Thursday, February 13, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - February 16, 2020. Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary time year A

Homily of Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A
The first reading says, “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will serve you; if you trust God, you shall live; he has set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” God gives each of us the free will which makes us responsible for our choices and our actions. Bad choices and actions have bad consequences, while good choices and actions have good rewards. This is in line with the natural law of cause and effect. But, God has given us his Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us and direct us. We pray that we will cooperate with the leading, the guiding, and the directing of the Holy Spirit in order to make choices that are pleasing to God, and for our good.
However, we need to recognize the fact that there are times conditions or situations take away one’s free will to choose what to do and what not to do. At such times, we can only trust God. May God save us in such conditions and situations. May our guardian angels always guard us. This is why it is important to constantly surrender oneself to God, and keep oneself always in his presence.
Matthew Chapters 5 to 7 contains extensive and powerful preaching and instructions by Jesus. In Chapter 7, Jesus raises himself above Moses and the Mosaic Laws, and shows himself as possessing divine authority. Six times in the Gospel reading Jesus declared, “I say to you” / “I tell you,” to re-interpret Mosaic Laws. Matthew 7:28-29 acknowledges the response of the people, “When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”
Today, Jesus is not addressing the scribes and the Pharisees, and the crowds but us. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus addresses the ways and manners of selective interpretation of civil laws and religious laws. Unfortunately, every selective interpreter claims to be right and honest. Jesus tells us to possess true righteousness which surpasses hypocrisy. True righteousness goes beyond the external observance. Several layers of pretense mask external observance.
Internal disposition matters very much. We can pretend to be friendly with someone, but deep within us we harbor grudges and are angry with that person. We can pretend to be friendly with someone but deep within us we regard that person as a fool. We can pretend to be ‘holier than thou’ but are defiled inside with evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly (Mark 7:23). Jesus reminds us that it is only external observance and hypocrisy when we worship God with hearts and bodies infested with sin. It is for this reason that Jesus says in Matthew 15:8, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” And in today’s Gospel he says, “Go first and reconcile with your brother / sister, and then come to offer your gift.” Because, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).
Jesus says, “Do not swear at all.” Since taking vows, oaths, and swearing in ceremonies are found in almost every culture, we can understand this saying of Jesus to mean that we should never swear falsely. Let our ‘Yes’ mean our ‘Yes,’ and let our ‘No’ mean our ‘No.’ Unfortunately, we take vows and oaths and hardly keep them. Unfortunately, people raise their hand or place it on the Scripture and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and almost immediately they tell lies.
Jesus tells us that if our right eye, or our right hand causes us to sin, we need to get rid of it for it is better for us to lose one of our members than to have our whole body go into Gehenna (hell). This saying of Jesus is not to be taking literally. Jesus is encouraging us to cut off from whatever that can lead us to sin no matter how precious it is to us. St. Paul’s words are apt to interpret the passage and so summarize our reflection: “I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, February 7, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - February 8, 2020. Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary time year A

Homily of the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt is very essential to human’s health. Lack of it adversely affects the functioning of body cells, nerves, muscles and bones. Salt is used to season food in order to enhance flavor and taste. Before the invention of fridges and freezers, salt was an important preserving agent. It is widely believed that salt was the oldest method of food preservation. Salt has played a great role in medicine since the beginning of humankind. Salt is used for cleaning, washing, sanitizing, purifying, and disinfecting.  Seeing the importance of salt to humanity, we can easily understand why Jesus calls his followers “salt of the earth.”
The Bible gives a good example of the purifying power of salt: “Once the inhabitants of the city complained to Elisha, ‘The site of the city is fine indeed, as my lord can see, but the water is bad and the land unfruitful.’ ‘Bring me a new bowl,’ Elisha said, ‘and put salt in it.’ When they had brought it to him, he went out to the spring and threw salt into it, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified this water. Never again shall death or miscarriage spring from it.’ And the water has stayed pure even to this day, just as Elisha prophesied” (2King 2:19-22).
About himself Jesus says in John 8:12 (today’s Gospel Acclamation), “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will have the light of life.” About us Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (today’s Gospel reading). It is very striking that what Jesus says about himself, he also says about us: “I am the light of the world.” “You are the light of the world.” He says about himself, “I am the life” (John 11:25, 14:6). He says about us, “Whoever follows me will have the light of life.” Therefore, we are supposed to be reflections of the glory of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are supposed to be fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15). Christ is our head, and we are supposed to be his body (Colossians 1:18). We are supposed to be ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2782) states, “By Baptism, God incorporates us in the Body of his Christ; through the anointing of his Spirit who flows from the head to the members, he makes us other ‘Christs.’” What inexplicable and unmeritorious privileges and honors we are supposed to have!  
The first reading reminds us how we can be salt of the earth and light of life to the world; or as the second reading puts it, how we can demonstrate Spirit and power: Feed the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, cloth the naked, and attend to the afflicted. These are only a few examples of various works of mercy we are called to undertake. We will not be able to engage faithfully in works of mercy if we lack qualities of salt and light enumerated above.
Right before us are those in need of our help; and those in need of our love, care and support. They are the elderly, the lonely, the sick, the troubled, the grieving, the hungry, the deprived, the incapacitated, the wounded, the oppressed, the heartbroken, the poor, the abandoned and so on. For some of these people, life is tasteless. Some of them see only darkness and hopelessness around them all the time. We do not have to go far to meet these needy people. They are around us in our homes, in our communities, in our parish, in our work places, and in our neighborhood. We have lost our saltiness and our flame when we have become numb to other people’s afflictions and sufferings.  We are mandated, therefore, today to go and be salt and light to the needy in one way or another.
God has given us the Spirit, the power, and the light. May we fan into flame these gifts of God, and so bring light to those in darkness, bring hope to the hopeless, bring healing to the sick and relief to the burdened. May we not lose the divine honor of being channels of God’s graces in our world. Amen.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - February 2, 2020. Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary time year A, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Homily of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple, they had three purposes in mind. The first purpose was according to Exodus 13:1-2, “The Lord spoke to Moses and said: Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites, whether of human being or beast, belongs to me.” The second purpose was according to Numbers 18:15-16, “Every living thing that opens the womb, human being and beast alike, such as are to be offered to the Lord, shall be yours; but you must redeem the firstborn of human beings, as well as redeem the firstborn of unclean animals. For the redemption price of a son, when he is a month old, you shall pay the equivalent of five silver shekels according to the sanctuary shekel, that is, twenty gerahs.” Although it was not recorded, I guess that Mary and Joseph brought to the temple this amount of money to redeem Jesus. The third purpose was according to Leviticus 12:1-8, “When a woman has a child, giving birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, … she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled. If she gives birth to a girl, for fourteen days she shall be as unclean…. When the days of her purification for a son or for a daughter are fulfilled, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a yearling lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a turtledove for a purification offering. The priest shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and thus she will be clean again…. Such is the ritual for the woman who gives birth to a child, male or female. If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a purification offering. The priest shall make atonement for her, and thus she will again be clean.” Mary and Joseph were in the temple solely “to perform the custom of the law.” The last thing they expected was the presence of Simeon and Anna, and their prophecies and revelations about Jesus and Mary. That was why Joseph and Mary were amazed at what Simeon and Anna said. In addition to the visit of the Magi and the Baptism of Jesus, the event of the presentation of the Lord is another Epiphany or manifestation of the Lord.

Let us see how the three readings presents Jesus to us:
Prophet Malachi in the first reading prophesied about Jesus as the purifier who was going to purify the people from their sins, “Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as years gone by.” We are the new Judah and new Jerusalem. We are the ones that need to be purified so that our sacrifice can be pleasing to God.

About Jesus, the second reading says, “Through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life…. Therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people.” Jesus has the power to save us from the devil and spiritual death. He purifies us from our sins.

In the Gospel Simeon called Jesus a light for the revelation of the Gentiles and the glory for … Israel. Anna spoke of Jesus as the redeemer of Jerusalem. Jesus is our light, glory and redeemer.

There is something more to learn from Simeon’s and Anna’s relationship with God. Simeon remained “righteous and devout” till his ripe old age. Anna “never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” God rewarded them by revealing Jesus to them when he was born. This encourages us not to relent in our effort to have close and life lasting relationship with God, by being righteous and devout, by fasting and prayer, and never leave the temple. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” In other words, “Be present to God and he will be present to you.” Psalm 91:1, 14-16 assures us, “You who dwell in the shelter [temple] of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty … Because you cling to me I will deliver you; because you know my name I will set you on high. You will call upon me and I will answer; I will be with you in distress; I will deliver you and give you honor. With length of days I will satisfy you, and fill you with my saving power.”

Simeon and Anna recognized Jesus in the temple, let us pray that we, too, may be able to recognize the presence Jesus in the Eucharist, in our prayers, in one another, and in our experiences. Amen.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP