Sunday, March 26, 2023

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP Homily of Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A, 2023 Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130:1-8; Romans 8:8-11; John 1-45

Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130:1-8; Romans 8:8-11; John 1-45 Next Sunday is Palm Sunday. How is your Lenten journey going? Have you fulfilled the Lenten obligations of Repentance (Confession), Almsgiving (works of charity), Fasting and Abstinence, and Prayer? The first reading was Ezekiel’s prophecy to the people of Israel while they were in exile in Babylon. They had resigned to hopelessness that they would never be free and would never return to their homeland. Ezekiel was one of the prophets God sent to give hope to the people. The images Ezekiel used to describe the people’s situation, as we see in the reading, are death and grave. Ezekiel then prophesied spirit, life, and restoration. Ezekiel prophesied, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them… I will put my spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you upon your land…” This prophecy was fulfilled in about 597 BC when King Cyrus of Persia released the people of Israel to return to their land (Ezra 1:1-11). In the gospel, Lazarus was dead and was four days in the grave. He was brought back to life by Jesus. It was a hopeless case before Jesus arrived. When Jesus was told that Lazarus was ill, he did not proceed immediately to visit Lazarus. It took him four days before he arrived at the home of Mary and Martha. Jesus ordered, “Take away the stone.” He commanded, “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus came out with hand and foot tied with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. Finally, Jesus ordered, “Untie him and let him go.” The Israelites were seventy years in Babylon before they got their freedom. Lazarus was four days in the grave before Jesus brought him back to life. This means that sometimes, difficult times can last for a while. Sometimes, according to God’s divine will, it takes a while before we receive what we pray for. Therefore, during difficult times, and when we have not received what we pray for, we are encouraged to stand strong in faith and persevere in prayer. Jesus promises in Matthew 24:13, “The one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” May our faith and prayer move ‘mountains’ and uproot ‘mulberry trees.’ Amen. The Israelites never believed that there was hope for them to return to their homeland. But when it was God’s time, it came very fast and with unexpected blessings. The people of Israel did not fight for their freedom, and they left Babylon with so much gold and silver to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Following the decree issued by King Cyrus, the Babylonians provided the Israelites with silver and gold, goods and livestock, and freewill offerings for the temple. In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and silver (Ezra 1:6-11). Also, in the gospel, nobody could have imagined that Lazarus would live again having been buried for four days, but Jesus brought him back to life. “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:6). God speaks to us through Prophet Ezekiel, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them … I have promised and, I will do it.” There is a helpful connection between the gospel of last Sunday and the gospel of today. Last Sunday, we read, ‘“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 9:3). Today, we read, ‘“Master, the one you love is ill.’ When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified through it’” (John 11:4). As people of faith, we pray that our unpleasant situation turns around to be a blessing in disguise. May the works of God be made visible and God be glorified through our unpleasant situation. Amen. The Israelites were under the yoke of slavery in Babylon. Lazarus was dead and, in the grave, covered by a stone. He was bound hand and foot, and his face wrapped in a cloth. We may have our kind of yoke enslaving us; we may be experiencing the sting of death and feeling like being in the grave; we may be feeling like we are weighed down by a large stone; we may be feeling like tied by hand and foot; we may be feeling like our face is wrapped in a cloth. As St. Paul prayed in the second reading, may the Spirit of the One who raised Christ from the dead give life to our mortal bodies. May the Spirit of the One who raised Christ from the dead break our yokes, raise us up from our graves, remove the stones weighing upon us, untie us, and set us free. Amen. Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, December 23, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for Christmas Year A- December 25, 2022

Homily of Christmas, 2022

Isaiah 9:1-6, Psalm 96:1-3, 11-13; Titus:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

Christmas celebration is the most festive time of the world. While Christians celebrate the commemoration of the birth of Jesus, the effects of the celebration are felt all over the world.

The word ‘Christmas’ originates from the Latin phrase 'Cristes Maesse,' meaning Christ’s Mass.

