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

Friday, March 3, 2017

THE WISE CHOICE

                                      Reflection for Monday of the 7th week in Ordianry Time Year A

Sirach 1:1-10, Ps 93, Mk 9:14-29

What a drama! As Jesus came down the mountain with Peter, James and John, he was confronted with a commotion. A man had brought his possessed son to the disciples but they were unable to cure the boy. The crowd gathered, voices raised and a sense of desperation seized them all. Doubt and, probably, regret reigned. Hence, Jesus exclaimed, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?...Bring him to me.” At meeting Jesus, the evil spirit itself joined in the commotion and “it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.” After the father of the boy expressed his faith, Jesus cured the boy.

Our silent reflection today captures three main actors in the gospel drama above:

1.)    The devil is the cause of the problem. We see that the devil, hidden behind the scene, generates confusion. He appears to exercise so much force and power, which instils fear in the subjects.

2.)    The man and his son. These are the subjects of the evil influence. They have been shaken by evil! And the man’s faith was shaken too. We see in them how man, left on his own, is helpless in the face of evil. Interestingly, until solution comes, the confusion would continue to increase because evil sustains itself by creation more problems. Further, the man with problems is compelled to seek for help or solution and to make choices. However, such problem-induced choices can be misleading. Instead, he should make faith-induced choices, since “all things are possible for him who believes.”

3.)    Jesus. He is the solution to the problem. His presence calmed the commotion! We see Jesus unmoved in the face of the evil at hand. Rather, he grieved for their lack of faith. His calmness and serenity convey His power, which exposes the empty noise of the evil spirit. In the presence of Jesus, what the man besieged by evil portrays as too strong, is completely deflated.  

But the first reading eulogizes wisdom. It says God alone is wise. He is the creator of wisdom, and poured her out upon all His works. “She dwells with all flesh according to His gift, and He supplied her to those who love Him.” So, Jesus the Incarnate Wisdom of God, stands in our midst as our wise choice in the face of life challenges. The wisdom of the man is shown in his profession of faith in Jesus. This faith, which envelopes us in the gentle saving power of Jesus, is deepened and sustained through prayer and fasting. Hence Jesus said to the disciples, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” Therefore, our wise choice in faith must include prayer and fasting since they bring us closer to Jesus who is our victory over evil.

 

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

All Saints Catholic Church,

Agip Estate, Port Harcourt

20/02/2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

THE IMPERFECT PERFECTION


THE IMPERFECT PERFECTION

Reflection for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Lev 19:1-2.17-18, Ps 103, I Cor 3:16-23, Mt 5:38-48

From the first reading, God gives the Israelites this unusual command: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.” This holiness consists in loving others, in not bearing grudges, nor taking vengeance, i.e. forgiveness. In the Gospel Jesus deepens this rule of life by adding, “But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…give to him who begs from you…” Further he said, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven…” God showers His generosity both on the evil and the good. In conclusion, Jesus said, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

These instructions take us aback since deep within we are confronted with so much imperfection. Like Mary at the Visitation, the readings today impel us to ask; How can this be possible?

God is holy in Himself. Holiness is intrinsic to His nature. But He communicates this holiness to us. Hence, we can be holy by reason of our relationship with God as our Father. In other words, God is the reason for our perfection. He is the source and summit of every act of perfection. Our righteous deeds are, therefore, modelled after God Himself. They become concrete expressions of our being re-born as children of God.

If our acts of charity, forgiveness, patience, etc are drawn from God and, in turn, have God as their target, then it is possible to perform them to all despite the disposition of our hearts towards the persons involved. One thing that is necessary is to ensure that our charitable hearts are primarily disposed towards God above all else. To be perfect as God is perfect equally implies that we cannot be perfect outside of God. And any perfection we achieve can only stand if we remain in God. That means our perfection must be open for more. In other words, it is an imperfect perfection!

That is why, in the sound of silence, we enter into the heart as in a temple. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God dwells in you?” says St Paul in the second reading. Thus, the human heart becomes the ‘home of holiness’ because God, who alone is Holy, dwells there. Though our acts of perfection is expressed through others, it actually resides in the heart. This is where it begins. And how we begin is by allowing the Spirit of God to dwell in our hearts. 

 

 

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

All Saints Catholic Church,

Agip Estate, Port Harcourt.

19/02/2017

Sunday, October 23, 2016

THE ROCK OF PRAYER



(Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C. Ex 17:8-13; 2Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8)
This Sunday’s readings encourage us to persevere in prayer. As we scroll through the readings in a prayerful silence, we get more acquainted with the dynamics of consistent prayer. We learn through the experience of the Israelites that life situations are not to be faced with only human strength or calculations. The power of God, working though our consistent prayers, is our strength. 

Israel was under attack by the Amalekites. “We wrestle against principalities and powers, that is why you must put on the armour of God” (Eph 6:12-13). Joshua went with human strength to confront the situation, while Moses climbed the hill of prayer with the staff of God in his hand, accompanied by Aaron the priest and Hur. “As long as Moses had his hands raised, Israel had advantage; when he let his arms fall, the advantage went to Amalek” (Ex 17:11). Prayer can turn situations around and put us at a gracious position. The force of prayer is always at the background while we take up our daily responsibilities and challenges. 

But Moses hand grew heavy! Here we see the pain, the struggle with prayer. There is always a temptation not to pray. We have to hold our prayer hands against natural inclinations, feelings, mood swings that make it difficult for us to pray. Like Moses, we need support.

Aaron and Hur—the praying community supports us in prayer. Though we pray privately, we still need the companion of the Church i.e. the priests and our brothers and sisters in faith. That is why the Church encourages us to join pious groups and attend Mass regularly. We are equally supported in prayer by the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and Saints in Heaven. In fact, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid in prayer (Rm 8:26).

