Sunday, December 1, 2019

His Coming; Our Waiting!

Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent Year A
(Is 2:1-5, Rm 13:11-14, Mt 24:37-44)
Image result for advent
The “coming” of our Lord is clearly announced in the readings of this Sunday. This captures the mood of the whole season of Advent and properly defines it. The Prophet Isaiah announced the coming of the ‘long expected Saviour,’ who will restore peace among the nations. St Paul in the second reading relates to the ‘now’ of His coming. “Salvation is nearer to us now…” There is a dimension of Jesus’ advent that is on-going. This can only be experienced when we put off the works of darkness, and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh.” The Gospel introduces us to the future advent. The characteristic of this second coming is that it will be at a time no one knows. “Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”

His coming, therefore, necessitates our waiting! Jesus’ advent, both now and in the future, is marked with power and glory. He is coming to meet those who are waiting. But those who are waiting are those who already have received Him! Thus, in His coming, the ‘now’ and the ‘future’ are mingled. Hence, though we do not know His Hour, we have every ‘hour’ if we receive Him ‘now.’ That is why only those who refused to cast off works of darkness would be taken by surprise, for even before His coming, they had already missed Him. Therefore, his coming, both now and at the end, gives life and energy to our waiting.

His coming; our waiting! Obviously, waiting for the Lord is not passive. It draws vision by contemplating His coming, challenges us to work on our moral and spiritual life so as to receive the Lord now, and meet Him at the end. The power and glory of His coming shines out in our waiting for the Lord. Thus our hearts are warm and silent as we move forward to embrace the Lord anew this advent.

Advent celebrates with a penitential joy our waiting for the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The victory of grace today, and His final triumph over every evil in the world, is echoed in our celebration this season. The liturgical gestures and symbols in this season of advent contemplate our waiting and His coming.

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Sunday, December 1st, 2019.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

HUMILITY AND PRIDE AT PRAYER

REFLECTION FOR 30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
 (Sirach  35:12-14, 16-18; 2Tim 4:6-8,16-18; Lk 18:19-14)
1.0. Humility and Pride
As we are drawing close to the end of the liturgical year, the readings of today focus on the theme of humility, especially in relation to prayer. The book of Sirach explains how God pays attention to the lowly, i.e. the poor, the orphans, the widow, etc. “He will not ignore the supplication of the fatherless, nor the widow when she pours out her story.” Also, those who are poor in spirit—the humble of heart—receive similar attention. “The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds.” Humility attracts favours from the Lord. “A humble contrite heart you will not spurn o Lord” (Ps 51:17).

The temptation to be proud caused the fall of man, and is the reason for every fall from grace. Prayer melts pride, but pride makes prayer difficult and empties it of favour. By nature, the gift of free will places man at the cross roads of pride and humility. It is a subtle step, and an easy slip that diverts one’s steps to either direction. The choice for God and the exaltation of his glory is always a quick step to humility.

Jesus tells us the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector to expose the attitude that smells of pride and the way of the humble. Interestingly, pride and humility came to the house of God! That is why it can be difficult sometimes to differentiate.  It is God alone who knows the secret of the heart. The Lord alone is the righteous judge, as St Paul wrote to Timothy. However difficult it might be, the parable of today indicates that prayer can expose the heart. The tone and manner of one’s prayer can reveal if he is humble or proud.
Image result for the pharisee and the tax collector
2.0. SPACE AND SILENCE
In the parable, the Pharisee stood at a close distance to the sanctuary! The image of space in the story is worth noting. Here the audacity of the Pharisee is seen in his desire to ‘occupy space,’ and fill in gap, proving that him is worthy of such closeness. This is how pride tries to fill up every space in the heart such that there is no space for God. Thus, he is full of words, no space; no silence! From exonerating himself to condemnation of others, and back to exaltation of his deeds, the proud man never lacks words, high sounding words that have not roots in silence. While he continued to clatter his mouth, God gazed at the depth of his heart...

The humble man kept his distance. He found himself not worthy, and created a space, which God alone must fill. He had few words to say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Space and silence beclouded him, and is usually the hallow around every humble man. That is why God and man can easily approach and speak to a humble man. And his prayer is answered.

3.0.  Prayer Answered
“For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” So we are encouraged today to examine ourselves and uproot every trace of pride in us. We see pride when we compare ourselves to others, thereby stuffing our hearts with jealousy and greed. But humility looks up to God, and is far-sighted, while pride is short-sighted, and often times, it is blind. From the parable we observe that the proud man appropriates to himself the glory and honour due to God. That is why pride makes the heart heavy and gloomy. But humility seeks to exalt God.

Being lowly is not to be merely simplistic nor to recline oneself in a dull self-enclosed life. Humility is truth and action! It is generous. Humility seeks the good of others and the glory of God. Humility is that strong inclination through which we see the strength of God in our weakness, and recognize his grace at work in all our achievements. Humility is prayer answered!

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Ss Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Sunday October 27th, 2019.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Lifting up the Rod of Prayer in Battle



Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
(Ex 17:8-13, 2Tim 3:14-4:3, Lk 18: 1-8)
Image result for moses at rephidim aaron and hur
1.0. The Battle
Prayer is battle; prayer wins the battle! This is the predominant message this Sunday. The battle between Joshua and Amalek at Rephidim was won through the uplifted hands of Moses up the hill. But to sustain his hands in prayer was tough. Aaron and Hur held his hands, one on each side, and he sat on a rock, with the rod of God lifted up in prayer. The sharp blade of Joshua moved down the Amalekites, with the strength generated from Moses’ perseverance in prayer.

2.0.  Perseverance
No one wins a war without persevering. The faith of the man of prayer rises like the courage of the soldier at war. So he perseveres in prayer as the soldier matches on though the battle rages. Such was the courage with which the poor widow approached the corrupt Judge. Hers was a tough battle!  The woman’s persistence melted the man’s high-handedness. Knowing that the Judge had solution to her problem, she surrendered all her trust—her heart—to him, and would never stop bordering him. While Moses lifted up the staff of God, and painfully sustained it till victory was won, the poor widow mystically lifted up heart to Judge, and consistently sustained it till she was vindicated.

Jesus tells us this parable today to remind us that perseverance is not optional in prayer. Unlike the unjust Judge, God is just, and answers speedily. He hears the cries of His Children, and answers at His own time, which is the right time. The grace of God does not come late! Since God is Eternity, our availability in time, and at all times, to receive the answers to our prayers gives rises to perseverance in prayer. The unfolding of time comes with distractions, weariness, discouragement, etc that automatically oppose the man of prayer, who must battle against these in order to sustain the staff of God—the heart that prays—lifted up to the heavens.

3.0.  ‘The Rod of God’
Moses sat on the rock, lifted up the rod of God high in prayer, and was supported by Aaron and Hur. Jesus is the Rock of Ages. Moses seating on rock points to how the man of prayer must have his life rooted in Christ Jesus. In other words, he must be a man of truth; a man whose life rests on righteousness. “Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23). And it is only those who worship in truth that can persevere. The supporting hands of Aaron and Hur represent the support of the community, saints and angels to the man of prayer. Prayer puts us in communion with others. The prayer of the Church helps us to persevere in prayer.

Then, imagine if the rod of God were not in the uplifted arms of Moses! It would be like offering empty praises, with the heart far from God (Mt 15:8). The rod of God in the hands of Moses is like the chalice in the hands of the priest; the offering back to God what God has given! It is the lifting up of a heart formed by the word of God and filled with the Holy Spirit. The staff of God—the Cross of Christ lifted up—becomes the ultimate sign of victory. Our prayers, therefore, must be marked by this staff of God—the Cross—for us to triumph. The Victory of the Cross is the answer to our prayers.

“Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Will the hands of Moses be emptied of the rod of God as he prays! This happens when prayer is without the Cross, and so it is faithless. Thus the man of prayer must acquaint himself with the word of God. This is where he gets the orientation to step into the battle of prayer so as to win the battle of life. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness...” This is where we draw the courage to persevere in the battle of prayer, and our victory is assured. 


Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church,
Abule-Oshun, Lagos.
Sunday 20th October, 2019.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

THE LESSON OF GRATITUDE

Reflection for the 28th Sundays in Ordinary Time Year C
(2Kg 5:14-17, 2Tim 2:8-13, Lk 17:11-19)
Image result for ten lepers were healedAfter receiving his healing, Naaman the Syrian, jubilantly returned to Elisha saying, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” But to his greatest surprise, Elisha rejected the gifts. Being a foreigner who worshiped idols, he thought that the God of Israel operates in the same way of gifts in exchange for power like the pagan gods. Thus by believing now that the God of Israel is great, he came to compensate Him with many gifts. But through Elisha, Naaman must learn in a deeper way the real gratitude God demands.

We find this lesson again displayed in the Gospel of today. Ten lepers approached Jesus, and shouted from a distance, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” They believed in the power of Jesus to heal, so they dipped themselves in Him with loud cry that came from the dept of their hearts. This was the kind of thing Naaman did when he dipped himself seven times into the Jordan. Jesus answered them, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.” On their way, they were cleansed. Now, Jesus becomes for all time the living Jordan where we enter and are cleansed.

Naaman returned to Elisha; among the ten lepers, only one returned to Jesus, and he was a pagan. But unlike Naaman, the man returned to Jesus empty handed. Yes, the ten recognized in Jesus the source of their healing and they were cleansed. However, only one came back to make friends with Jesus. This gesture reflects the silent lesson Elisha taught Naaman. God’s gifts are free and unmerited. What He demands is true worship, for He alone is God. Then Naaman said, “For henceforth your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.” His conversion of heart; the offering of himself to God, is the real gift God wants. This is the lesson for all time.

And that was why the return of the Samaritan pleased the Lord. By showing appreciation he sought the joy of the Lord; he offered back to Jesus the life he received. At this point of conversion and total surrender, the man received another level of healing: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Now his spiritual and inner life has been cleansed. He has been redeemed! He goes home with the joy of the Lord in him, in addition to the joy and excitement of his physical healing. Gratitude brings double blessings! Thus St Paul said to Timothy, “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him...If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”

We need to learn this lesson of gratitude anew. Appreciation of God’s blessings should not be blurred by material gifts but must be target at conversion of heart. Jesus should be the central target of all that we desire. Salvation is what He is offering us in exchange if we come back to Him with gratitude. The Word of God cannot be chained; it must surely liberate us. We are grateful, therefore we adore! Gratitude is the new attitude in hearts touched by the salvation we have in Christ Jesus.

Thank you Jesus! I am saved!

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Ss Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Sunday 13th October, 2019.

Throw back: You can also read another version of this reflection which I published in October 2016. It is quite insightful. follow the link below                         
https://nwachinwe.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-saving-gratitude_11.html

Sunday, October 6, 2019

“The Righteous shall live by Faith”

Reflection for 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
(Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4, 2Tim 1:6-8, 13-14, Lk 17:5-10)
1.0.The Dark Night of Faith
It is not easy to believe and sustain faith. This is because faith is assurance of things not seen or the guarantee of blessings hoped for (Hen 11:1). That is why faith comes as a supernatural gift. It may seem plausible to claim to believe when life is favourable. But with the experience of prophet Habakkuk in the first reading, faith is tested, doubt knocks, and only the one with strong and genuine faith stands. “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” The echo of the silence of God to the cry of the man faith, vibrates more in the midst of the sound of violence, destruction, strife and contention he perceives. This was the situation the prophet found himself; a test of faith.

The silence of God in the dark night of faith, when It is almost unbelievable to believe, is equally a purifier of faith. “For still the vision awaits its time...if it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come.” The suspension of God's response to the cry of the man of faith, the elongation of his longing, stretches and strengthens faith, which in turn delivers to him the answers he hoped for at the appropriate time. And this appropriate time of blessing is the now of God. Therefore,  whoever does not stand with God now, whose soul is not upright in him shall fail. Such a one cannot possess a faith that can awake from the dark night of faith. “But the righteous shall live by Faith.”

2.0. “Increase our Faith”
This is an all time request! We all need to grow in faith. Faith that is not growing—a faith not watered and fed—withers and dies. Jesus answered, “If you had faith as little as a grain of mustered seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” That means faith increases by being put to action. No matter the size of the faith one possess, if put to use can achieve great results. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).

3.0. Servants of Faith
Jesus describes how we ought to carry out the works of faith so as to grow in  faith and receive our daily bread. It is like a servant,  who goes about his assigned duties without expecting compensation or reward. He focuses solely on executing his duties, and ensuring his master is satisfied. So this servant places himself at the disposal of his master. He gets his food and drink afterwards, at the appropriate time, which is the time determined by the master, not the servant. “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Such a servant, by carrying out his mere duties, has elevated his faith above his hunger or problems, and placed It in the person of his master. Total abandonment or resignation to the will of God is what the saints used to describe such a faith. The righteous shall live by Faith!

The servants of faith do not trust in their endurance or hard work, but in the good pleasure of the Master. The silence of the dark night of faith surfaces as the servant is tossed from one job to another with any intermediary appreciation or reward. However, the master's good pleasure awaits him. His dedication to duty and perseverance become a sort of platform through which he receives his food and drink  at the favourable time, which is the time allotted by the master.

Jesus is the Master of our faith. The appropriate time for our daily bread is the now of God. Let us rekindle the gift of faith, and put to action all that our faith in Christ Jesus demands of us. “Your perseverance will win you your lives” (Lk 21:19).

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
SsPeter and Paul Catholic Church
Tedi-Muwo,  Lagos
Sunday October 6th, 2019.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Poor and the Gate of Blessings

Reflection for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
(Amos 6:1, 4-7; 1Tim 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31)
1.0. Prelude
The prophet of Social justice, Amos, comes again this Sunday. This time he criticizes not those who oppress the poor but ‘those who are at ease in Zion, who drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with finest oils but are not grieved over the ruins of Joseph!’ Indifference in the face of hardship, either collective or individual, is what Prophet Amos spoke against today. St Paul writes to Timothy about eternal wealth one should acquire, while Jesus presents the pathetic story of the rich man and Lazarus.

2.0. The Man on Fine Linen
The rich man enjoyed his  wealth lavishly. He was so protective of himself that he wanted to savour all the pleasures in his earnings. He secured himself with dogs! But he lived in internal insecurity since he felt sharing his food would reduce his enjoyment. Thus he hardened his heart, locked himself up in his world of affluence, and would never notice the wretched Lazarus at his gate. He denied God as His provider, made himself the giver and sole user of his wealth. His indifference to God played out in His neglect of poor Lazarus. Though he dressed in fine linen, the sore-ridden body of Lazarus exposed his naked heart. He denied himself the link he had with Lazarus as neighbour, and created an artificial barrier for his advantage. At last, this rich man died, left all the wealth behind, and landed in hell.

3.0. The Man at the Gate
“And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores...” The situation of this poor man is scary! No one would ever desire to be in his shoe. It was as if he was abandoned by both God and man; his only companions were dogs, which increased his agony. Still he was at the Gate of his blessings! All that Lazarus prayed for were abundantly in the rich man's house. However, since he was God's friend, why didn't heaven intervene directly, at least to heal his sores? Here lies the mystery...

Yes, God answered his prayer. All that Lazarus desired, God gave him through the rich neighbour. So he came to the Gate of his blessing, the rich man locked him out with the key of indifference. However, Lazarus accepted all these with patience  as his lot. His self resignation to the will of God in his suffering was a heroic virtue, which earned him a place in Abraham's bosom. Being poor in itself is not an automatic ticket to heaven.

4.0. Wealth for the Rich and Poor
Now we see in Lazarus the image of Jesus, who accepted suffering as the will of God. But the rich man, in his arrogance and pride, scorned God the giver of every good gift, and there was not the image of Christ Jesus in Him. Hence, St Paul in the second reading speaks of eternal virtues, which all should acquire in order to take hold of the eternal life to which we were called. “O man of God, aim righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” It was because the rich man was poor in these virtues that he landed in hell, while the poor man Lazarus was rich in these virtues that he rested in heaven.

5.0. The Man from the Dead
The rich man had five brothers who inherited his life of indifference to the needy. From his hell of pain he got no comforter, and he begged, “If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Like Lazarus, all that the rich man asked for in Hades were given to him on earth but he neglected them. He placed barriers between him and Lazarus, and this became impassable chasm in the next world. He denied Lazarus food and drink, and he got no water to quench his throat. He requested for preachers of conversion from the dead, and now, Jesus, the first born from the Dead, fulfils every prophecy and inspires contrition of heart.

These series of complaint and requests from the rich man contrasts with the silence of Lazarus. The poor and lowly are usually the voiceless in every society but Heaven speaks for them and defends their course. The One Man from the Dead, Jesus Christ, brings good news to the poor, which includes those that are poor in virtue. In fact the real calamity is lack of love. Such virtue become a sort of “gate of blessing” where the rich come down to, and the poor go up to. Here both the rich and poor enjoy well-being, and have place in Abraham's bosom.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church,
Ira-Nla, Lekki, Lagos.
Sunday, September 29th, 2019.



Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Meeting Jesus at the Gate


Reflection for 24th Week in Ordinary Time Year I
(1Tim 3:1-13; Lk 7:11-17)
St Paul instructs the young man Timothy about the moral standard of those to occupy the offices of Bishop and Deaconate. These are not common Church posts, and must not be occupied by new converts or people with questionable character. They must be people of discipline and high moral standard. In other words, such religious leaders must be marked with the sign of the cross. Only those who carry their Cross with Jesus can lead others on the path of the cross to meet Jesus.

Image result for widow of nainIn the Gospel Jesus makes his way into the City of Nain with his disciples and a great crowd. “As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crown from the city was with her.” The woman lost hope; she was an epitome hopeless. Sometimes we too find ourselves in certain situations where we lose hope. Maybe someone hurt you to the extent you just cannot let go, and there is no hope of being friends again. It may be a collapse of one’s finances, and there is no hope of achieving your dream. There are those experience moral relapse or addiction, and they do not envision healing, etc.

In any case, there are usually great crowd of mourners who ‘celebrate’ our hopeless, trying to give us courage to stay put and accept the hopeless situation. Thus the crowd accompanied the woman out of the city. Then they met Jesus at the gate! Without invitation, He was moved to compassion. He saw the hopelessness of the woman, who was so devastated that she could not even ask for help! This usually the case when one feels all hope is lost. Jesus stopped the procession and said, “Young man, I say to you arise.” The boy was restored to life immediately...Encountering Jesus at the gate changed the whole situation.

Hope is restored, but only when we meet Jesus. He has opened for us a permanent gate where surely we will meet Him. That gate is the Cross! There His compassion awaits us. The Cross is the gate where we enter and hope is restored, no matter the situation. That is the only place where hope of life is restored in death. Therefore, the Bishops, priests, deacons, etc who lead us in the procession of faith to encounter Jesus at the gate must be men of the Cross.

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Ss Peter & Paul Catholic Church
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Tuesday September 17th, 2019.