Wednesday, May 3, 2017

THE HEALING WATER


Thursday of the 4 week of Lent

Eze 47:1-9, 12, Ps 46, Jn 5:1-16

The Prophet Ezekiel narrates his vision of the life-giving stream. “And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish; for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.” A similar water is found in the pool of Bethzatha, where many sick people gathered to receive healing. The Gospel of today tells us about one at this pool, who had been sick for 38 years. He was so sick that he needed help to access the water when it was troubled before any other jumped in...Then Jesus stepped in.

He said to the sick man, “Rise, take up your pallet and walk.”  Jesus offered the man the healing he was hoping to get from the pool. Here is the fulfilment of the vision of the prophet. Jesus is that living fountain that gives life and brings healing. “Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty...” (Is 55:1). And Jesus Himself declared, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me!” (Jn 7:37).

Now Ezekiel’s life-giving river that flows into the Arabah is here. We need not look elsewhere. Jesus confers on us the promises hidden in the ancient vision of the fountain of life.





Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

Our Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church,

Amowo-Odofin, Lagos.

28th March, 2017.




Monday, May 1, 2017

FAITH UPGRADE


Monday of the 4th week of Lent
(Is 65:17-21, Ps 30, Jn 4:43-54)

“Go, your son will live.” This is what Jesus told the Official who approached him at Capernaum, begging him to heal his son. The man accepted the words of Jesus, relying on the authority behind them. He believed Jesus was capable of healing his son, and even so, through words uttered from such a distance. “The man believed the words Jesus spoke to him and went his way.” This sort of faith has self-interest attached to it. It can be exuberant, as we see the man trekking long distance looking for Jesus.  In the long run, such faith might not survive the ups and downs of life, especially when the prevalent self-interest is continually defeated. That is why there is need for an upgrade.

After the son was healed, the man believed for the second time. “He himself believed, and all his household.” This is a deeper and purer belief. This time, he believed not for anything that he would benefit, but he believed simply for Jesus’ own sake. A faith motivated by his interest in the one he believed in. This second level of faith comes as a testimony from the first level of belief. At this level, faith is recognized as a divine gift. And one learns total abandonment to the force of faith. Once ferried on the boat of faith, without anchoring our life journey on any prevalent self-interest, we must get to our ultimate destination.

Yes, there is growth in faith. But a testimony of faith is often necessary to push us forward. Nevertheless, if we remain only at the quest for testimony, our faith will shrink. So we begin by accepting the Word of God for what it is, and channelling our attention on Jesus. Then, the growth in faith will continually happen.

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Our Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church,
Amowo-Odofin, Lagos.
27th March, 2017.

Overcoming the Ancient Trick


First Sunday of Lent

(Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7, Ps 51, Rm 5:12-19, Mt 4:1-11)

Today we celebrate Jesus’ victory over temptation and sin—the defeat of the ancient serpent! In His triumph is our hope of overcoming the devil.

The first reading narrates the origin of sin. The ancient serpent tricked our first parents. How did he succeed? He did not command them to eat the forbidden fruit. But he subtly diverted their attention from God and made them turn to themselves. He presented himself as one who knows God, and he tried to make them see God as a liar and not caring enough for them. Now they should take their future into their hands and emancipate themselves outside of what God planned. The trick worked: Eve began to see the fruit from her own perspective other than that of God. She had to act as it appealed to her regardless of what God said. They chewed humanity out of grace! “Then their eyes were both opened, and...” they saw themselves.    

Unfortunately, there is only one “I am”, God who Himself. “I am He who is...This is my name for all time...” (Ex 3:14,15).The withdrawal of the self from God and turning to oneself becomes an exit road to death. Man discovers from his fallen state that God is true...

Jesus’ victory becomes our recipe for overcoming the tempter. “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abound for many”(Rm 5:17). He got this victory by rejecting the selfish proposals of the tempter. This He did by focusing on the will of God, and by refusing any suggestion for His own emancipation or clamour. The turning of stone to bread, the jumping from the pinnacle of the temple and the worship of Satan, were all targeted at pulling Him away from relying on God’s will and providence to immediate self actualization. There is only one I AM.