In addition, they took a stone and put it under him and on this he sat. The stone represents the Word and the Sacraments—solid rocks of faith—on which we rest on to be praying continually. They give us steady support. No matter how our praying hands may grow weary, distracted, procrastinating, etc, if we rest them on the rocks of the Word of God and the Sacraments of the Church, they will remain raised up to God. These are solid foundations of faith that transcend individual belief and private prayers; they do not fail. Their validity is not based on any private person’s faith or disposition. Instead, they are founded and rooted in Christ Jesus as the Head of the Body, the Church. 

Therefore, in the Word and Sacraments, we rely on Jesus, the Solid Rock of our Faith, the Rock of Ages. He is the Cornerstone of our lives and prayers. He is the real Rock that produces the living water that quenches our thirst forever (cf. Num 20:11). Jesus is “Our Mediator, whose blood bleeds more insistently than Abel’s (Heb 12:24). His eternal sacrifice is the highest and most consistent prayer. Hence, the Eucharist becomes our highest form of prayer and worship, in which we participate in the prayer of Jesus. How can our prayer fail when we pray with Jesus? 

This is the strong advice St Paul gives in the second reading, “All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be upright. This is how someone dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). The Bible remains our foremost prayer book. It’s an unfailing guide to prayer. Like a rock, it sustains and revives prayer life.  The Bible helps us to keep to keep to what we were taught and know to be true, following the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Adulterated faith will definitely frustrate our prayer life. 

Perseverance in prayer takes courage. This is obvious in the parable of the persistent Widow and the unjust Judge. Helpless and in need, she summoned courage and went to this judge, and continually for a very long time. The power of the poor widow’s perseverance summoned the Judge to judgement and sentenced him to grant the woman’s request. 

Jesus promises us that God answers His elect who persevere in calling on Him—though He delays, He will see justice done to them speedily. He answers speedily because God is just, and He answers according to what each deserves and at the right time. Once the time is ripe, He does not delay. “But when the Son of man comes, will He find any faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8). When God comes to deliver answers to our prayers, will He still find an active faith ready to receive it? 

New Churches, prayer groups, new spiritualities, etc are emerging every day. These are signs of a faithless generation. The current ideology that we hold on to our creed and also believe in its seeming alternative is a disaster to faith and prayer. Such confusion is a sign that we have not rested our praying hands on Christ the Rock but on ourselves and our problems. Let us learn from Jesus and rest on Him as our Rock of prayer just as Moses rested on the rock. God will answer us speedily. 




Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Cathedral of 12 Apostles,
Garki, Abuja.
16 October, 2016.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

THE SAVING GRATITUDE




(Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2kg 5:14-17; Ps 98, 2 Tim 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19)
The readings of today talk about healing and gratitude. First Naaman, the Syrian, plunged 7 times into the river Jordan at the words of Elisha and he was cleansed of Leprosy. They Syrian army commander was full of appreciation for what God did for him through the prophet. He testified to the greatness of God, “Now I know that there is no God anywhere on earth except in Israel” (2kg 5:17). He presented gifts to Elisha, who refused to accept. Finally, Naaman pledged his life to worship God, “For I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord” (2kg 5:17).Naaman’s experience reminds us of our baptismal cleansing and the gratitude with which we should offer our lives God. 

A similar story of healing appears in the Gospel of today. Ten lepers met Jesus on his way. They raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” Imagine the chorus of their cry. That is the commotion of the ostracized humanity, who are outside the community of the common good. And the yearning of a lonely heart, infected by sin, and cast down from the mountain of grace. Their cry caught the attention of the compassionate Jesus. However loud their cry might be, it remains human. The ten got their healing, which ought to be a symbolic gesture to draw them to a new yearning, rooted in faith, not in their human need. 

Another loud cry resounded. The Samaritan came back, praising God at the top of his voice “and threw himself prostrate at the feet of Jesus and thanked him” (Lk 17:16). The healing evoked another level of faith in him. Like Naaman, he began to testify to the greatness of God, and offered his life to Jesus. By showing gratitude, he went beyond getting what he wanted to accepting the giver of the gift. 

Gratitude singles us out from the common, natural and selfish sentiment and positions us in a unilateral relationship, forming a renewed sense of communion. It brings gladness both to the receiver and the giver of the gift. Appreciating one another builds up confidence, and enhances charity. It uplifts human dignity! Sometimes we take it for granted that we deserve what we receive from one another, even from God. That is why this attitude can sometimes be scarce in the family.  Gratitude requires going out of ourselves and recognizing the sacrifice that brought us the goodness we received. 

That is why the second reminds us never to forget the sacrifice of Jesus: “Beloved, remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” We should die with him so as to live and reign with him, for he will never deny us and he is faithful. Therefore, the Holy Catholic Church offers this thanksgiving sacrifice, the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we remember and recognize the sacrifice that cleansed our leprosy! In it we pledge our lives to Jesus as Naaman did, bearing witness and praising God with our voices like the Samaritan. We say thank you Jesus as we enter communion with him. In the Eucharist we have the pledge of his constant presence. 

Gratitude is intrinsic to our faith. Yes, faith itself is a gift, and those who receive it are grateful. Without gratitude there is no joy. Without joy there is no love. Therefore, gratitude shines out where love exists. That is why the Eucharist is thanksgiving par excellence. We always receive Jesus with a grateful heart. And He continues to whisper to us, “Stand up and go, your faith has saved you” (Lk 17:19).

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Cathedral of 12 Apostles
Garki, Abuja.
October 9, 2016.