Saturday, 28 March 2015

Reflection/Homily: Palm/Passion Sunday – Year B (March 29 2015)

Reflection/Homily: Palm/Passion Sunday – Year B (March 29 2015)
Theme: The Painful Betrayal of a Friend

In the Shakespearean classic, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare narrated the betrayal of Julius Caesar by his best friend Marcus Brutus. In that tragic play, Brutus was tricked into joining a team of conspirators who wanted to kill Julius Caesar. On the fateful day of Caesar’s assassination at the Capitol, he was stabbed in the back by his murderers but the stab from Brutus came as a very big shock to him. He felt betrayed by a friend and was disposed to defeat. Shocked at the betrayal by his friend Brutus, Caesar died with the words “Et tu Brute?” (and you Brutus?) on his lips. You may have had similar personal experiences of betrayal by a trusted friend. Perhaps, a friend betrayed your love, or betrayed you in a business plan or in school or at work. These are usually very painful and traumatic experiences. In the light of our personal experiences of betrayal by a trusted friend, we can better understand the agony Christ went through in today’s passion narrative (Mt. 26:14-66 or 27:11-54). Judas, one of the closest friends of Jesus conspired with the Chief priests to hand Jesus over to them at the cost of thirty pieces of silver. Perhaps, he thought Jesus would miraculously escape as he had always done, but the whole drama became clear to him only when Jesus was taken away to be crucified. His inordinate love for money led him to betray his master. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Bishop Malachy John Goltok of Bauchi Diocese is Dead

Barely a month after the interment of the former Catholic Bishop of Aba Diocese, Most Rev. Vincent Ezeonyia CSSp, the Catholic Church in Nigeria has lost another young and vibrant Bishop to the cold hands of death. His Lordship, Most Rev. Malachy John Goltok, the Catholic Bishop of Bauchi diocese, lost his over one month of battle against cancer of the throat when he gave up at the wee hours of Saturday March 21 2015. Until his death which occurred at the age of 49, he was a very dedicated and vibrant Bishop. 

The Bauchi Diocesan Chancellor and Secretary to the Late Bishop, Rev. Fr. Andrew Batare confirmed the unfortunate incident and revealed that the Late Bishop was given adequate medical attention at Our Lady of Apostles Hospital Jos before his demise. According to him, the late Bishop was due to celebrate his 50th birthday in July and his 25th Priestly Ordination anniversary in November. In a Press Release signed by Fr Justine John Dyikuk for the Director of Social Communications, Bauchi Diocese, a vigil Mass will be celebrated in honour of the deceased Bishop on Wednesday March 25 2015 at 6pm at St. John’s Cathedral Bauchi while his Funeral Mass will hold on Thursday March 26 2015 at 10pm in the Cathedral Church.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Reflection/Homily: Fifth (5th) Sunday of Lent Year B (March 22 2015)

Reflection/Homily: Fifth (5th) Sunday of Lent Year B (March 22 2015)
Theme: The Christian Cross as a Gateway to Heaven
In life, most times we desire good things but sometimes, we are unable to pass through crucibles in other to get them. For example, many students dream of graduating with first class honours but only a few are really burning extra candles. Some of us forget that hard work is a necessary condition for a great achievement. In the gospel reading (John 12:20-33), Jesus reiterates this principle that nothing good comes easy. He uses the analogy of the sown wheat to demonstrate that to redeem man, he must die and for us to gain eternal life, we must also die just as a sown wheat must die in the ground before it yields a rich harvest. The problem is that most of us are reluctant to work hard. This reluctance is found in our physical and spiritual lives. Sometimes, we want this or that from God but we can’t kneel in prayer to get them. We want to go to heaven but we can’t do good and avoid evil. We want to be exceptionally spiritually gifted but we can’t work hard to develop these spiritual gifts, etc.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Pope Francis declares a Holy Year for Mercy

During his homily for a Lenten penitential service, Pope Francis announced an extraordinary Jubilee to start at the end of the year, which will be dedicated to a theme close to the pontiff’s heart: mercy.“Dear brothers and sisters, I have thought about how the Church can make clear its mission of being a witness of mercy,” the Pope told attendees of his March 13 penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica. “It's a journey that starts with a spiritual conversion. For this reason I have decided to declare an Extraordinary Jubilee that has the mercy of God at its center. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy.”The biblical passage for the Holy Year's theme is from Luke Chapter 6 verse 36, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” “I am convinced that the whole Church will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and making fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and every woman of our time,” Francis said, and entrusted the Holy Year to Mary, Mother of Mercy. Pope Francis made his announcement during a penitential liturgy opening the second “24 Hours for the Lord” event, which he originally called for in Lent of last year.

