Friday, September 30, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - October 2, 2022

 

Homily of Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, 2022

Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; Psalm 95:1-26-9; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10

Prophet Habakkuk prophesied in Judah about 600 years before Jesus Christ. At that time, there were political decadence and abandonment of worship of Yahweh. The first reading was a section of Habakkuk’s lamentation over the state of affairs in Judah. Habakkuk questioned God about his silence over his and the people’s cry and lamentation: “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ But you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.” Habakkuk 1:4 which is not included in the first reading says, “This is why the law is numb and justice never comes, for the wicked surround the just; this is why justice comes forth perverted.”

There are people whose condition is as it was for Judah, and like Habakkuk, in their grief and desolation they think that God is silent. They ask God many questions: “Why me?” “Why this?” “Why that?” “Where are you, God?” “Where are your promises.” And many other questions. Some people think that it is not proper to ask God questions. Questions addressed to God with faith are prayers in themselves. Jesus prayed on the Cross with a question to God in Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Habakkuk assures us that if answers delay, are to wait. “It will not be late. … The just one, because of his faith, shall live” (Habakkuk 2:2-3). The same assurance is given by Jesus, “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily” (Luke 18:7-8). Prophet Isaiah says, “No, the hand of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).

Improper questions to God are questions addressed to God with doubt and unbelief.

St. Paul in the second reading encourages us not to lose our faith. He says, “Beloved: I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control…”  (2 Timothy 1:6-7). “Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). In this passage, St. Paul teaches us in that faith produces power, love, and self-control. Lack of faith produces weakness, fear, and fall.

In today’s gospel, we read, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you’” (Luke 17:5-6). Here, Jesus reveals to us the power of faith and why we need to fan our faith into flame.

Yes, our faith in God will be tested as that of the servant who came in from hard work in the field. The servant was not allowed to get some rest. Immediately, the servant’s master sent the servant to the kitchen to prepare food for him. After the servant prepared and served him the food, the master ordered, “Put on your apron and wait while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished” (Luke 17:7-10).  He remained obedient and faithful. St James writes, “The testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 4:3). The resting of our faith should not produce turning away from God, but perseverance.

The victory over this world is our faith (1 John 5:4). St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”  Jesus bade some persons farewell with reference to their faith: To the repentant woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50).  To the Samaritan healed of leprosy, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). To the woman healed of hemorrhage, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering,” (Mark 5:34). To blind Bartimaeus, "Go, your faith has healed you" (Mark 10:52). Jesus encouraged Jairus, “Do not be afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36).

What will Jesus say to me about my faith?

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Fr. Augustine Inwang, MSP - Homily for The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - October 2, 2022

Readings: Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 2; Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10

Patience is a Virtue Worth Cultivating.

1.    Today’s first reading is taken from the book of Habakkuk, believed to have been written in the mid-to-late 7th century BC, not long before the Babylonians’ siege and capture of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The prophet was troubled by the violence and cruelty of the Babylonians. He wondered why the Lord was silent. “So why are you silent while they destroy people who are more righteous than they?” (1:13). But the Lord told him to be patient, that he would act in his own time; meanwhile, he urged him to have Faith. “Those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.”(2:4). Faith and trust go hand in hand. It is not as if God is unaware of the plight of his people, but we must trust him to act in his own time. We must keep to our lane and allow God to operate in his. Yes, we sometimes feel like Habakkuk. We are frustrated and disillusioned amid destruction and bloodshed in our lands. When we hear of kidnapping, persecution and the killing of Christians during Mass or Church services, and other acts of violence committed inside the church, we wonder if God cares about us. It seems as if God has allowed us to kill and maim each other as we please. Our Faith is tested, if not shaken, in the face of so much hatred and disregard for one another, and we feel like crying out with Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene.” 

2.    But God tells us to be faithful. In other words, He wants us to have Faith. Faith is defined as “the realization of what is hoped for, and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, notes that “Faith is both a gift of God and a human act in response to God. In Faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace.” We can obey God because we cooperate with His grace. Our Faith makes us ready and willing to do God’s will. In the Gospel, the apostles asked Jesus to increase their Faith. To answer their request, Christ warned them against being the cause of scandal or being a stumbling block for others. He acknowledged that it was impossible to construct a world without temptations, but woe to that man who taught another to sin or took away another’s innocence; “So watch what you do!” Then Jesus speaks of the necessity of forgiveness in the life of Christians. He tells them to forgive seven times. The difficulty of putting this teaching into practice made the apostles ask for an increase in Faith. Without Faith and grace, it is impossible to obey God’s command or put his teaching into practice. Jesus said, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Faith is the most powerful force the world has ever known. If we have Faith, we can do the impossible. Our Faith depends not on the size or quantity but on quality and effectiveness. With Faith, the impossible becomes possible. If we approach any task with the belief that it cannot be done, it will probably not be done; but if we come to it saying, “It must be done,” the chances are that it will be done.    

