wives (Col.3:19).
  • Appreciate your wife (her looks, clothes, etc)
  • Look at her face often and call her pet names (women need attention like little children).
  • Buy something for her (even a wrap of candy can change her mood).
  • Make yourself available at home (you are needed at home).
  • Pray and play with your wife and children (a pillow fight does not hurt).

 

 

Instructions for Women

  • Respect your husbands (Col 3:18).
  • Do not be making so many demands (Don’t compare your husband with other men be content with what he has)
  • Minimize talking too much (we know it is your natural gift).
  • Do not form alliance with your kids against your husband (the kids may fight you later).
  • The growth or failure of the marriage is more in your hands (handle with care).

I wish you all a blissful Sunday and a blessed week ahead as you work towards recreating you marriages.

Fr. Bonnie.

fatherbonny@hotmail.com

INSIDERS VS OUTSIDERS: HOMILY FOR THE 26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B). -Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

INSIDERS VS OUTSIDERS: HOMILY FOR THE 26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B)

                                                                            -Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

 

There seems to be two sides of almost every reality in our world. Philosophers will call it dualism that is the state of being in two parts; for instance male and female, good and bad, up and down, white and black, body and spirit etc. Each of these parts form what could be called a group.

Grouping is prevalent everywhere; in fact we all belong to one group or another. In fact from the divine arrangement of male and female we find ourselves grouped from birth. As children we begin to form groups of playmates, as youths we form peer groups or circles of friends, as adult we organize ourselves in groups as club or association members. From geographical locations we find ourselves grouped into different communities, villages, tribes and nations. Our religions draft us into different faith groups like Christians and Muslims to mention but two. Our careers and professions also place us into different groups like doctors, clerics, lawyers, engineers, nurses, architects, even beggars, touts, criminals have organized groups. One characteristic group mentality is that those in a given group see those outside the group as less important or weaker. For instance those outside the Military, Police or other paramilitary arms are called civilians (even bloody civilians) to indicate some differences. Globally we are aware that our world is divided into first, second, and third world countries. Generally, to be in a group is to be an Insider and not belonging to a given group makes one an Outsider. Even our sitting arrangement here in the Church divides us into groups whether as family member or as members of the choir, men. women, youths etc.

     We are in short products of various groups with our respective group mentalities, beliefs and dispositions. It is also important to indicate that within a group one can still find other groups and sub groups; it continues down to the level of the individuals in a group.

      We have taken so much time to describe what constitutes a group because the first reading (Numbers 11:25-29) and the first part of the gospel (Mark 9:38-43) tell us about the group phenomenon; that is Insiders and Outsiders factor. God commanded Moses to appoint seventy elders to assist him in leading the people. He was further asked to bring them before Him at the Tent of Meeting. By this appointment of seventy elders a group was formed from among the people; a peculiar group with divine confirmation. At the time they were brought before God two persons among them (Eldad and Medad) were not present. We are not told what brought about their absence. They could have been sick, indisposed, preoccupied or anything. At the Tent of Meeting God took some of the spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders and they began to prophecy. The turning point of the narrative was that the two elders who were not present at the meeting and who were in the camp joined them to prophecy at the same time. By human judgment they were not supposed to prophecy because they were physically disconnected from the group. We can see this in the effort of a young man who ran to Moses to report the event, as well as Joshua who asked Moses to stop them.

From the first part of the gospel today we encounter a similar episode like what we saw in the first reading. Last Sunday the apostles were arguing about who was the greatest among them. We saw how our Lord summarized greatness for them using the formular of “smallness” and service. Today they seem to drop their individualism and took up group superiority attitude. They saw someone who was not a member of their group casting out devil with the name of Jesus and they tried to stop him because he was not one of them. Obviously they got the same answer that Moses gave to Joshua when he requested that the two elders who were prophesying in the camp be stopped.