The greatest temptation might not be to commit any particular sin, but to sow the seed of sin—to dispose the will to sin. That is when the will is no more submissive to God; when the will is turned to self for its own emancipation. Here we become our own standard of life. Hence, the tools against self-indulgence are ready weapons against temptation and sin. These are prayer, fasting and Charity. These spiritual exercises help us to transfer our will power from our emotions to the will of God.  And they are links through which we arm ourselves with the victory of Jesus.



Fr Jude C. Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

MaterDomini Novitiate Community,

Enugu, Nigeria.

March 5, 2017.




God blesses us in Secret

Ash Wednesday 2017
Joel 2:12-18, Ps 51, 2Cor 5:20-6:2, Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Welcome to Lent 2017! It is often described as a time of favour. It is a time we put in extra effort to draw close to God. This season is characterized by prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  We thank God we have such opportunity in the Church, and we embrace it with joy. Let us participate actively in this year’s Lenten campaign. Lenten season can be calmly exciting, serenely strengthening and secretly rewarding!

Once more, let us usher in this year’s lent by taking a brief look at the Gospel of today. Jesus recognizes the struggle we go through of not making a show of our piety. “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them...” The temptation for human approval and immediate glory is high. Anticipating and accepting human recognition is dangerous for spiritual growth. Jesus does not want us to miss the reward. Hence He gives us a way out...

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” This implies that God bless us in secret. He who sees in secret awaits us with His blessings in that secret place. Therefore, our fasting, prayer and almsgiving in secret prepare us, and take us into that secret place where God’s blessings await us.

Our heart is that secret room of blessing. “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning; and tear your hearts and not your garments,” says the Lord. To God alone belongs our Lenten observances; human approval is not necessary. In this way we give God our hearts, and draw closer to His love. What we bring “before men” is the fruit of the blessing, like “ambassadors for Christ.”

Lent is a favourable time. The silence of Jesus’ forty days in the desert confronts us! As we relive that experience, we reactivate its blessings. Happy Lent 2017!



Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Mater Domini Novitiate Community,
Enugu.
March 1, 2017.

Monday, March 6, 2017

THE LOVE THAT FEEDS US

                                              Reflection for 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

(Is 49:14-15, Ps 62, 1 Cor 4:1-5, Mt 6:24-34)

In brief, the first reading gives us the image of God as a mother—a breastfeeding Mother. “Can a woman forget her sucking child...even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” This is a very strong image of God; that God determines our needs and attends to them like little babies in His arms. It gives us the assurance that we are secure if we rely on Him like suckling babies.

“Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on.” Jesus explains that human life has a greater value than these. God anticipates our needs and attends to them, even without our knowing. So, we cannot be worrying about our needs and the future as if we owe ourselves or as if God cannot take care of us. It is those who do not know God that behave like this. “For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” We are like suckling babies in God’s arms!

“But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Yes, if God is attending to us like a mother to her helpless baby, ours is to focus on the love that feeds us. This is where we owe God a unilateral devotion and adoration. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” So we hunger for God’s righteousness—that perfection of God that dandles us! Hence, time for worry is taken over by prayer and thanksgiving to God.

It is only Jesus who alone knows the Father that can give us this kind of assurance in God’s providence. We can feel the strength and confidence He communicates about God. We should focus on Jesus and take His words to heart. This way the care of life will not coarse our hearts, and we, as servants of Christ, can spread the mysteries of God—his Kingdom and righteousness. The message of Jesus deepens in our hearts the love that feeds us.



Fr Jude C. Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

All Saints Catholic Church,

Agip Estate, Port Harcourt.

26/02/2017




Saturday, March 4, 2017

THE FAITHFUL FRIEND


Reflection for Friday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

(Sirach 6:5-17, Mk 10:1-12)

The first reading of today gives a detailed insight into friendship. It is so interesting to read from the sacred Books such issue that revolves around our daily life—a common experience. It talks about how to make friends, how we should relate with them and different kinds of friends that might come our way. In all, a faithful friend is scarce! Then he goes ahead to describe the qualities of a faithful friend. How do we find one? “A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him.”

