Wednesday, October 17, 2018

THE CONDITIONS FOR ETERNAL LIFE

Reflection for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
(Wisdom 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13; Mk 10:17-30)

“I prayed and understanding was given me.” Wisdom is personified and given famine attributes in the first reading of this Sunday. The author of the Book of Wisdom says he chose her above all other things, and “all good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth.”

A man came to Jesus to seek direction—divine wisdom. “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus opened up two phases of the journey to heaven. The first is to keep the commandments. The man appeared to be strict in keeping the law. “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” Keeping the law of God is just the beginning. It attracts us closer to God, where His love takes over.

“And Jesus looking upon him loved him...” This is the second phase of the journey.  Here love takes over, and we are summoned to surrender totally to Jesus. According to today's Gospel,  this love makes two demands on us: detachment and witnessing. To detach from wealth, pleasure, etc we must practice charity. Such charity is impelled by the love God. One who is not charitable will automatically be attached to what he owns. And his/her relationship with Jesus will be law based. If we practice charity and free ourselves,  the love now directs us to witness; “come follow me.” The charity and witnessing are inseparable.

Surprisingly,  after Jesus opened the way to eternal life to the man, “his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” This shows he was attached to his possessions. Sometimes we do not know the extent of our attachment to person or things until there is threat of losing them. Anger also reveals personal attachments. Walking away from Jesus brings sorrow to the heart.

Above all, encounter with Jesus exposes us; He lays bare our secret thoughts (Lk 2:35). He is the “Word of God alive and active, sharper than any two-edge sword...” He discerns our thoughts and intentions, guiding us from within. The Word of God forms our conscience, constituting our principle of thought. Now the wisdom of God abides in us through Jesus Christ. Like in the first reading,  we must treasure the Word above all, and submit wholeheartedly to it.  The Word of God purifies our thoughts,  detaching us from material things. The wisdom of God is now handy! It is hidden in the Scriptures.

Therefore,  let us read the Bible often, and treasure the wisdom  therein.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Holy Family Catholic Church,
Festac Town Lagos
Sunday October 14th, 2018.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

THE MOTIONS IN MARRIAGE

Reflection for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
(Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16)
1.0. The Journey
The readings this Sunday address the issue of Marriage. The first reading talks about the foundation of marriage as rooted in God's will. He founded marriage as the solution to a problem. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” It took some process before the man could receive the partner fit for him. Yes, God is in eternity but man is in time. Man will always go through some process before arriving at his end, even grace works out through nature! Any marriage contracted abruptly may be anticipating more than grace can carry. Thus the man exclaimed, “This at last...”, which indicates a heart that had arrived at its longing. Marriage, from its foundation,  is arrived at as from a journey—the process of a search. It is the satisfaction of a longing; a remedy for loneliness and vulnerability.

“This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” What fascinated the man at sighting the woman was that he could identify himself in her and vice versa. The man and woman share one flesh, one dignity but constituted in complementary otherness! So physical compatibility is necessary. However, the “flesh” and “bone” attraction is only a window to deeper interpersonal compatibility.

2.0.The Internal Movement
The journey has started; the train has left its station—marriage is on the roll! God has set the process in motion. There are twofold movements in marriage: Internal and external. The internal movement is that act of self-projection by which the man realizes himself in the woman, and vice versa. The one recognises his “flesh and bone” in that of the opposite sex, and moves to “own” it. This is the beginning of the union...This primordial movement requires, as a condition, certain level of self-abandonment. Thus, the two, in their unique otherness, are unified through inter-personal exchange of “ownership” or mutual interpersonal “self-discovery” in each other. So the man sees his other self the woman, and the woman sees her other self in the man. Marriage is that platform in which the man and woman freely and mutually exchange themselves for each other to realize his or herself. This internal movement is at the basis of “The two shall be one.” If this movement is hindered or withdrawn, the question of divorce will be imminent.

We see then that the act of internal movement by which “the two shall be one” respects the “otherness” of the partner. Hence, the act of union in marriage ought not diminish the uniqueness of the partners. From its foundation,  marriage is set in motion to bring freedom, and to enhance the individuality and personality of man and woman. Freedom of heart is a necessary mark of every authentic marriage.

3.0.The External Movement
The second movement is external. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. This second act of movement is as a results from the first. It cannot hold if the initial internal act of movement fails. But if the first stands, this second act falls in place almost automatically. Without much elaboration, we must understand that leaving “father and mother” the extent of the detachment necessary for the union to hold. There has to be a movement from one's lifelong attachments, security, socio-economic ways of life, etc for the sake of the new union. Often, marriage summons one to a change in lifestyle. This external act is a necessary concrete expression of the internal bond. It is on the wings of these twofold acts of motion that man and woman fly to marriage. These movements are non-stop in every successful marriage...

4.0.“Let the Children come to me”
The question of divorce arises among those who are not able to respond to the dynamism and progression that marriage entails. “It is for your stubbornness of heart that Moses wrote you this commandment.” The Pharisees,  the hypocrites, asked Jesus about divorce in the Gospel of today. Of course, in every divorce, there is hypocrisy! A stubborn heart is locked up; not open to the self-abandonment and self-progression necessary for a lasting union. As I mentioned in the previous reflection “The Question of Divorce”, a stubborn heart is one that is not open to God. The one that is open to God, who accepts marriage as lifelong union, is like the little children Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. Couples need such childlike heart in order to embrace the new horizons that is constantly unfolding in their union. Marriage requires openness and honesty. The question of divorce is dishonest and deceptive! It has no place in the foundation of marriage. If we lose our childlike innocence before God, it becomes difficult to embrace from God such gift and mystery.

That is why the complexity of men and women of our generation is divorce-prone! When people assume complicated personalities, it becomes difficult for them to make the acts of movement necessary for marriage or to sustain them. This can also account for why the greater part of the young populace  would love to marry, but are afraid of embarking on the journey. The things that break marriage lie outside of it. When those negativities are injected into the system, the crash the acts of movement that keep the system running. And such heavenly bond, can turn to a nightmare...How do we overcome such fear and breakdown of the system?

While “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone” is the principle that unites the couples, it is not sufficient in itself to sustain the union. This is because their individual and collective energies is so limited in the face of carrying along in union their physical and spiritual selves. The ultimate source of permanency of marriage lies out of the couples...At the end, the twofold movement discussed above must lead the couples outside of themselves to God, who is the source and foundation of marriage. God in the Trinity of Persons is Communion itself. The dynamic union of couples will continue to flow when they are open to this Reality which transcends each of them and their mutual selves put together. If it is true that Adam received from God the “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”, how can he continue to appreciate such Gift if his heart is far from God? So once Adam disobeyed God, he equally disconnected himself from the woman.

5.0. Now We see Jesus
Now, “we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels...” (Heb 2:9). In Jesus a new family of God's people is formed, crowned with glory and honour. This is possible “because of the suffering and death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” It is through his self-abandonment on the Cross that Jesus sanctified us, and brought us into one fold with Him. “For He who sanctifies and those sanctified have all one origin. That is why He is not ashamed to call them His brethren.” This new family of God called forth from the flesh of Jesus!

While Adam was in a deep sleep, God formed the family of man, just as from the side of Jesus as He lay in the deep sleep of death on the Cross that the new family of God's people is formed. The primordial family of Adam and Eve becomes a prefiguration of the perfect family in Christ Jesus. Thus, Christian marriages draw life from the Cross, and are unique moments of the bond between Christ and the Church. Therefore, each partner is called to be faithful to his/her marital vows, and together they are expected to be responsible for their marriage.

Jesus Christ is ever faithful. The unfaithfulness of one partner does not justify the other to follow suit. The acts by which man and woman are joined together in marriage must draw strength from the Body of Christ, and lead the couples to Christ. Christian marriage must be seen as a means of salvation for each of the couples. Marriage brings so much freedom for Christ. This is how the dynamic acts of movements in marriage continues to carry one along, all through life, for better for worse...

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Holy Family Catholic Church
Festac Town Lagos.
Sunday October 7th, 2018.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

“Ask, and it will be given you”

Reflection for Thursday of 27th Week in Ordinary Time
(Gal 3:1-5; Lk 11:5-13)

Jesus continues the discourse on prayer. Today He highlights the approach we must adopt in order to receive the answers. The parable of the man who went o his friend at midnight to ask for bread teaches persistence in prayer. “Ask, and it will be given you...”

Friendship with God, therefore, is at the foundation of prayer. “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘friend, lend me three loaves...’” Such a man can go to no other at that hour except his friend. The friendship between them moves him with confidence and freedom. And it is firstly the energy of their friendship, rather than the pain of his lack, that would inspire him to keep knocking, even when his friend delays. While friendship itself is enough reason for him to receive the “loaves”, his persistence constitutes another level of reason to open the doors. Friendship germinates perseverance in prayer, but without perseverance the friendship shrinks.

“Seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” God gives good gifts to His children. In fact, “The heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” The answer to our prayer is assured. But we must maintain friendship with God. “You are my friends, if you do what I command you (Jn 15:14). Whatever we do to sustain this friendship with Jesus is part of persistent in prayer! It is only when prayer flows from friendship can it lead to contemplation. 

The idea of some people looking for solution to their problems without aligning their lives in friendship with Jesus, is deceptive. This attitude can lead to church hoping. Jesus condemned this attitude among those who came to him for miracles without believing in Him. “It is an evil and unfaithful generation asking for a sign, and the only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah” (Mt 16:4).

Let our prayers be defined by love of God, friendship with Him. Thus we can taste the sweetness of prayer, and the energy to persevere. This kind of prayer is itself victory over all our needs. “Ask, and it will be given you.”

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Holy Family Catholic Church,
Festac Town, Lagos.
Thursday October 11, 2018.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

“TEACH US TO PRAY”

Reflection for 27th Week in Ordinary Time
(Gal 2:1-2, 7-14; Lk 11:1-4)

What a request! Seeing Jesus pray, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray...” We need no other lesson on the importance of prayer. The example set by Jesus is enough. We cannot graduate from the school of prayer. So, the request of the disciple in today's gospel should be the constant yearning of our hearts. Prayer opens new horizons of divine encounter, such that each step in prayer is as good as the first one.

“When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come...’” Thus Jesus taught us to extol God and seek His will in prayer. And this should come first before any human need. Herein lies the sweetness and strength of prayer. Once our prayer seeks God's glory first, every other thing bows accordingly...

But if our prayer is centred around human problems, it easily becomes problematic i.e. our prayer may begin to be heavy and less serene. Result-orientated prayer can be frustrating! Even when the problems are solve, one may begin to forget to pray or may then pray with less enthusiasm. For us to pray constantly and remain consistent in our prayer life, we must learn prayer as taught by Jesus.

The coming of God's kingdom dispels every evil and assures of our daily bread. Let us learn to grow in prayer that the Kingdom of God may continue to increase in us.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Holy Family Catholic Church
Festac Town,  Lagos.
Wednesday October 10, 2018.

Mary and Martha

Reflection for Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
(Gal 1:13-24; Lk 10:38-42)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus visits Mary and Martha. Mary stood at His feet and listened to His teaching, while Martha was busy with the serving. Mary directed her silence at Jesus in wrapt attentiveness, just as Martha was busy trying to entertain the Lord and to be at His service. Mary and Martha, silence and activity, are sisters! And both are directed at Jesus, though differently. Jesus becomes the link through which our silence and activity draw value and commune.

The sound of Mary's silence could be heard in the voice of Martha as she complained! Silence is power. Her silence was strong enough to move Jesus to appreciation. It was as if her silence drew words from the mouth of the Master. In silent attention we become available and receptive. Thus, Mary achieved in greater measure, through inner disposition, what Martha tried to do for the Lord through externalities.

Generally speaking, listening attentively is an inner job. Silence is the precondition for attentiveness. It involves certain level of self-abandonment in order to accommodate the other. Then the heart and mind are inclined to the other. It takes a lot of discipline.  I have noted in my earlier articles on this topic that silence is not dormancy. It is an act that needs to be practiced. However, it enriches ones inner self, refilling lost strength. If our silence is misdirected,  our inner peace will be unsettled. On the  other hand, if our activity does not flow from our silence, we will easily get worn out. Then, dissatisfaction, jealousy, complain, etc will set in. Could this be the issue with Martha?

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful.” The end point of Martha's serving was to please the Lord. So she ought to be engrossed in the Lord, not in things. But if her inner projection finds its locus in “things” –the servings—then Jesus would be a sort of “means”, or one of the “alternatives” that influence her activity. This implies that she would have had a certain sense of fulfilment in “getting things done” rather than her full purpose being rooted in ‘the joy of the Lord.’ There are many “Marthas” in the Church today...

Mary and Martha, Silence and Activity, now find their centre in Christ Jesus. The contemplation of the face of Jesus fills our soul with such vision and strength to embark on such activity that glorifies God and is life-giving. However, the Master affirms, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” The sound of silence is louder than words! Silence grasps in apt immediacy what words and action target through things.

As we approach Jesus in the Eucharist today, let us pause and be still. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Holy Family Catholic Church
Festac Town,  Lagos.
Tuesday October 9th, 2018.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Neighbour

The Neighbour
Reflection for Monday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
(Gal 1:6-12; LK 10:25-37)

In answering the proud lawyer, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. Through that story, he gave us an ever new understanding of a neighbour. The Jew attacked by robbers could not receive help from his kinsmen and religious leader. But a Samaritan, going outside the commonly held cultural norm, had compassion on him...

Therefore, a neighbour is no more defined by proximity or ideological or cultural similitude. A neighbour is that man or woman we encounter along the pathway of life who helps us in our weakness to be strong. He obstructs his own journey that we might continue ours; and pours his wine and oil that we might be healed. “Compassion” becomes the defining word of neighbour! People might come close to us for different reasons, but he who is in touch with our lowliness to lift us up, is our neighbour.

Then the Samaritan carried the Jew to the inn. In his limited capacity, he canvases for more help from others. His compassion is not short-sighted! Hence, his charity for the Jew is open-ended. “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.”

A neighbour of sort is precious. It comes at a great sacrifice to build neighbourliness. It is to such a neighbour are we commanded,  “love your neighbour as yourself.” In a world marked with selfishness,  greed and obsessive self-preservation, Jesus' teaching on ‘neighbour’ remains challenging. Now, how do we begin to establish such neighbourliness with everyone we meet? Who takes the initiative since it is easy to love the one who treats us like the good Samaritan?

St Pauls gives us a formula in the first reading. We should be true to the Gospel and not do anything to please people. In other words, whatever action we undertake must be aimed at realizing the gospel truth. Thus, neighbourliness is initiated indirectly when we act directly for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We see then that such a relationship is the work of grace.

Jesus, therefore, is our first and authentic Neighbour!  He is the perfect “Good Samaritan.” He came down from Heaven, alighted from the height of His glory, bent to our fallen state, to lift us up. He poured out for us the wine of His Blood on the Cross that our wounds of sin might be healed. He carried us into the inn that is the Church, and commanded Peter and his successors, “Feed my sheep.” He promised not to leave us orphans, but He continues to supply whatever grace that is needed through the Church's sacraments. And He will come back again...Jesus is my Neighbour!

He has taken the complete initiative and established us as His neighbour.  Our response is to love Him wholeheartedly, and allow our person to be assumed in His. This is how we can love others as we love ourselves—that “self” that has been redeemed by Christ Jesus. We carry around that ‘self' that has Jesus as neighbour.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.SS.R
Holy Family Catholic Church
Festac Town, Lagos.
Monday October 8, 2018.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Rejoice that your Names are written in Heaven

(Reflection for Saturday of 26th Week in Ordinary Time Year B)
Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17; Lk 10:17-24

Finally, Job acknowledged God's greatness,  “I know you can do all things...” He realized he was probing thing beyond him, which only God knows. He humbled himself and expressed contrition. He won God's heart, who restored Job to greatness and fullness of life. In the Gospel,  the disciples came back from mission, rejoicing at such authority they exercised in the Name of Jesus. Jesus corrected them, that their only joy should be that they have won God's favour, and have their names written in Heaven. This is the humble path!

God reveals His wisdom to mere children—the humble of heart. The disciples were chosen to see what the prophets longed to see but did not see it. So they must conquer human pride, even in their achievements. Those who humble themselves in Christ Jesus have the Father revealed to them. The humble shall be lifted to greatness. Their names are inscribed in God's heart, and they will have the power to conquer evil.

Humility is power! Through it our names are written in Heaven. This is our joy. It is positive. It is also the joy of the Virgin Mary. Yet, the devil will continue to fall as we match with the Name of Jesus in humility.
Mother of Perpetual Help,  prayer for us.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
October 6th, 2018.