Thursday, February 15, 2024

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B, 2024 BY FR. MARTIN EKE, MSP

Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15

The first reading tells us about God’s covenant with Noah. I think that what Noah did after surviving the flood made possible God’s covenant with him. Scripture says, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and choosing from every clean animal and every clean bird, he offered burnt offerings on the altar. When the Lord smelled the sweet odor, the Lord said to himself: Never again will I curse the ground because of human beings, since the desires of the human heart are evil from youth; nor will I ever again strike down every living being, as I have done. All the days of the earth, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:18-22). Noah did not take his surviving the flood for granted. He built an altar to the Lord and offered a generous sacrifice. Noah’s gratitude, thanksgiving, and putting God first earned him God’s covenant. This teaches us the power of gratitude, thanksgiving, and putting God first. May we be able to offer God sweet smelling sacrifice. May God smell our sacrifice and renew his covenant with us. Amen.


The entire first reading contains details of God’s covenant with Noah.  In the covenant, God says, “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13). In the Old Testament, the bow is a symbol of weapon or an instrument of war. In other words, God is saying, “I hang up my weapon of destruction in the cloud as a sign of my covenant.” God swore to Noah as we have read, “Never again will I … strike down every living being, as I have done” (Genesis 8:21). “… never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth” (Genesis 9:11). On Good Friday, a New Everlasting Covenant is made. Jesus hangs on the Cross as a symbol of forgiveness of sin, mercy, and redemption to humanity. Unlike the bow that symbolizes an instrument of destruction, Jesus symbolizes the instrument of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and redemption.


I still remember the impressive way my catechism teacher, years ago, presented the story of Noah. He said that Noah preached to his people to repent from their sinful life to avert the impending rain and flood; but they did not believe him. They preferred their worldly and sinful life. When the rain and flood came, they all perished. My catechism teacher, rightly, interpreted the words in the second reading, “… God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark” (1 Peter 3:20).


God is, also, waiting patiently for each of us. Jesus warns us in today’s gospel, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Let us not harden our hearts as Noah’s people did. The Lenten Season is one of the special times God invites us to come back to the source of our salvation. It is a season of repentance and a season of grace.


We read from Prophet Joel on Ash Wednesday, “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God (Joel 2:12-13). God declares, “For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies …  Turn back and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32). It is a soul-searching journey. We are invited to turn away from sins and disengage from anything that can bring destruction to life, faith, career, business, finance, family, vocation, position, job, marriage, future, and so on.


In today’s gospel reading, the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, where he was tempted by Satan. Jesus was among wild beasts, but the angels ministered to him. In the same way, our life is a desert. Our afflictions, trials, and temptations are wild beasts. We pray that God sends his angels to minister to us and lead us to victory through it all. Amen.


We conclude with praying Psalm 91:11-13, “For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands, they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You can tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon.” Amen.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

ASH WEDNESDAY, 2024 BY FR. MARTIN EKE, MSP

 Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51:3-6, 12-14, 17; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18


Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten season, 46 days before Easter. However, Lent is 40 days since six Sundays in the season of Lent are not supposed to be fast days and are not counted. Each Sunday is a feast day, a mini-remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection.


The 40 days of Lent represent the 40 years the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land, and the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before his ministry. On our part, our journey and our desert are of REPENTANCE, FASTING, ALMSGIVING, and PRAYER. The first reading invites us, “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God” (Joel 2:12-13).


What is the meaning of the ash? The ash, traditionally, from the burnt palms of last year's Palm Sunday that is marked on our forehead symbolizes contrition and repentance, which is why the day is called Ash Wednesday.


Ash as a sign of contrition and repentance goes back to the Old Testament. Job prayed, “I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). “… the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. … [The king] rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes” (Jonah 3:5-6).


We abstain from meat and food that contains meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as an honor to the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Abstaining from meat is also an act of contrition and penance.


REPENTANCE: When ashes are distributed, the priests or his assistant says; “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). This reminds us where we come from and where we will return. “Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). “For he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14). Do we, ourselves, remember?


Or, the priest or his assistant says, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” This reminds us Jesus’ first words when he began his ministry: “This is a time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15).


ALMSGIVING: Gifts from God are not only meant for us. God gives them to us to share with others, especially with the needy. Lenten observance must include works of charity. “Prayer with fasting is good. Almsgiving with righteousness is better than wealth with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold, for almsgiving saves from death, and purges all sin.” (Tobit 12:8-10).


FASTING: There are reasons for Lenten fasting. It is a way of prayer as Jesus did (Matthew 4:2). It is a way of penance and repentance as the people of Nineveh did. It is a way of sacrifice and self-denial. Fasting is not only from food and depriving ourselves of necessities, it includes, as Pope Francis advises, our attitudes. He says,  

• Fast from hurting words and say kind words.

• Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.

• Fast from anger and be filled with patience.

• Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.

• Fast from worries and have trust in God.

• Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.

• Fast from pressures and be prayerful.

• Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.

• Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.

• Fast from grudges and be reconciled.

• Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.


PRAYER: Why do we have to pray? We are not self-sufficient; we depend on God. Beyond praying for material things, we pray and look to God for our spiritual well-being and solidity. Further, prayer drives away the Evil One and his agents. “… his disciples asked him in private, “Why could we not drive it out? He said to them, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer’” (Mark 9:29). Jesus cautioned Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). He also cautioned his disciples, “Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).


In addition to other spiritual duties and exercises, we are encouraged to attend Stations of the Cross, Lenten Retreat, Penitential Service, and Sacrament of Reconciliation. Again, from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, we are invited to make a journey of REPENTANCE, FASTING, ALMSGIVING, and PRAYER. We are invited to a journey of faith and spiritual renewal.


We pray for a Spirit-filled and a fruitful Lenten season. Amen.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B, 2024 BY FR. MARTIN EKE, MSP

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45

The first reading is from the Book of Leviticus. The book is mainly about the Levites’ priestly ministry. At that time, priests were from the tribe of Levi. The book deals with functions and concerns of priests and rituals, and spiritual rules and regulations for priests and the people.


In the first reading are some regulations and responsibility of priests concerning the disease of leprosy. It was the responsibility of priests to declare a person leprous and unclean. Anyone declared leprous by the priest “shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp” (Leviticus 12:46).


The leprous “shall keep his garment rent and head bare, and muffle his beard;” and shout “unclean, unclean” should he come by people (Leviticus 13:44-46). By so doing, the leprous alerted the people to give way so as not to be made ‘unclean.’ Leviticus 5:3 instructs, “If someone … touches some human uncleanness, whatever kind of uncleanness this may be, subsequently becomes unclean.”


There were two reasons why the Jews kept lepers apart from the community. First, the disease was quite contagious. Second, the Jews believed that those who suffered the disease were sinners (physically and spiritually unclean) and were being punished by God.


Leprosy was a dangerous disease. It mercilessly chops off part of the body; toes, fingers, ear blades, lips, eyelashes, and so on. It hardens the parts of the body it affects in such a way that it renders medication ineffective. Not only among the Jews, but also around the world, the disease was dreaded, and sufferers were isolated. A Catholic priest, St. Damien de Veuster, who became known as St. Damien the Leper lived and worked in a leper colony in Hawaii (USA). He contracted the disease and died in 1889. Despite the advanced medical treatment of the disease, leper colonies still exit today in various parts of the world.


How did the leper in today’s gospel hear about Jesus and his healing power since he was supposed to live in a lepers’ colony? Did the other lepers in the colony not hear about Jesus? Maybe they did but chose to remain in their condition. How did he find out where Jesus was? He did something extraordinary and dramatic. He broke all Jewish restricting rules and regulations. He broke away from the colony and from hopelessness and made his way to Jesus, probably shouting “unclean,” “unclean” as he went. The crowd might have dispersed and stood far away as he approached. He got to where Jesus was, perhaps alone with Jesus, knelt down and begged him to make him clean. Moved with pity, Jesus touched him and healed him.


There are people who must break away from ‘the leprosy’ which has colonized them and kept them in bondage and in captivity. Most times, independence or freedom of the colonized is achieved by refusing to remain colonized. The leper’s story reminds us of the prodigal son who came to his senses and left the pigs farm and returned to his father (Luke 15:11-32). We need to come to our senses and ask ourselves some sincere questions. “What is my leprosy?” “What has colonized me and taken away my freedom?” We need to identify our leprosy and come to Jesus for liberation and freedom.


In one way or another, we are all spiritually leprous. As leprosy deforms and disfigures its victims, our sins deform and disfigure us. As leprosy hardens the skin and renders medication ineffective, our hearts are hardened by our sins, addictions, attitudes, and lifestyle, making the word of God unable to penetrate us. But Jesus treats us with pity when we come to him. He forgives us and heals us. The leper, isolated in a colony, heard about Jesus and his healing power and came looking for Jesus. This leper is a challenge to us.


It was the priest that declared a leprous unclean (Leviticus 13:8); and it was the priest that declared a person clean when the person was healed from leprosy (Leviticus 13:17). In today’s gospel, Jesus says to the leper, “… go, show yourself to the priest …” (Mark 1:44). These passages are not mere coincidence. The passages are some of the biblical foundations of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We show ourselves to the priest at the Sacrament of Reconciliation in humble obedience to Jesus. And the priest, in the name and authority of Jesus and the Church, declares us ‘clean.’   


Lastly, are there people we treat as if they are lepers? Are there people we despise, ostracize, exclude, and discriminate against? Are there people we label ‘unclean’ and avoid them? We cannot be desiring to be close to God while we, resentfully, distance ourselves from our fellow human beings. St. Paul advises us in the second reading, “… whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense, whether Jew or Greek or the Church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32). Let us ask God the grace of giving love to one another instead of giving offense and the grace to do all things for his glory. Amen.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B, 2024 BY FR. MARTIN EKE, MSP

Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147:1-6; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39

The Jews believed that suffering was punishment for sin and for sinners. That was why Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him’” (John 9:2-3).


The first reading is from the Book of Job. The book was a spiritual treatise written for the Jews to correct the wrong belief that suffering is punishment for sin and for sinners. It is a story of an upright man, Job, who went through terrible suffering, yet he remained faithful to God.


In the first reading, Job lamented, “So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. … I shall not see happiness again” (Job 7:3, 7). Many people, due to their afflictions, can identify with Job’s suffering and lamentation. It is helpful, also, to identify with Job’s faith.


Not only that Job was tempted by Satan, he was, also, tempted by those who should have stood by him and encouraged him. “Then his wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as foolish women do. We accept good things from God; should we not accept evil?’” (Job 2:9-10). A great profession of faith!


Job’s friends, who came to visit him, were convinced that Job’s calamity was because of his iniquities. One of them accused him, “Reflect now, what innocent person perishes. Where are the upright destroyed? …” (Job 4:7). In other words, “You are not innocent. You are not upright. That is why you are suffering.” Job remained firm and said to his friends, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him” (Job 13:15). Again, a great profession of faith!


Job 32:1 says that Job’s firmness and words silenced his friends! “Then the three men ceased to answer Job, because in his own eyes he was in the right.” I believe that Job, also, silenced his wife because it is not recorded that she uttered any other word. Like Job, let us silence our adversaries and accusers with faith and firmness. However, it is important to note, “Through all this, Job did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10).


Many people lose their faith during trials and temptations, either by seeking ungodly solutions to their sufferings or by getting angry with God and separating themselves from him. But, the story teaches us to remain faithful to God during all trials and temptations as Job did. Job received a double reward from God for his faithfulness. “The Lord even gave to Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). Job’s story teaches that there is a reward for faithfulness. Like Job, let us remain firm, keep faith, and trust in God; and wait for a double reward.


Jesus did not promise heaven on earth to his disciples or to us. Rather, he says, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). May God’s works be made visible through our sufferings, as Jesus promises us. Amen.


In the second reading, St. Paul addresses another kind of faithfulness; and that is faithful stewardship. He uses himself as an example, “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me and woe to me if I do not preach it!  I have been entrusted with a stewardship. … I have become all things to all …” (1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23). Our call to stewardship may be in the church or in the society. Wherever we are called, we are invited to imitate St. Paul’s conviction, disposition, and faithfulness.


In today’s gospel, Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, who had fever and cured many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. Jesus did all the miracles as the result of the people’s faith in him. “Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. *They immediately told him about her.* He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” “When it was evening, after sunset, *they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door.* He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons” (Mark 1:29-34).


 Let us, therefore,  *immediately*  tell Jesus about our *fever* , and  *gather at [his] door,*  and bring all our illnesses and possessions to him to heal us and deliver us. Today’s Psalm says, “The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem, and gathers the dispersed of Israel, healing the brokenhearted, and binding up their wounds” (Psalm 147:2-3). May these words be fulfilled for you and for me. Amen.


Friday, January 26, 2024

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B, 2024 BY FR. MARTIN EKE, MSP

Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28

The first reading is from the Book of Deuteronomy. The Book of Deuteronomy is a compilation of teachings, directives, and instructions from Moses, and God’s laws in the previous books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers) that were to guide the people of Israel as they journey to the Promised Land and when they arrive at and settle in the Promised Land. The Book of Deuteronomy is referred to as “second law” or “second copy of the law” (Greek: 'deuteros' – second + 'nomos' – law). Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, so to speak, contain the ‘first law.’


In Deuteronomy chapter 18, verses 9 and 14, Moses instructs the people, “When you come into the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abominations of the nations there.” “Although these nations whom you are about to dispossess listen to their soothsayers and diviners, the Lord, your God, will not permit you to do so.”


In the first reading, Deuteronomy 18:19, Moses spoke to the people what God said to him: “And the Lord said to me… ‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all I command him.’” This statement was a prophecy about the coming of Jesus Christ. And when Jesus arrived, and during his transfiguration, God declared, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him” (Luke 9:35).


Today’s gospel is a fulfilment of the first reading. Jesus taught with authority to his people and expelled unclean spirits. He is doing the same today. There is power and authority in his name and his word. “There is power in the name of Jesus, to break every chain, to break every chain, to break e-v-e-r-y chaa—iaan” (Song by originally written by Will Reagan). 


The unclean spirits know Jesus and recognize power. The unclean spirits who encountered Jesus in the gospel cried out, “… Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.” As Christians, do we know Jesus? Do we recognize his power? Many Christians need to humbly admit that the unclean spirits have good something to teach them today!


Deuteronomy 18:19 warns, “Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.” We are reminded today “not to learn to imitate the abominations of the nations” which have been accepted and practiced, promoted and amplified by godless and Christ-less “soothsayers and diviners” in the form of social and news media, institutions, groups, cultures, politics, economies, psychologies, philosophies, religions, beliefs, theories, ideologies, and so on.


Further, the first reading warns, “But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:20). We know about many false prophets who speak presumptuously and false prophets who speak in the name of “other gods.” We know false prophets who commit all kinds of atrocities and deceive vulnerable and gullible people. God’s judgement is upon them. Jesus says, “False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘He is in the desert,’ do not go out there; if they say, ‘He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it” (Matthew 24:24-26). Those who are deaf to Jesus’ words will continue to be deceived.


The second reading (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) is a continuation of last Sunday’s second reading (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). What we have, who we are, our relationships, and things of this world must not distract us from “adherence to the Lord.” St. Paul encourages us to be free from anxieties (1 Corinthians 7:32). Are we encumbered with anxieties, and do we have a distracted and divided relationship with God?


In the gospel, “All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him’” (Mark 1:27). As Jesus’ followers, we are supposed to have a share of his authority. Jesus promises us, “Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you” (Luke 10:19). What has happened to the authority given to me through God’s words and the Sacraments I have received? Do I still have it, or have I lost it? Who now commands the other? Do I command the unclean spirits, or do the unclean spirits command me?


As we begin a new year, let us surrender our anxieties, distractions, possessions, and uncleanness to Jesus to deliver us. Let us revive or reclaim the authority of believers given to us. Let us reestablish an undivided relationship with God. 

Friday, January 19, 2024

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B, 2024 BY FR. MARTIN EKE, MSP

 Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Corinthians 7:29:31; Mark 1:14-20

The story of Prophet Jonah, his mission in Nineveh, and the repentance of the people of Nineveh was an illustration to the people of Israel when they returned from the Babylonian captivity. It was an example of the type of repentance that God required of the people of Israel. God used a non-Jewish people as an example for the Israelites. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, an unfriendly country to Israel. This seems to give an insight as to why Jonah resisted God’s call to go to Nineveh to prophecy to them. However, he was forced to go by the means of the fish that swallowed him and dropped him off the coast of Nineveh. And when the people of Nineveh repented and God cancelled the threat of destroying them, Jonah was angry. It appears that Jonah wanted to see the enemies of Israel destroyed. He did not understand God’s plan. Surely, God’s thoughts are not human’s thoughts, neither his ways human’s ways (Isaiah 55:8). Like Jonah, sometimes, we resist God’s way and prefer our own way.


In the first reading, Jonah announced to the people of Nineveh, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” The reading continues, “When the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.” This reading is a warning call for some people. There are people who must change their way of life now or they ruin themselves. St. Paul warns in the second reading, “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.” The first reading shows us how great God’s mercy is. God forgave the people of Nineveh as soon as they believed in him and turned from their evil way. In the same way, God erases our sinful past and rescues us from the bondage of our ugly past as soon as we repent, believe in him, turn to him, and surrender to him.


St. Paul warns in the second reading, “From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully.” This warning to the Corinthians was because at that time followers of Christ thought that the second coming of Christ was imminent. St. Paul taught the Corinthians that since “the time is running out” and “the world in its present form is passing away,” nothing else should matter to anyone except “adherence to the Lord without distraction” (1 Corinthians 7:35).


This reading speaks to us in a special way. Each person’s world is passing away. It may be sooner or later. Since no one is sure the time of his or her passing away, we are warned to prepare to meet our God any time he calls us. Martin Heidegger is quoted as saying, “As soon as we are born, we are old enough to die.” Jesus says in the gospel, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” This is a reality that poverty, riches, or any condition must not distract us.


Today’s gospel is St. Mark’s account of the call of Simon, Andrew, James and John. They were fishermen. When Jesus called them, they left everything and followed him. Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). We, therefore, pray that more men and women may “abandon their nets,” “their father Zebedee in the boat along with hired men” and become “fishers of men and women.”


Finally, this Sunday, like last Sunday, is about God’s call. For some of us, it may be a warning call to repentance. For some of us, it may be a call to let go. For some of us, it may be a call to new perspective. For some of us, it may be a call to a vocation. For some of us, it may be a call to a responsibility. For some of us, it may be a call to a new height. For some of us, it may be a call to a good cause. For some of us, it may be a call to eternity. Whatever the call is, it is time to stop running like Jonah (Jonah 1:3). It is time to abandon nets, father, and hired men (Mark 1:18, 20). The time of fulfillment has come (Mark 1:14). May God’s grace be sufficient for us to respond positively and generously. And may we follow where He leads. Amen.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B, 2024 BY FR. MARTIN EKE, MSP

1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; Psalm 40, 2, 4, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42


The first reading tells us the story of the call of young Samuel. The second reading is a call to a life of holiness. The gospel reading is about the call of three disciples of Jesus. It is not a mere coincidence that the theme of our celebration and reflection, after the Christmas season, is God’s invitation to us to discipleship. We received so much from the Advent and Christmas Seasons. Now, in the Ordinary Time of the Church’s calendar and in the first month of the new year, is the time to put the graces we received into action.


In the first reading, we see that God did not give up calling Samuel until Samuel answered him. In the same way, God does not give up on us. He continues to send his Spirit to minister to our hearts. We pray for the grace to respond positively to God’s call as Samuel did. Samuel, finally, replied, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” The reading concludes, “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” When we respond positively to God’s call, the result is an intimate relationship with him. Then, we will grow in him, he will be with us, and our words and our actions will have positive effects.


Eli’s patience is amazing! If my steward woke me up three times through the night asking whether I called him, I would be worried that he was hallucinating. Eli teaches us how to be patient during the times we have to go over and over issues we presumed had been resolved. We pray for parents, teachers, vocation directors, spiritual directors, formators, catechists, and pastors of souls that they have the patience, understanding, and wisdom their calling and responsibilities require.


The second reading calls us to a life of holiness. In the reading, St. Paul reminds us that our bodies are members of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit purchased at a price, which is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The current sexual liberation whereby sexual appeal and pleasure are the targets gives little or no regard to moral righteousness. There is so much promotion of sexual appeal and pleasure in adverts, attires, songs, movies, videos, cartoons, books, media outlets, and so on. Even if the world seems to have become comfortable with some unspeakable sexual exhibitions and displays, for us believers, it must not be so. Do we avoid preaching against sexual sins so as not to make the hearers uncomfortable or so as not to offend the world? No. Jesus tells us that although we are in the world, we are not of the world (John 15:19; John 17:14-16). St. Paul writes, “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient” (2 Timothy 4:2).


In today’s gospel, John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God to Andrew and another disciple of his. The two left John and became disciples of Jesus. Later, Andrew “found his own brother, Simon, and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’…  Then he brought him to Jesus.” John the Baptist and Andrew teach us to show Jesus to others and bring them to him. We do this by our words and actions.


I imagine that Simon must have, proudly, attributed what he became – the leader of the apostles and the first pope - to his brother, Andrew, who took him to Jesus. Is it not to God’s glory if someone attributes his or her blessings to your help? There are instances where people deny help to those they could have helped because they do not want those people’s progress or success.


Someone writes:

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

When we give of ourselves, nothing is truly lost.

When one candle lights another, its light is not diminished.

In fact, the light given off together is greater than the light of one.”


A candle diminishes and disappears as it burns. That is how our life is. Every day, we diminish like a burning candle. It is only a matter of time, we will disappear, and our light goes out. So, let us pass on our light and light up other human candles before we disappear and our light goes out.


To conclude, as God calls us to various vocations, responsibilities, and to repentance, many other voices from the world and the Evil One call us too. The voices from the world and the Evil One are usually voices of discouragement and distraction. We pray for the grace to hear God’s call and the grace to respond like Samuel, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 


When He calls me, I will answer,

When He calls me, I will answer,

When He calls me, I will answer;

I'll be somewhere list'ning for my name.

I'll be somewhere list'ning,

I'll be somewhere list'ning,

I'll be somewhere list'ning for my name.

Oh, I'll be somewhere list'ning,

I'll be somewhere list'ning,

I'll be somewhere list'ning for my name. (Song by Edurado J. Lango)