Sunday, October 4, 2020

THE CORNERSTONE OF THE VINEYARD

Reflection for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
(Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43)

1.0.  THE TWO VINEYARDS

Let us meditate on the two beautiful parables of the vineyards as given in the first reading and the Gospel of today. The prophet Isaiah talks about the vine garden that was planted on a fertile hill, well fertilized, cleared of stones, “and planted with choice vines.” In the Gospel, Jesus says the householder sets a hedge around the vine garden. In both stories, there was a well built wine press and a watchtower in vineyard. There was great expectation that such huge tender care committed to the vines and the garden would yield great results.

In Isaiah’s version of the story, the vines disappointed the owner. “When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? After consuming all his love and care, the vines repaid the householder with soar grapes. As a result, the vineyard lost all the favours it enjoyed, and ended up a waste land. At the end of the story, the prophet said, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting.” The wild grapes they produced were bloodshed, unrighteousness and tears.

In the Gospel, the householder leased out the vineyard to tenants. The vine produced its fruits but the greedy and selfish tenants would not let the owner receive what was his due. The tenants embodied the unrighteousness of Judah that Isaiah mentioned. The love, generosity and patience of the householder contrasted the greed and wickedness of the tenants. The man was so generous as to stage his son, but they were equally too selfish and wicked as to kill the son with hope of taking over the vineyard completely. At the end, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their season.” Here, the vineyard was not destroyed, but the unrighteous caretakers.

2.0.  THE CORNERSTONE

At the end of the parable, Jesus said to the Chief priests and elders of the people, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” Thus, the religious leaders represent the tenants placed in charge of the vineyard of the Lord. The Messiah whom they tried to usurp his position was actually their last hope of being saved. A miserable end awaits any religious leader who is greedy, selfish and wicked, who scandalizes the people and leads them astray, such that God would not receive the glory due to Him from His vineyard.

The Church is the new vineyard of the Lord. Jesus towers over it from the Cross like the watchtower in the vineyard. The fount of life flows from His pierced side like the wine press. He hedge it all round and fertilized it with His word and Sacraments. The vineyard of Jesus is fruitful, bearing fruits of righteousness and holiness. In a way, each baptized Christian is a tenant to whom this choice vine is entrusted to, and the Master expects to reap his fruit at the appointed time. If we act like the greedy and selfish tenants in the parable, we shall meet a miserable end. That is why St Paul urges us not to be ambitious or anxious about anything, instead we should approach everything with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving to God. Already, we begin to return to God the glory that is His due; giving Him His own share of the fruits of the vine! “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

And if the contemplation of our hearts and minds, and our aspirations are on Christ Jesus as St Paul said, then we will come to realize that Jesus Himself is the fruitful vine and we are His branches through which His fruits come forth (In 15:1-8). He is the Taproot of our lives, the Cornerstone on which we stand secure. So, let the meditations of our hearts be on the righteousness, justice and peace of God. Our minds should be focused on whatever is lovely, excellent and worthy of praise, “And the God of peace will be with you." Amen.

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Sunday October 4th, 2020.
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

PERSONAL COMMITMENT TO THE WILL OF GOD

Reflection for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
(Ezekiel 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32)

Personal commitment and responsibility is necessary for us to live a righteous life and earn salvation. It is equally necessary for personal development and progress. If we are committed and consistent in good, we shall achieve greatness, and salvation at the end. But often times we fail, and withdraw our commitment. This happens often in our moral life when we withdraw from righteousness and queue up in immorality. The prophet Ezekiel announces that we shall take responsibility for our actions and face their consequences. Though we easily excuse ourselves and blame others or situations for the negative outcomes of our actions, the message of Ezekiel indicates that God has given us a time frame to retrace our steps. The consequences of sin is death. If a righteous man turns away and commits iniquity, he shall die for it. “Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life.”   

Ezekiel’s message is further explained by the parable of the two sons. The first son refused to obey the father but later changed his mind and did what the father asked of him. The second agreed to go to the vineyard but at the end he did not go. Jesus explained that what matters is doing the will of God. The tax collectors and harlots who repented and believed are making their ways to heaven.  But those who professed righteousness, like the Pharisees, but remained in iniquity shall die. So the believer must wake up to personal responsibility and align himself to the will of God.

This personal effort to responsibility and repentance is made possible by the mercy of God. If God were not merciful, no turnaround is possible! The mercy of God pulls us to repentance. That is why St Paul tells us in the second reading that the right step to personal responsibility for righteousness is to ‘participate’ in the mercy of God by emulating it in our relationship with others. “Do nothing  from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.” We must also give others the opportunity to repent.  Each person must look out for the interest of others. At this point, ‘personal responsibility’ now implies my commitment to the good and salvation of others. That is why on the last day, we shall be judged, not by what we consumed or benefited, but to the extent we were committed to the wellbeing of others in their needs  (Mt 25:35-40).