From the two readings one can notice one prevailing trend.  From the first reading, the young man who saw the two elders prophesying and Joshua failed to evaluate the content of their prophecy; was it false and destructive or was it in line with what God wanted. The young man saw them prophesying but on what? From the gospel on the other hand, the apostles got the idea that the man was using the right formular to cast out devil (that is in the name of Jesus) but their group attitude blinded them from appreciating that the man was in fact helping them in their work. They failed to ask: “is this man doing a good thing?” “Is he in anyway way helping or hindering our ministry?” Often we are reflective of the attitude of the young man, Joshua and the apostles. We are ready to condemn, discard and expel anyone who is not a member of our group even when the person in question is doing some great and helpful works. This happens in various areas of life. In politics, members of a given party can never see anything good in other parties even when the plans and projects of other parties are for the common good. In religion, in Christianity, in our different Christian groups, among the Clergy and in fact in every conceivable group the same trend runs: “S/he is not one of us, s/he is not a member of our group!” No matter how good you can be if you are, outside your group you may not be accepted because you don’t belong! This is one ugly factor in our society that is creating unjustifiable barriers everywhere. The rich see the poor as outsiders, the rulers see the ruled as outsiders, the fortunate see the less privileged as outsiders. Even our Lord Jesus Christ had the outsider experience throughout his ministry on earth and even died on that account. So whenever you face opposition or rejection because you don’t belong remember that it is a Christ-like experience.

There is another level of Outsider-Insider experience which actually endures forever. On this platform, one qualifies to be an Outsider or Insider depending on one’s choice; that is what one does here on earth. St. James in the second reading today (Jas. 5:1-6) set the scene very well. Among other things he told the rich to start crying because of the miseries that will be coming their way. He further said that their wealth will rot away. St. James was actually saying that at the end of our human standard, God’s eternal standard will be established. This means that those who considered themselves Insiders will become Outsiders while those who were considered Outsiders will become Insiders. According to the apostle James God will be the one to decide finally who will be the Insider and the Outsider. Those who oppressed the poor, those who dwelt on material gains and considered themselves the Insiders will at the end of time become Outsiders in relation to the kingdom of God. The table will evenually turn!

To evade this experience our Lord Jesus Christ in the second part of the gospel advised us to let go! There is power in letting go. The first part of this second part of the gospel challenges us to give. Most people have not yet understood the power in giving. Giving is God’s way of life and one of the things God does we can do. To become an Insider in God you must be a giver. This directive has basis in the Old Testament (Deut 15:10; 16:17; Prov.3:9&27; 28:27; Malachi 3:10). In the New Testament Our Lord gave it as an instruction (Matt. 5:42; 10:8; Luke 3:11; 6:38). Some of the apostles also dwelt on the same issue of giving (Act 20:35; 2 Cor. 9:6-7; I Peter 4:8; I John 3:17-18).

In the second part of the second part of the gospel today our Lord encouraged us to let go in a different way. Here he tells us to let go by dropping off those things that will hinder us from becoming Insiders in God after our earthly existence. According to him we are expected to cut off anything that will prevent us from entering into eternal life. Let us not see the hands, feet, and eyes that he asked us to discard as the physical ones we have. They represent things, persons, events, situations that make us Outsiders from God. Those realities that replace our communication and connection with God, those realities that steal and keep our attention from God, those realities that make us Outsiders; away from God and His eternal blessings. Point blank there are some persons, things, events and situations are not necessary in your life, discard them; your life can become more meaningful without them.

We are called upon today not to make other people outsiders because they do not belong to our group. Today we are called to plant and nurture acceptance of others in order to secure our acceptance before God. She or he may not belong to your earthly group but we all belong to God’s eternal group so do not stop him or her from doing that which is good!

Do have a happy Sunday and a blessed week ahead!

 Fr. Bonnie.

THE SECRET OF GREATNESS / FIRST POSITION: HOMILY FOR THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B). REV. FR BONNIE ANUSIEM

THE SECRET OF GREATNESS / FIRST POSITION: HOMILY FOR THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B). REV. FR BONNIE ANUSIEM.

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