“My Time at the Vatican may be Short” – Pope Francis

In an interview Pope Francis granted to the Mexican broadcaster Televisa on the second anniversary of his unexpected election, Pope Francis said his time as the head of the Roman Catholic Church will be brief. Pope Francis said he misses the relative anonymity he had as a bishop. As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, "He also said he doesn't mind being pope, but would like to go out in Rome unrecognized, for a pizza." Pope Francis said, “I have a sensation that my pontificate will be short: four or five years, or two or three.” "'I feel the Lord, the pope added, “has placed me here for a short time.” Pope Francis also praised his predecessor's decision to resign as courageous. Pope Benedict's decision, the pope said, opened the door to popes emeritus. Pope Francis also focused on one of his favorite themes, denouncing what he called the injustice of wealth, saying it's a mortal sin to give someone an unjust salary or for the rich to take advantage of the poor.

Later in the day, Pope Francis announced a special jubilee year starting in December to focus the Church on its main priority: mercy. Remembering the week that he was named pope, Francis said he had packed only a small suitcase for his trip to the Vatican, and he had already written a homily to deliver on Palm Sunday, after returning to Argentina. "He was not on any list of eligible candidates and neither had the thought entered his mind," according to the Vatican News agency. " Discussing the idea that he would only remain pope for a short while, Francis said, "It is a somewhat vague sensation. Maybe it's like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won't be disappointed, and if he wins, is happy. I do not know."

A Short Stations of the Cross

1st Station: Jesus is condemned to death – O my Jesus, you were condemned for my sake and most often I still condemn you through the evil I do, help me with your grace never to condemn you again and when people condemn me or rain all sorts of abuses on me just because of you, help me to stand firm.
2nd Station: Jesus carries his cross – My dying Jesus, I understand the weight of the cross to be the weight of my sins, help me to carry my own cross patiently following your example.
3rd Station: Jesus falls the first time – My most beloved Jesus, by virtue of your first fall help me to overcome the sins of the flesh which make me fall away from your grace.

Reflection/Homily: Fourth (4th) Sunday of Lent Year B (March 15 2015)

Reflection/Homily: Fourth (4th) Sunday of Lent Year B (March 15 2015)
Theme: God’s Immeasurable Love for Humanity
Today’s readings challenge us to reflect on God’s immeasurable love for humanity and its implications for us. In the first reading (2 Chr. 36:14-16, 19-23), the Israelites with their political and religious leaders all rebelled against God and defiled God’s dwelling place. Out of love for them, God constantly sent messengers to direct and teach them but their messages were treated with scorn. God did not abandon them but He kept on watching them as they neglected His Love and wallowed in sin. Being vulnerable for being outside of God’s love, they were attacked and taken into captivity by the Babylonians. When they suffered and learnt their lessons, God had to intervene because of the love He had for them by raising up a king who will proclaim their liberty, offer them treasures and help them rebuild the Temple as we see in Ezra chapter 1.
The second reading (Eph 2:4-10), also confirms this love of God not just for the Israelites alone but for all of us. It says that because of God’s love for us, He was generous to us with His mercy, to the extent that even when we were spiritually dead because of our sins, He had to look for us and gave us life. In our sinfulness, we run far away from God and brand ourselves enemies of God but in God’s love, He finds us wherever we go, brings us nearer to Himself and brands us His friends, not by merit but by virtue of His mercy built on grace. Thus, a reflection on the love of God is a reflection on the mercy of God which brings about a salvation built on the platform of grace. That is why the reading also exhorts us never to claim to be worthy of God’s salvation since it is a privilege gained through grace and not on merit. But this grace has to be activated to bear fruits through faith.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Reflection/Homily: Third (3rd) Sunday of Lent Year B (March 8 2015)

Reflection/Homily: Third (3rd) Sunday of Lent Year B (March 8 2015)
Theme: God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom

Taylor Sauer, 18, was an intelligent high school graduate who met her untimely death on Jan. 12 2012 when she ran into a truck while messaging a facebook friend as she drove. It was later discovered that Taylor posted on facebook every 90 seconds while driving. After her burial, her parents Clay and Shauna Sauer became lobbyist in their home state Idaho (U.S) urging the state legislature to pass a law banning texting or facebooking while driving. The father said “I think every state should have the texting ban law, it might not make changes right now, but for the young generations, it will be an educational tool, just like the seat belt law”.

From the background of this story, we see a law (like the law banning texting/facebooking while driving) not as anything evil but as a necessary good to prevent a potential evil. This means that law-givers do not give or make laws for punishment or to deprive people of comfort but to ensure people’s safety and general well-being. This is how we have to understand the divine laws/commandments given to us in the first reading (Ex. 20:1-7). These laws were given by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai for the observance of all Israelites and by extension, all people of God. The commandments should not be seen as punishments but as guides that will help us live a fulfilled life in our relationship with God and our neighbours. If there had been a law prohibiting facebooking while driving, Taylor might not have been so unfortunate if she was conscious of the law. Therefore, the commandments prove God’s love for us and they make us always conscious of the good we ought to do and the evil we ought to avoid. The Ten Commandments are all important and none should be considered more important than the other, but for today’s reflection, let us examine the 6th and 9th commandments.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Reflection/Homily: Second (2nd) Sunday of Lent (March 1 2015)

Reflection/Homily: Second (2nd) Sunday of Lent (March 1 2015)
Theme:  At the Mountain-Top Faith  gives way to Vision 

            As a little boy, when I first heard the passage read in the first reading, the first question that was raised in my mind was whether God could tempt one to sin since Abraham would have been guilty of murder if he had sacrificed Isaac. I later grew up to understand this passage better bearing in mind the distinction between temptation and test. The transliterated Hebrew “nacah” is rendered in English as “to test or tempt”. Its transliterated Greek equivalent “peirasmos” also means “test or tempt”. The words “test and tempt” though similar are not exactly the same, the former is positive while the latter is negative. For this reason, exegetes recommend we look into the context to differentiate between the two meanings, bearing in mind that God only tests while Satan tempts. The goal of God’s tests is for us to prove our faith but the devil tempts to destroy our faith. St. James stresses this distinction when he says “consider it a great joy when tests of many kinds come upon you, for you well know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance… (1 v.2-3) and “… God does not tempt anyone to sin” (1 v.13).

Friday, 20 February 2015

Bishop Vincent Ezeonyia for Burial on February 27

Most Rev. Vincent Valentine Egwuchukwu Ezeonyia, CSSp who died on Sunday February 8, 2015 at the age of 73 will be buried on February 27, 2015 at the Christ the King Cathedral Aba.

Burial Arrangements

Thursday February 26, 2015 at 5 pm, there will be a Vigil Mass at Christ the King Cathedral Aba

Friday February 27, 2015 at 6 am, body leaves Our Lady of Mercy Mortuary, Umulogho, Obowo Imo State, at 7 am, lying in state at Christ the King Cathedral Aba, at 8 am, Office of the dead at Christ the King Cathedral Aba, at 10.30 am, Funeral Mass at Christ the King Cathedral Aba. Interment follows immediately after the Mass.

There will be a requiem Mass for him at St. Dominic Catholic Church Uke, Anambra State on Saturday March 14 2015. His Month's mind will take place at Holy Ghost Novitiate, Awo-Omamma, Imo State on Friday, March 20 2015.

Adapted from the Burial Arrangements signed by Rev. Fr. Godfrey Ukonu, Director of Communications, Catholic Diocese of Aba.

Reflection/Homily: First (1st) Sunday of Lent Year B (February 22 2015)

Reflection/Homily: First (1st) Sunday of Lent Year B (February 22 2015)
Theme: Repent and Believe in the Gospel

A covenant ordinarily speaking could mean a binding agreement between two or more people, equal or unequal. When one ponders on the covenant God established with man, we wonder why the All Powerful God had to go into an agreement with mortal men who solely depend on Him? Likening our relationship with God to our relationship with our possessions (like our pets), do we need to make an agreement with our dogs not to sell them off when they are sick? We need not go into agreements with them before taking actions for or against them. But despite the great inequality between God and man, God had to go into agreements with man just to convince us of how much He loves and values us. In the first reading (Gn 9:8-15), we see one of such unmerited agreements God had with humanity through Noah. Before then, humanity rebelled against God and He had to wipe them away leaving only the righteous Noah, his family and a few animals. After that, God promised never to wipe away humanity with the flood again. This covenant He made with Noah, He signed with the rainbow in the cloud. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Reflection/Homily: Ash Wednesday (February 18 2015)

            It was not long ago that it was announced in a parish that the diocesan bishop would be coming to the parish on a pastoral visit. This great event of the bishop’s visit once in four years due to the large size of the diocese was marked with a great preparation. There were renovations within the Church premises, decorations, clean ups, etc just to prepare for the great event of the bishop’s visit. This is an indication that most often, important and remarkable things do not just happen without serious preparations. For an ordination and profession to take place there must have been a period of formation, for graduation, a period of scholarly involvements, serious academic struggles and scholarship, for marriage, a period of courtship and even for Christmas, a period of advent.

            Therefore, the Church as the Vehicle of Salvation has also deemed it wise to prepare Her members for the re-enactment of the Sacred Mysteries of the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord. That is why today being “Ash Wednesday”, we are launched into this great season of preparation we all regard as the Lenten season or period. 

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