The prophecy of Ezekiel and the parable of the two sons find their fulfilment in Christ Jesus. In Him the Obedient Son bore in Himself the punishment of the disobedient son. Having humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death on a cross, Jesus became the living link through which the disobedient children can crossover to become obedient children. Thus, God has only one begotten Son, in whom we are ‘co-heirs’ with Him, such that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Sunday September 27th, 2020.
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

 

Friday, September 25, 2020

THE TWO SEASONS IN A TIME

 Reflection for Friday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Lk 9:18-22)

It is a popular and common saying that ‘there is time for everything.’ Today’s meditation is about ‘Time.’ According to the wise man in the first reading, God beautified the earth with times and seasons come and go, ushering in something new and rendering others old. There are good times and bad times; time to be born and time to die, etc. While we embrace the good times, and look forward to better days, we must not forget that the tough days will soon unfold. This is wisdom and an amour of faith if we constantly remind ourselves of the ‘two times and seasons.’

Many are frustrated and depressed today because they planned their lives only in one season of joy, success, health, etc, without a look out on the other season that is ‘hidden’ in nature. Then, the sudden dawn of the ‘unexpected season’ knocks them off their feet, hope dies and depression sets in. The wise man says God has made everything beautiful in its time. “Also, He has put eternity into man’s mind...” Our aspirations can be high as the heavens, yet we cannot determine what the ticking of time is ushering in.

But God has taken his abode in our time; each moment of time is now sanctified and empowered to unfold salvation. Times and seasons now revolve around Christ Jesus for our salvation. In the Gospel of today, while Peter identified Jesus as “The Christ of God”, Jesus commanded them not to publicize His real identity until the appointed time, which was the time of His Cross and resurrection. Thus, from the Risen Christ, a ‘new time’ is revealed! Now, all times and seasons belong to Him; all our good times flow from Him, and bad times are resolved in Him.

Therefore, in solemn silence we connect our times and seasons to the Hour of Jesus (Jn 12:23). Though the movement of time may usher in good or bad, but our ‘life-time’ with which we live flows from Jesus. Hence, our time of birth and our time of death, our time of sowing and our time of harvesting, etc, are now a single time, i.e. the time of Jesus. Jesus is all in all (Col 3:11), He is Lord of life and death, sickness and health, poverty and sickness. Yes, ‘There is time for everything’ because we put Jesus in everything. Let this be your watch word today. Have a blessed day.

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Friday September 25th, 2020.
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

REFUGE FROM VANITY

Reflection for Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Lk 9:7-9)

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” There is need to pause and reflect on the value of all we are labouring for on Earth. Life on earth is limited, and so are the works of our hands. The passing of time and the confinement of space reduce the glamour and beautiful things of this world to temporal existence, such that they do not last forever. What we admire so much today becomes old in the near future; what we labour for now is inherited by those who never worked for it. “What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”

But the soul of man is destined for eternal life; it goes beyond every material thing, no matter how beautiful they appear. That is why only God can satisfy the heart of man. ‘Vanity of vanities’ expresses the agony and uselessness man faces when he becomes simply the ‘man of earth.’ When we pursue things of this earth as the main purpose and destination of our lives, we face the regret of a wasted life. The good things of this life should be approached with moderation, such that they warm our hearts and give them boast to fly to God.

Herod the tetrarch was a good example of the vanities of the pleasures of life. Think about the wealth and power he possessed, and the arrogance he exhibited. Herod was a man of pleasure, who would do anything to get what he wanted. In today’s Gospel, we see him running from himself in fear; the vanity of his action caught up with him. This is the kind of fear and regret we shall face if we allow frivolities and vanities of this life to consume us. Therefore, let our soul take refuge in the Lord as we approach every material desire with moderation and discipline; we shall never labour in vain. Amen.

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Thursday September 24th, 2020.
Our Lady of Ransom
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

TRUTH OF LIFE

 Reflection for Wednesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A
(Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13; Lk 9:1-6)

“Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Truth is not just what we say; it is life we live. We all hate lies and love those that speak the truth. But sometimes, we accommodate false ideologies in our minds or adapt our lives to wrong lifestyles. To what extent can we find truth in within us? Most times, an honest man is one who battles with falsehoods within him, suppresses them, and painfully allows the truth to shine out. That is why a man who denies God is already standing on falsehood. Hence, the wise man reaches out to God for refuge, and calls out to Him in honest prayer, saying, “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny you...or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.”

Thus, the wise man indicates that an honest living is to live a life pleasing to God. The will of God becomes the departure point; if the desires of our hearts are not in standing with the will of God for us, it becomes false. Sometimes, we admire the best things of life. But their relevance to our relationship with God is important. That is why, in sending out the disciples on mission, Jesus said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.” The prayer of the wise man is exemplified in the missionary life of the disciples. For them to remain true to the mission and be successful, their source of strength and courage must remain the power and authority of Jesus.

Jesus is the Truth; God is our ultimate treasure. Any desire in us that displaces or overrides our longing for God’s Kingdom and His righteousness will definitely lead us to falsehood. Whatever we are praying for today, shall be ours as we remain focused on the will of God. Amen.

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Wednesday September 23rd, 2020.
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

 

 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

THE UNVEILING OF DIVINE WISDOM

Reflection for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 

 (Is 55:6-9; Phil 1:20-24,27; Mt 20:1-16)

Whenever we compare what we have with that of others, we discover that either we do not have enough or we need more to remain on top. Often times our way of counting progress is when we achieved that which others have or do not have. Human mind and logic is awesome, but its ways of reasoning cannot be compared to divine wisdom. The Lord declares through the Prophet Isaiah, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Therefore, human reasoning becomes sublime when it accommodates divine wisdom through faith. Faith and reason are no more opposing each other but they work together to inspire the believer to action. This is so because the immeasurable wisdom and knowledge of God is revealed to us in Christ Jesus (Rm 11:33).  

Hence, the human person must commit his reasoning to divine wisdom. If not, it will be locked up in self-pity, the agony of its limitedness and diminish itself in competitiveness. That is why Isaiah cries out, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” And the Lord God had taken His abode among us in Christ Jesus; our human mind can reach out to Him. The ways of God that was formally far removed from us can now be followed through Jesus Christ. That is why St Paul, in the second reading, urges us to center our reasoning to ‘honour’ Christ. “Christ is to be honoured in my body, whether by life or death.” St Paul demonstrates how he battles between different life options. Yes, our minds remain restless in its reasoning and struggles for choices in life. We cannot stop the mind from thinking. But our choices and responses to situations must be to the honour of Christ and according to the manner worthy of the Gospel.

And the manner worthy of the Gospel is clearly demonstrated in the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The householder hired the first set of labourers in early morning and agreed to pay them one denarius a day. From the third hour to the eleventh hour, he saw other idle labourers and sent them to his vineyard but did not agree on any pay. “You go into my vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.” At the close of work, he began payment first from those he hired on charity, and gave them the same amount that was due to the first set of labourers by justice. The first of labourers were not happy because, according to human reasoning, they ought to receive more since they worked all day. Their grumbling was not because the householder treated them unjustly, but because they did not want to ‘share their glory’ with those who did labour with them! They wanted the lowliness of the others to express their exaltation. But they forgot that the householder reduced their task by hiring more hands, such that even the one denarius was more than the task initially agreed and was equally given in charity.

Yes, generosity, mercy and compassion are the Gospel patterns of reasoning we must adopt in order to unlock divine wisdom. Though divine wisdom may appear hidden, distant from human logic and a mystery, charity makes it shine out. The householder answered, “My friend, I am doing you no wrong...take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give you...Do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last.” It is by charity that justice reaches those who cannot purchase it. Charity is that platform, which human logic understands and divine wisdom prescribes. Whenever we act in charity, our logical reasoning surrenders to divine wisdom. While our minds are burning with thoughts in the face of diverse life options, let our primary intention be to the honour of Jesus Christ and let our guiding principle be generosity of heart. In this way, Divine Wisdom will locate us, and engage us in its vineyard, such that Divine providence will bless us and we shall labour for eternal life, Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Sunday September 20th, 2020.
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

THE DANCE OF LOVE

Reflection for Wednesday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A
(1 Cor 12:31-13:13; Lk 7:31-35)

1.0.  The Gift

Long before our present battle with love and relationship, St Paul had given an explanation of love that remains a solution to most of the problems we encounter with love. St Paul’s teaching is based on his understanding that LOVE IS A GIFT. This is the departure point of his teaching. It is not just a gift, love is the highest, the most sublime of all gifts; it is love that renders other gifts meaningful. Think about the love you have today, do you feel it as a gift? True love is given freely and received freely. And where love genuinely exists, other gifts will begin to germinate. Among others, faith (trust) and hope are the most intimate gifts that arise from love. Then, other spiritual gifts will begin to grow. That means love does not leave us stagnant or retard our lives. It roots us firmly in God with the gift of faith, such that we confidently entrust ourselves in the arms of the one we love, and match forward with joy to conquer the future. “Love never ends” It leads us into the future of God, who Himself is Love.

2.0.  Characteristics of Love

Because love can be confused with our momentary sentiments, St Paul lists out the distinguishing characteristics of love. These qualities, at the same time, reveal the opposing negative sentiments that often tend to mingle with love. “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

3.0.  The Dance of Love

The rhythm of love is rolling, let us step forward in line and join the dance of love. The tune of love we hear from St Paul is clear and direct. If we internalize it and dance to this tune, no one can deceive us with fake love. But if we go off-track, we shall be tossed through and fro and be easily heartbroken. Such experience can make one cold and withdrawn like the children in the story Jesus told in the Gospel: “We piped for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.” But the love of God has been poured into our hearts through Jesus Christ (Rm 5:5). If we focus on Him and love Him back, we shall win the battle of love and continue in the dance of love, a dance of joy and victory. Amen.

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Wednesday September 16th, 2020.
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com