3.    Faith is not jumping to conclusions; it is concluding to jump into the arms of God our Father, who loves us unconditionally. It is accepting that Jesus is the Son of God and believing in the words he spoke and in his power. It is “By this faith a just man lives.” (Gal. 3:11). This is the Faith that can draw poison from every grief, take the sting from every loss, and quench the fire of every pain. This Faith can be compared, as Jesus does, to a “tiny mustard seed.” Because the power of the seed does not depend on its size but on the life hidden within itself, the power of our Faith does not depend on its quantity but on its quality. Faith and trust in the power of God can transform our lives and enable us to struggle against sins in ourselves and avoid causing scandal in others. It will make it possible to forgive all the hurts done to us and help us wait on God to act on our behalf. Our Faith must be living, practical, and trustworthy. It is formed by our baptism, making it possible to do everything for God and not for ourselves. It is about God and not me. God must increase while I decrease. Yes, I am only an unprofitable servant; I have done what I was obliged to do and nothing more.

4.    Paul reminds Timothy in the second reading not to forget the gifts of the Holy Spirit he received when he was ordained a minister. “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). Timothy should not be intimidated by the hardships, opposition, and difficulties he encountered in Ephesus. These should not deter or dampen his spirit but strengthen his Faith to remain strong and resolute in his mission. The apostles, too, sensed the difficulties of their mission and so cried out for an increase of Faith. 

5.    Following in the footsteps of Christ is never easy! It was not easy for Christ to do His Father’s will either. But Jesus urged us to have strong Faith. If our Faith is strong, we should be afraid of nothing. “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.” (Ps. 125:1). Christians must fight the good fight and yet be humble enough to say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what our duty was.” Our baptism incorporates us into the life of Christ and enables us to carry out our Christian duties without seeking reward. In facing difficulties, violence, persecution, and tribulation, we must wait on the Lord. “I waited patiently for the Lord’s help; then he listened to me and heard my cry. He pulled me out of a dangerous pit, out of the deadly quicksand. He set me safely on a rock and made me secure.” (Ps. 40:1-2). May we be committed to a life of prayer, our baptismal vows, and our call to be missionary disciples. May God increase our Faith so that we may not be intimidated by the troubles of this world. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for The Twenty-FSixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - September 25, 2022

Homily of Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, 2022

Amos 6:1a, 4-7; Psalm 146:7-10; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31

About 750 B.C., Amos denounced the rich and the leaders in Israel who in their extravagant life of luxury oppressed and neglected the suffering poor: “Those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge upon their couches; eating lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall; … who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the best oils, but are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph” (Amos 4:6-7).

The neglect of the poor by the rich and the leaders was not different during the time of Jesus, which was why Jesus gave the parable of the rich man and Lazarus: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores” (Luke 16:19-21).

The rich man did nothing wrong for being rich. His three sins were: lack of moderation (“dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day”), negligence, and lack of compassion (“lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table”). While the rich man did not show compassion to Lazarus, the rich man’s dogs did. The dogs, ordinarily, would have barked and driven Lazarus away from their master’s gate. Instead, the dogs showed him compassion by licking his sores. 

The neglect of the poor, despite the world’s rich resources, may be worse in our time than it was during the time of Amos and the time of Jesus. Some rich countries do not care about the plight of poor countries. Rather, some rich countries are recolonizing poor countries by offering them high interest loans and all kinds of Greek gifts instead of assisting in their development. Activities and operations of rich countries’ multinational companies in poor countries further impoverish the poor countries. It’s a fact that some corrupt rulers wine and dine excessively and do not care about the sufferings of the majority of the people who are poor. The funds that should have been used for the benefit of the poor is stolen and spent on life of vanity. The corrupt rulers “are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph” (Amos 4:7).

There is a story of a poor widow whose husband passed away. The widow went to a rich man in her village and requested for financial help to bury her husband. The rich man, who had so many lands, demanded that his financial help to her was only going to be on the condition that the widow transferred to him the ownership of the only piece of land that belonged to her and her children.

We may not be among the heartless rich people, or among the corrupt political and economic leaders and rulers who waste and squander the wealth that would have benefited the poor; but we are all called to be compassionate and caring; to open our eyes and see the ‘Lazarus’ lying at our door; and to open our hearts to help them.

The readings invite us to evaluate how we are performing our Christian duties of works of mercy. Corporal works of mercy are: feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-36), and bury the dead (Tobit 1:17-18). Spiritual works of mercy are: instruct the ignorant (Romans 2:20), counsel the doubtful (1 Thessalonians 5:11), admonish sinners (1 Thessalonians 5:14), bear wrong patiently (Luke 6:27-28), forgive offences (Matthew 6:12), comfort the sorrowful (2 Corinthians 1:4), and pray for the living (1 Timothy 2:1), and the dead (2 Maccabees 12:46).

We conclude our reflection with the following passages:

“Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Luke 3:11).

“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also, faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).

“When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, … If the person is poor, you shall not sleep in the pledged garment, but shall definitely return it at sunset, so that your neighbor may sleep in the garment and bless you. … You shall not exploit a poor and needy hired servant, whether one of your own kindred or one of the resident aliens who live in your land, within your gates. On each day you shall pay the servant’s wages before the sun goes down, since the servant is poor and is counting on them. Otherwise, the servant will cry to the Lord against you, and you will be held guilty” (Deuteronomy 24:11-15).

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP