Saturday, November 16, 2019

Fr. Augustine Inwang, MSP - November 17, 2019: Homily for the 33nd Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year (C)

Readings: Malachi 3:19 -20; 2 Thess. 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19

What Would You Do?
What would you do if you were to know that you will die today, this week or next month? I am sure you would make preparations so as to be ready to meet your creator on the day of judgment. You may write your will and give your money away. You may go to confession, or may be, go for a retreat, or make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. These and many other ideas are very good indeed, while you wait. But why would you postpone doing good till the end, with anxiety and the fear of death hanging over your head like the sword of Damocles? 
Our readings today address the end time and the four last things that await us. We know, for a fact, that we will die. When? We know not. We know we will be judged. After judgment, there will be a verdict of heaven or hell. We know these because the bible tells us so. “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:19). In the Gospel, Jesus talked about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem that took 46 years to complete: “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” That temple was indeed destroyed seven years after the prediction.
It seems at times, we have been assuaged by structures without reflecting on why they were built. Did that temple raise people’s minds to God? Probably not. “Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” (Lk. 19:45-46). There were many other abuses going on within that temple, even as it looked very beautiful outside. What about us? Do we always conduct ourselves with decorum in the sacred place designated for the worship of God? We may be proud of our beautiful church, but does it reflect the glory of God? Do we worship God in spirit in and in truth? Are we lacking in forgiveness, compassion and mercy within the house of God? Do we welcome all who come to worship God, regardless of their status, clout, race or appearance? If not, the temple must to be destroyed.
Allow me to reflect with you on the structures we have erected, that may make it difficult to totally surrender to God. What are these structures? It could be our academic achievements that make us look down on others. We may have made our jobs a god, and so we have no time for God. It could be our social status that make it difficult to be open to others. It could be our monumental pride that stands so tall in us that blinds and prevents us from seeing God and others. It may have taken us years to accumulate our wealth, to build our empire, to construct our temple and attend our social status; but if we do not see Christ in them, Christ will say to us “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Fr. John Pichappilly, in ‘Kindle Your Spirit’ wrote “When a temple becomes so superimposing that people are no longer able to see God except in it, the time for its destruction has come. Our faith demands that we recognize the presence of God in the human person as well as in the temple.”
The readings remind us that our time on earth is short. Christ will come one day soon, therefore, we should be prepared. But this knowledge doesn’t mean that Christ’s coming will be today or tomorrow. It could be any day! Unfortunately, some people are so focused on the end of the world, that they even predict the year and the day it will happen. Christ warned, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” (Lk. 21:8-9). Therefore, we should live normal lives, be concerned about the basic things in life – caring for one another, being one another’s keeper; be prayerful and committed to our faith. Let us not worry about the end. It will come when it will come. If we go about our duties as Christians, we need not be afraid. We know that the day we die is the end of the world for us and the beginning of life everlasting with God.
In the second reading, St. Paul urged his listeners to imitate him in their work. Some of them had stopped work believing that the end of the world was imminent. “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.” (2 Thess. 3:6-16). Being over anxious about the end of the world can be a distraction. The end will come whether we like it or not. We do not need to do great and extraordinary things just because we know we will die today or tomorrow and hope to squeeze into heaven at the nick of time. We should be doing great and extraordinary things as a way of life, from the day of our baptism till the day we die. A Christian should be found at his/her duty post 24/7. We do not put on Christianity when it suits us and take it off when it doesn’t.
Though the readings may have painted doom and gloom pictures about the end time; the earthquakes, the ominous signs, wars and insurrections, nations fighting against nations, persecutions, famines and plagues, betrayals and imprisonments, there are words of consolation and assurance for those who do the will of God. We must not be afraid. Fear is for the guilty. Worrying unnecessarily is for those who do not know their destiny or He who controls it. We do not worry about tomorrow because we know tomorrow is in God’s hands. Christians must not follow anyone with questionable predictions. We are not even to give a defense but “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” (Lk. 21:15). The first reading assures us: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” (Malachi 1:20). We must put our trust in the Lord and do his will at all times. According to St. Paul, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. If God is for us, who can be against us?... No, in all things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. …For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:28-39). Christ put it even better “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Lk. 21:19). According to William Barclay, “The man who walks with Christ may lose his life, but he can never lose his soul.” So, let us do what Christ commands us to do. “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Lk. 21:28).
Questions for reflection:
·      What temple have I erected for myself that makes it difficult to worship God
·      Why am I so worried about the end of my life?
·      Do I worship God out of love or because I am afraid of hell?
·      Do I worship God both in his temple and in my brothers and sisters?

“And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day” (Jn. 6:39).

“Don’t forget to pray today because God didn’t forget to wake you up this morning.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - November 17, 2019. Homily for the 33nd Sunday in Ordinary time year C

Homily of Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
The Church’s Liturgical Year ends next Sunday with the celebration of the solemnity of Our Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. As of last Sunday, the readings of this Sunday invite us to continue our reflection on the Christian understanding of the end of our earthly life.
In the first reading, Prophet Malachi re-emphasized some themes that run through the entire Scripture; first, that those who lived wicked lives while on earth would not go unpunished. Prophet Malachi put it in a very gruesome way, “the day that is coming will set them on fire…” Second, for those who lived righteous lives, “there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” Many people do not believe that there is life after death, or there are judgement and reward at the end of earthly life. I consider it foolishness to disregard these themes that run through the entire Scripture. Ordinarily, we believe that our actions have rewards or consequences. It is foolishness, also, to exclude what follows at the end of our earthly life from this principle.  For us who believe the Scripture, since we look towards meeting God at the end of life, and seeing him as he truly is, let us make the effort to live life that will lead us to him.
In the second reading, some Thessalonians misunderstood the meaning of the second coming of Christ. They took the “coming soon of Christ” literally, and for that reason felt that there was no need to work. Since “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop” they were conducting themselves in disorderly ways. St. Paul warned them, “If anyone was unwilling to work, neither should he eat.” Therefore, we believers, while on earth, are to fight good fight, run good race, keep the faith, and wait for the crown of righteousness the Righteous Judge will award us on that day. Not only to us, “but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
In the Gospel, Jesus prophesied about the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem; “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”  This prophesy took place in 70 A.D. The temple represents each one of us and the world. The meaning of the words of Jesus is that at some point in time every life has an end. When we hear about the end of the world, our immediate expectation, however, is not to look forward to the day when the world will come to an end. Our attention, always, need to be on the end of everyone’s life which, as we know, can be at any moment. The important questions are:  Are we fighting good fight? Are we running good race? Are we keeping the faith? St. Paul writes, “So then, each of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
Jesus warned us in the Gospel about the emergence of false prophets and fake pastors who would use the various disasters and afflictions that occur to people and in places as weapons to frighten and terrorize people. Jesus says, “See that you are not deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them….” Nowadays, false prophets and fake pastors are everywhere deceiving, cheating, abusing, extorting and stealing from those who have not heeded Jesus’ warning. Jesus encourages us that afflictions, disasters, and persecution should lead to our giving testimony. Jesus says in the Gospel, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” For those who persevere, trials are channels of salvation.
Unfortunately, some people are reluctant to reflect about death or make some necessary preparations concerning their death. A reality that faces us is that everyone will die, sooner or later. Some people may live a long life. Some people may live a short life. No one is sure what awaits him or her. Therefore, getting oneself ready for this inevitability cannot be over emphasized. Are there records to be made straight? Are there information to be shared? Are there property or money to be allocated? Are there arrangements to be made? Are there issues to be attended to or be resolved? And so on. Physical preparation is, equally, very important so that at the end of one’s life, those left behind are not left in the dark.
The Lord says to each one of us, “‘Behold, I am coming like a thief.’ Blessed is the one who watches and keeps his clothes ready, so that he may not go naked and people see him exposed” (Revelation 16:15).
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Fr. Augustine Inwang, MSP - November 10, 2019: Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year (C)

Readings: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 7, 9-14; 2 Thes.2:16 – 3:5; Lk 20:27-38

Christ’s Resurrection is Our Hope
Our Christian faith has its foundation in the death and resurrection of Christ. His resurrection is a guarantee that all those who died in Christ will be raised at His second coming. St. Paul captures this powerfully thus: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless; indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he raised Christ to life. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.” (1 Cor.15:14-19). Many Christians suffered martyrdom in this world, with the hope, that one day, they will see God face to face, and share his glory in eternity. Christians believe that, though their life began on earth, it will not end here.

The belief in life after death had been expected, hoped for and accepted long before Christ. Because of the hope in the resurrection, people down through the ages, suffered persecution with the hope of a better life after death. St. Paul said “…and if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.” (Rom. 8:11). The Preface for Christian Death prays: “…In him, who rose from the dead, our hope of resurrection dawned. The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.”

It is the hope of the resurrection that is portrayed in the first reading from the Book of Maccabees today. During the reign of the Greek king Antiochus IV, a law was promulgated that made it a crime, punishable by death, for the Jews to practice their religion. Circumcision was forbidden, copies of the law were burned. They were prevented from following their dietary laws, neither were they allowed to celebrate their feasts. They were mandated to worship and offer sacrifices to the Greek gods and goddesses. This brought great distress and persecution to the Jews. Many derailed and offered sacrifices to the pagan gods; they stopped circumcising their sons and ate pork, forbidden by law. Those who disobeyed the king and held on to their faith were put to death.

The book of Maccabees documents those terrible times and the struggle to remain faithful to God in the face of egregious persecution and distress. The first reading describes, in detail, the torture of a heroic woman and her seven sons. They would only worship the living God and refused to obey the king. The hope in the resurrection strengthened their faith. “…We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.” (2 Macc.7:2). To die for their faith was a welcomed invitation to embrace the new life of heaven. They gave reasons why they would die rather than disobey God: “Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the king of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again forever.” “It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.” The mother encouraged her dying sons to be courageous in the face of death: “…prove yourself of your brothers, and make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers’ company.” This family preferred death to a life of shame. They disobeyed the king and chose death so that they may be with God in eternity.

In today’s Gospel the Sadducees confronted Jesus with the question on the resurrection. This was a group of wealthy religious set, like the Pharisees. But unlike the Pharisees, they did not believe in the resurrection from the dead, angels or spirits. For them, only the first five books of Moses was considered as Scripture. They confronted Jesus with a levirate law argument, that states that if a man dies childless, his brother must marry the widow and raise children for the brother (Deuteronomy 25:5). With this law, they demonstrated how ridiculous the concept of the resurrection was. Since seven brothers married a woman and died childless and the woman also died, at the resurrection, who will her husband be? Jesus confounded them with his answer. He met them on their turf, using their argument against them. The life of the resurrection will not be the same as life on earth. We will be like angels. There will be eternal happiness, hence, there will be no need for procreation. Jesus pointed out that from the burning bush, God said: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God Jacob” (Exodus 3:1-6). God is God of the living and not the dead. Though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead, they were alive with God in heaven.

Christ stressed, in His answer to the Sadducees, that marriage and procreation are only for this life and not in the life of heaven. It doesn’t matter whether one is married or single, what matters is our life of devotion to God and of service to one another. How I live today will determine where I will be when I die.

St. Paul, in the second reading, prays “…May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” We are men and women of the resurrection: our homeland is heaven, where God our Father dwells. If we are to spend eternity with God, we must look up to God for a sense of direction. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above; not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3”1-4).

Points to ponder:
·      Are you a person of hope?
·      What have you given up for the sake of heaven?
·      What principles do you live by and be prepared to die for?
·      What are you prepared to sacrifice for the sake of heaven today?
·      You are not alone in your spiritual struggle. You have the Church, the sacraments, the support of one another and a host of angels and saints to pray for you. The Holy Spirit will always guide you to live as God directs.
·      Finally, let us intensify our life of prayer so as to remain resolute and committed to our Christian discipleship. May we persevere till the end so that we may enjoy a life of eternal bliss with God in heaven. Amen.

“And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day” (Jn. 6:39).

“Don’t forget to pray today because God didn’t forget to wake you up this morning