Here is the guiding principle. God is our ultimate friend. He has made friends with us in Christ Jesus. “I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father (Jn 15:15). A faithful friend is a gift from the Lord; a fruit of our friendship with Jesus. “Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendship aright, for as he is, so is his neighbour also.” A faithful friends becomes that person who communicates to us the righteousness of Jesus. This is the ultimate proof of friendship. A good friend leads us to Jesus.

Friendship grows and transforms into family. Here it is institutionalized. Ordinarily, it is taken for granted that one who is adjudged a spouse already qualifies for a faithful friend. Anything less would be a disrespect to the institution of marriage. Thus, the family becomes the zenith of friendship. That is why the question of divorce presented to Jesus in the Gospel cannot hold. The family is the base and highest point of faithful friendship. Couples should be best of friends after God. Parents should be friends with their children, so also among siblings. Thus we learn friendship from the home. Divorce becomes a serious betrayal of this friendship. It does no one any good.

Therefore, Jesus answered them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female…” Divorce is the outcome of a hardened heart—a heart that is not in friendship with God. It is a heart that does not obey the commandment of God. “You are my friends, if you do what I command you (Jn 15:14). Such a hardened heart cannot establish faithful friendship, and in marriage, it would always be asking for divorce. Following the words of Jesus, we can describe such heart as “adulterous.”

Now we can appreciate the beauty of friendship. It leads to family, and from the family springs friendship. And if we follow the principle above, then we are one family with Jesus. No divorce! Let us therefore, thank God for our friends. And work hard to bring to them the righteousness of Jesus. We must always remember that the best way to avoid bad companions is to remain in friendship with Jesus. He is the ultimate faithful friend.

 

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

All Saints Catholic Church,

Agip Estate, Port Harcourt.

24/02/2017

THE FRUIT OF KNOWLEDGE

Reflection for Tuesday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A.
(Sirach 2:1-11, Ps 37, Mk 9:30-37)

“What were you discussing on the way”, Jesus asked His disciples as they entered the house. A sudden silence echoed in the room. Shame almost caught up with them since their discussion was off track. While Jesus was explaining to them His coming passion and resurrection, their hearts could not relate to such humiliation. “They did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask Him.” Thus, they turned their attention to what they know, which, unfortunately, was the very opposite of what Jesus presented. “For on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.”

Man had eaten the fruit of knowledge (Gen 3:11); our eyes are wide open. Self-awareness and self-emancipation is the order of the day. We hear people echoing the words of Adam after the fall; I was naked (Gen 3:10), I am…this…I am that…In the face of this, it becomes difficult for man to offload himself into the arms of God, who wants to take absolute control and direct our lives like His little children. We have eaten the fruit of knowledge, and our personhood is gloried in our eyes. The man of knowledge will often not understand why he should willingly submit himself to the humiliation of others! Hence, the disciples could not make sense of what Jesus was saying about willingly accepting suffering and death. This knowledge that knows not humility has caused a lot of harm in our families and society. It breeds selfishness and unhealthy competition.

Nevertheless, on the Cross Jesus becomes for us the real fruit of knowledge, where we pluck from and eat the fruit of eternal life. No more shall our eyes be opened to ourselves alone and to evil. The message of the Cross is power and salvation (cf. 1 Cor 1:17-31). So Jesus sat down and said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Following Jesus implies tracing the path of knowledge He laid for us. That is why the first reading instructs us to consciously set our hearts on God and follow Him with patience. “For gold and silver are tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.” We must shift our gaze from ourselves and transfer it to the person of Jesus as He instructs us each day and along the way. And as we gaze upon Him who was pierced (Jn 19:37), we reap from Him the fruit of the resurrection.

Fr Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
All Saints Catholic Church,
Agip Estate, Port Harcourt.
21/02/2017