In the 1960s and 1970s, when I was a child and growing up and Christmas was approaching, the children looked forward to new clothes and shoes which we would wear to attend Mass on Christmas day. The new clothes and shoes were very precious to us. I still remember the excitement of the expectation of Christmas day, and the joy of wearing my Christmas clothes and shoes. Christmas day meals were, also, special. The newness Christmas brought was impressive and remarkable. Now, as an adult, my attention is no longer on new clothes and shoes, and special meals. Rather, my attention is on the spiritual newness the commemoration of the birth of Christ brings. We pray to receive the precious spiritual gifts this Christmas brings to launch us into the new year.

Mary and Joseph travelled 100 miles (161 kilometers), a four-day journey, on foot, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to register at the census which was ordered by Quirinus, the Roman governor. Scripture tells us that there was no inn for them to lodge in. Therefore, they went to a shed on a farm where Mary gave birth to Jesus. “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7). We pray for the grace of acceptance, perseverance, and thoughtfulness like Mary and Joseph.

Jesus was born in an animals’ shed because human beings could not provide an inn for Mary and Joseph. The commemoration of the birth of Jesus is our opportunity to provide an inn for Jesus to be born again in our life.

The best way to celebrate Christmas is when we embrace the message of peace Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gives to us at Christmas. We have resumed the Gloria from Christmas Vigil Mass; “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill;” first sung by the angels at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:14).  The angels make it clear who receives the peace; “people of goodwill;” not people of bad will. ‘“There is no peace for the wicked,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 48:22).  We pray to become people of goodwill so that we may receive Jesus’ peace in our hearts, homes, Churches, neighborhoods, communities, countries, and the world, especially the places experiencing violence and war.

Pope Francis gave a beautiful message on Christmas in 2017 which can help in our reflection.

Christmas is You:

"Christmas is usually a noisy party: we could use a bit of silence to hear the voice of Love.

Christmas is you, when you decide to be born again each day and let God into your soul.

The Christmas pine is you, when you resist vigorous winds and difficulties of life.

The Christmas decorations are you, when your virtues are colors that adorn your life.

The Christmas bell is you, when you call, gather, and seek to unite.

You are also a Christmas light, when you illuminate with your life the path of others with kindness, patience, joy, and generosity.

The Christmas angels are you, when you sing to the world a message of peace, justice, and love.

The Christmas star is you, when you lead someone to meet the Lord.

You are also the wise men, when you give the best you have, no matter who.

Christmas music is you when you conquer the harmony within you.

The Christmas gift is you, when you are truly friend and brother of every human being.

The Christmas card is you, when kindness is written in your hands.

The Christmas greeting is you, when you forgive and reestablish peace, even when you suffer.

The Christmas dinner is you, when you give bread and hope to the poor man who is by your side.

You are, yes, Christmas night, when humble and conscious, you receive in the silence of the night the Savior of the world without noise or great celebrations; you are a smile of trust and tenderness, in the inner peace of a perennial Christmas that establishes the Kingdom within you.

A very Merry Christmas for all those who look like Christmas."

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, November 11, 2022

November 13, 2022; 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year (C)


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


Why Are You Afraid of Dying?

1.    It is reasonable to say that those who are afraid of dying never lived well or to the fullest. This would mean that we have not been able to do all that we planned to do or accomplish all that God intended for us to achieve before our demise. The Bible warns, “But the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the honorable age comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years. Rather, understanding is the hoary crown for men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age.” (Wisdom 4:7-9). It doesn’t matter when we die, but that we lived well and left a legacy for others. Our life must give meaning to others. Hence St. Paul reminds us, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord.”(Rom. 14:7-8) The question then is, “Why are we afraid of dying?” What would you do if you were told you would die today? I am sure you would do everything you can to stop yourself from dying. But why would you postpone doing good till the end? Today’s readings address the end time and the four last things: Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell. The first reading states: “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 predicted the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which 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.” The temple was indeed destroyed seven years after the prediction. 


2.    We are often mesmerized by monumental and imposing structures of churches, basilicas, temples, cathedrals, and buildings of worship in this and other countries of the world. I often wonder whether those structures reflect the builders’ intention – raise people’s minds and hearts to God and make them reflect on the divine and heavenly realities. Did the temple Christ lament over 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). The temple did not represent what it was meant for, a house of prayer, a place to communicate with God and be at home with him and his sons and daughters. They had turned it into exclusive use for their selfish purpose. They had basically driven God out of his house. God’s house had become a market square. There were many cases of abuse in that temple, even as it looked beautiful and well-adorned both in and out. The time had come for them to pay the price for their recklessness. Punishment and destruction await those who do not make use of the opportunity God has given them to do what is right. The day will come, blazing like a furnace, to consume those who are hellbent on doing evil. 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 and in truth? Do we lack forgiveness, compassion, and mercy within the house of God? Do we welcome all who come to worship God, regardless of status, clout, race, or appearance? Is this why our Church is empty? What have we done wrong? What must we do differently? Should we fold our arms, walk away from our Church, and allow it to be closed? What is Christ saying to us about our Church and its future?


3.    Maybe we have erected some structures for ourselves that make it difficult to surrender to God. Academic achievements make us look down on others; our jobs have become our God, so we have no time for God and Church. Our social status could make it a challenge to be open to others. Pride can prevent us from seeing God and others. It may have taken us years to accumulate wealth, build our empire, construct our temple, and attend to our social status. Still, if we do not see Christ in them, Christ will say, “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.” When our temples and achievements become so superimposing that people can no longer see God except in and through them, those structures must be destroyed. Our Christian teaching and faith demand that we recognize the presence of God in one another as well as in the temple where God is worshipped. This is the true religion, worshipping God in spirit and in truth.


4.    The readings remind us that our time on earth is short. Christ will come one day soon; therefore, we must be prepared. This knowledge doesn’t mean that Christ is coming today or tomorrow. It could be any day! Therefore, Christ warned, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’  Please do not follow them! Do not be terrified when you hear of wars and insurrections, for such things must happen first, but they will not immediately be the end.” (Lk. 21:8-9). We should, therefore, live our normal lives and be engaged in sporadic acts of kindness. Pray at all times and be committed to your faith. Do not be overanxious about the end; live as if the end is now. Do not be afraid! The day we die is the end of the world for us and the beginning of a new life with God. May God bless us now and always. Amen


Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for The Twenty Ninth- Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - October 16, 2022

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

Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121:1-8; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8

The first reading tells us about the mission before Israel. The mission was to defeat Amalek in order to continue their journey to the Promised Land. We can see the division of labor for the mission. Joshua and the soldiers went to the warfront for the physical battle. Moses and two men climbed to the top of the hill for the spiritual battle. “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses’ hands, however, grew tired; so they took a rock and put it under him and he sat on it. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady until sunset” when Joshua and the Israelites defeated the Amalekites (Exodus 17:11-12).

This event speaks of the power of prayer; and the importance of persistent and enduring prayer. It speaks also of the importance of spiritual warfare to accompany all our material engagements.

St. Augustine puts it this way, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Someone says, “Work hard, but pray harder.” We are encouraged to pray even harder when it appears our prayer has not been granted. Jesus sets an example for us in Luke 22:44, “And in his anguish, he prayed more earnestly…”

Jesus gave a parable in today’s gospel to teach us the importance of persistent and enduring prayer. The widow never gave up appealing to the dishonest judge until she received justice. Jesus assures us, “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).

Jesus gives a similar parable in Luke 11:5-8, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.” The acronym: “P-U-S-H” is well exemplified in the three instances above: Pray, Until Something Happens! 

What is the “Amalek” in your way to your “Promised Land?” Do not be discouraged. Do not give up. Like Moses, “climb to the top of the hill” and keep your “hands raised up” in spiritual battle until the “Amalek” is conquered. Amen. 

Billy Graham says, “A prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian;” in the same manner, St. Jerome says, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us the importance of the sacred Scriptures in everything we do. St. Paul says that it is capable of giving wisdom. “It is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” St. Paul advises us to be competent in it and equip ourselves with it. He continues, “Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” This is to say, witness the Word you read; and be hearers and doers of the Word (James 1:22).


Finally, the sacred Scriptures is a powerful tool for prayer. It is God’s language. Communication between us and God is very effective when we speak his language to him. Therefore, pick up your Bible and empower yourself with it!

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Fr. Augustine Inwang, MSP - Homily for The Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - October 16, 2022

Readings: Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:13-14 4:2; Lk 18:1-18


Pray And Don’t Give Up

1.    In today’s first reading, we see the children of Israel at war with Amalek. Moses took his stand on a great hill and, lifting up his hands, implored God’s aid for his people. Moses had the support of friends to assist him when his hands were tired. We need the help of one another in our prayers. The encouragement we give to others, letting them know that we pray for them, may help them to cultivate a healthy prayer life. In the Gospel, Jesus demonstrated with the story of the unjust judge the need to persist in prayer until the Father hears us. The widow was not discouraged from going to the unjust judge until her demands were met. God, our Father, is not an unjust judge. He is a merciful Father who knows the needs of his children and will always provide for them in His time and in the manner best suited for them.


2.    Our prayers are efficacious and are always answered. Even ‘No’ is an answer to a prayer. Jesus asked us to be persistent in prayer. He did not guarantee that our prayers would be answered in the way and at the time we wanted. He asked for humility and faith but gave no assurance for an instant answer. He promised a reward at the end of persistent prayer, not swift positive favors. He asked for commitment, not empty promises. The faith and commitment requested of us come from bearing trials and persecutions while remaining hopeful and joyful. God’s plans for us will come to pass in His time. It may be delayed but never be denied.


3.    Prayer without movement toward its realization is a waste of time. It is a depletion of helpful energy. God will not do for us what we can and should do for ourselves. If you pray for God’s favor, create favorable conditions around you. A student who did not prepare for a test should not expect a successful outcome just because he prayed for it. He should study and pray to remember what he learned on the test day. Then God will crown his effort with success.


4.    Have faith. St. James says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. That person must not suppose he will receive anything from the Lord since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1: 5-8). Faith and trust in God are necessary ingredients for prayer.


5.    Know what to ask for in prayer. Ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. St. James asks: “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (4:1-4). “If you, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13:). “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8). 


6.    Ask for wisdom. God said to Solomon, “Ask something of me, and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered, “Give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” (Verse 9). The Lord was pleased with Solomon’s request; he gave him wisdom and other things he did not ask for. Be specific in your request, do not ask for too many things at one prayer time. After all, God knows all your needs. Therefore, seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first, and He will provide for all your other needs. (Matt. 6:33).  


7.    Have a forgiving heart. Forgiveness is a condition for a fruitful prayer. Jesus said, “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance so that your heavenly Father may, in turn, forgive you your transgressions?” (Mk. 11:25-26). Isaiah said: “Lo, the hand of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Rather, it is your crimes that separate you from your God. It is your sins that make him hide his face so that he will not hear you” (59:1-2). 


8.    Be patient. Prayers are sometimes answered progressively. When Jesus cured the blind man at Bethsaida, he did not see right away but gradually. “‘Do you see anything?’ he replied, ‘I see people looking like trees and walking’” (Mk. 8:23-26). It was by laying his hands on his eyes a second time that the blind man saw clearly. Be patient and wait on the Lord. Hence, Jesus tells us to pray in ‘Our Father’ for the will of God to be done, not ours. A wise saying has it thus, “Prayer is not a device for getting our wills done through heaven, but a desire that God’s will may be done on earth through us.” Pray and wait for God’s time, not yours. Our prayers are always answered if we know how and what to ask. God is not unjust, He is not unconcerned with our problems, and He is not as far away from us as we may think. Instead, we are the ones who, sometimes, turn away from God and feel He delays in giving an immediate answer to our prayer. Whether we receive a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ answer, know that all prayers are answered. Remember to return to the Lord with thanks. Be blessed! 


Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP