Saturday, December 24, 2022

GOD AMONG US

Meditation for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
(Christmas 2022)
Every year the Church celebrates with great solemnity and joy the birth of Jesus Christ. The joy of this celebration has been caught up in secular society, such that the spiritual joy of Christmas is practically begging for attention. The Christmas decorations, songs, entertainment and travels most times are so socially engaging but leave little or no room for any spiritual encounter. Yet, amidst the excitement and noise that accompanies the celebration, the real message of Christmas is renewed in the silence of our hearts. That is why, in our meditation, as we listen to the message, we perceive the beauty of this mystery.

The Nativity of Jesus celebrates God’s dwelling among men; “the Word became flesh and dwells among us” (Jn 1:14). This is an important mystery of faith that has become a way of life for believers, since the dynamics displayed in this mystery is our regular expression through faith. In the Baby Jesus, the spirit and flesh have a common abode in a ‘hypostatic union.’ Thus, human weakness has encountered the divine strength of God; nature now mingles with grace. The angel said to Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:32). But at Christmas, He was born in the lowly manger (Lk 2:7). Light has come into darkness (Is 9:2).

 

The genealogy of Jesus Christ shows how human history has become the history of ‘God among us.’ This brings sanctification and deeper meaning to human life and relationships. The persons and events surrounding the birth of Jesus testify to the transforming grace that comes when man opens up to God, who dwells among us. St. Joseph, the common carpenter, became the great guardian of the Holy Family. The Virgin Mary, the lowly handmaid, was exalted as the Mother of God. The little town of Bethlehem became a kingly city. Think about the poor shepherds in the open cold night, who heard the angelic song, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to people of good will” (Lk 2:8-14). The message they heard warmed their hearts with joy and courage. See how the simple manger became a beautiful bed for the baby Jesus!

 

It is obvious that whatever the joy of Christmas touches, it transforms. This is the mystery of ‘God among us’, which evokes the spiritual joy that rekindles hope. With great humility and simplicity, the real message of Christmas pierces through the colorful celebrations and touches our hearts in silence. In our meditation, we see this spiritual joy silently radiating on the faces of all who came to pay homage to the Baby Jesus in the manger. This transforming spiritual joy of Christmas assures us that a new life in Christ is possible (Eph 4:24; 2 Cor 5:17). As we welcome Baby Jesus in our celebration this Christmas, we lift up our hearts to live out the mystery of ‘God among us’, so that we can testify to the transforming power of His presence. Amen.

 

Happy Christmas!

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church,

Tedi-Muwo, Ojo, Lagos.

Sunday December 25, 2022.

www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 17, 2022

THE LORD IS NEAR AND WITHIN

Meditation for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year A
(Is 7:10-14; Rm 1:1-7; Mt 1:18-24)

Let us meditate on some of the immediate events surrendering the birth of Jesus. This last week of Advent announces the nearness of our salvation in Jesus, and the right disposition we need to welcome Him. In the first reading, we hear the message of Isaiah delivered to king Ahaz. The king had a serious political crisis that threatened the safety of his kingdom. The prophet came to bring God’s consoling message to Ahaz and to encourage him to stand by faith in God. In the process Isaiah delivered the great prophecy about the virgin birth of the Messiah, saying, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

 

Meditate on how Isaiah’s message stood on a temporary human situation and brought in a solution that was far-reaching than the issue at hand. The crisis of Ahaz was addressed with a solution that has an eternal value. The intervention of God in human affairs brings out a dimension that goes beyond human capacity. Thus, in reaching out to God from the depths of his misery, man steps on his problems to open up to divine glory and power.

 

This is clearly demonstrated in the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah as narrated in the gospel. St Joseph was burdened by thoughts about Mary’s pregnancy. Being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, he was considering the safest way to put her away without shame or hurt. “Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” As Joseph responded to the message, he cooperated in the fulfilment of the prophecy of old and played an important role in human salvation. What began as a normal family crisis ended up as part of the story of God’s dwelling among men.

“Let the Lord enter; He is the king of glory” says the Responsorial Psalm. The Lord is near and within! According to St. Paul in the second reading, Jesus fulfilled the promise of God through the prophets in the holy Scriptures. He was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead. “Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name…” By this obedience of faith, as we see in the life of St. Joseph, we unlock the grace to participate in the power and spirit of holiness of Jesus Christ, such that we too are designated as God’s adopted sons and daughters in Christ.

 

This new order of life, rooted in obedience of faith in Jesus, becomes our rule of life. Reflect deeply how such faith-filled life resolves life situations by opening up its limited transitory conditions to eternal glory. So, in the obedience of faith in Jesus, the man of flesh responds to the order of grace; his actions are far-reaching to eternal glory. This is how he steps on the present challenges of life to experience victory, peace and joy. That is why we celebrate Jesus who is with us, and continue to reach out to Him who is coming in glory; the Lord is near and within. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church,

Tedi-Muwo, Ojo, Lagos.

Sunday December 18, 2022.

www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 10, 2022

GAUDETE IN DOMINO SEMPER

Meditation for the Third Sunday of Advent
(Is 35:1-60,10; James 5:7-10; Mt 11:2-11)

Let us meditate on the mystery of Jesus Christ, who is to come, and also who is in our midst. While we look forward and await His coming in glory, we celebrate Him now because we have experienced His saving power. Advent Season prepares us with joy to celebrate His presence among us, which is marked by Christmas. At the same time, it helps us to wait for His final coming with a living faith. This third Sunday of Advent celebrates the consoling joy we have in Jesus even we as await His coming in glory; Gaudete in Domino semper (Rejoice in the Lord always).

What does the coming of the Messiah look like? The prophet Isaiah prescribes it like that refreshing moment when water springs up in the desert. He compares it to a situation where a weak and feeble person regains straight and courage. “Be strong, fear not! Behold your God will come and save you.” The prophet says the coming of the Messiah shall bring everlasting joy; “They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

 

John the Baptist captures the Advent mystery we are celebrating today. He was the Voice who announced the coming of the Messiah, and he lived to experience His presence. However, he was already in prison when Jesus was carrying out the messianic work as announced by Isaiah. Still, the humility of Jesus, and the simple ways He was instilling divine action among men, must have left John to have a rethink. So he sent his servants to ask Jesus, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus sent them back, to share with John what they personally experienced of Him; “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk…” They experienced the fulfilment of the prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. Without such personal experience of Jesus, it will be difficult for one’s faith to grow and for him to bear witness.

 

Meditate on the experience of Jesus that is available for us today. Think about the great mystery of Christ Jesus we have that even John the Baptist did not experience. Jesus described him as ‘more than a prophet.’ “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” John heard about the saving work of Christ through his servants, but we participate in the mystery of His saving passion, and have a foretaste of the heavenly communion. We all have become God’s first-born sons and daughters in Christ (Heb 12:23), and co-heirs with Christ in the riches of grace in glory.

 

Therefore, our waiting for the coming of Jesus in glory is powered, not by prophetic messages, but by our personal encounter with Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit. The witness we bear for Jesus, the life we live that is guided by faith in Him, becomes our great Advent because our manner of life testify that we are waiting in hope for glorious revelation of God’s children (Rm 8:19-25). That is why we must be patient, and firm in faith for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Let us emulate the example of John the Baptist, the prophets and saints, who witnessed to Jesus through their endurance. Then, the ransom of the Lord and everlasting joy shall come upon us. Amen.

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,

Tedi-Muwo, Ojo, Lagos.

Sunday December 11, 2022.

www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 8, 2022

THE MANTLE OF GRACE

    Meditation for the Solemnity of Immaculate Conception
(Gen 3:9-15.20; Eph 1:3-6.11-12; Lk 1:26-38)

Let us meditate and celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At a time like this, when many people care less about sound doctrine, it is important to reflect on this mystery. When people are overly distracted with selfish pursuit, and adhere to spontaneous doctrines that are not consistent with genuine faith, there will be gradual but consistent decline in faith and true worship. Though the dogma of Immaculate Conception has attracted several debates over the years, Catholics continue to celebrate it annually with deep joy that extols the power and glory of God.

The dogma we celebrate asserts that, “From the first moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was, by the singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, savior of Mankind, kept free from all stain of original sin.” This age-long dogma was later defined by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854. He explained that this unique privilege of grace was given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in view of the role she was to play as the mother of Jesus.

 

The first reading narrates God’s reaction to the fall of man. While Adam and Eve were busy enjoying their new found adventure in the forbidden fruit, they did not immediately realize the implications their human actions until God appeared. God’s presence exposed them, and made them realize how deep they erred. The unfortunate presence of sin is thus unmasked, and we see at once how much God hates sin. Then, He set up the plan to save mankind from Satan, the craft master of sin. God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Thus, a ‘new breed’ of humanity, a ‘new generation’ of man, who shall be ‘regenerated’ in the Son of the Woman, shall always enjoy this victory over Satan. That means a new way of life that cannot be brought down by sin shall spring forth in the Son of the Woman.

 

Hence, St. Paul announced with apostolic joy that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, and chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, “That we should be holy and blameless before Him.” It is the will of God that we should be sinless, and be adopted as His sons and daughters in Christ. And He has bestowed on us this grace to conquer sin, so that we can live for the praise of His glory through Jesus Christ.

 

We see then that it was necessary for our salvation that the Mother of Jesus would be conceived without sin. From St. Paul’s message, it is obvious that the Immaculate Conception is in line with the will of God that we should be holy and sinless. Since through the Blessed Virgin Mary, God opened for us the ‘new generation’ of humanity in Jesus Christ, destined to escape the corruption of sin, it was necessary that she would be without sin. The angel Gabriel’s salutation to Mary shows that the grace of salvation had found its home in Mary, “For with God nothing is impossible.” Therefore, in the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate the victory of grace and the saving power of God. The joy of our celebration today is that we are covered under the mantle of grace of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception. Amen.

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church,

Tedi-Muwo, Ojo, Lagos.

Thursday December 8, 2022.

Solemnity of Immaculate Conception

www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com  

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

FINDING REST IN WEARINESS

Meditation for Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent
(Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30)

In our meditation today, we feel encouraged and strengthen hearing Jesus say, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Think about the meaning of these words in relation to Advent season. The first reading prepares our minds to understand the words of Jesus. Isaiah announces that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all things. “He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”

 

Thus, Jesus invites us to come to Him with our burdens and find rest. In Him is strength greater than our burden, and rest sweeter than our weariness. In this encounter, our burden becomes His yoke, and His yoke is not too heavy to bear. This implies that the burdens we bear, the challenges of life we face, have now become means of coming to Jesus, the gentle and lowly in Heart. Our Advent step is quickened as we run to welcome Jesus, in whom our strength is renewed, our burden is made possible to bear, and in weariness we find rest.

 

Pause and meditate on how the crown of thorns we wear each day has now taken the form of our Advent wreath! See through the discomforts of each day important steps in your response to the invitation of Jesus: “Come to me…” For the prophet assures us that they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall run not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Amen

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,

Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.

Wednesday December 7, 2022.

www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

THE UNCOMMON LOGIC

 Meditation for Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
(Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)

Let us meditate on the mystery of the Good Shepherd, who goes out to find the lost sheep. Human beings are naturally adventurous. We easily get bored by routines, and often stretch our necks high in search of something new. The image of a sheep that wandered from the sheepfold captures the wrong steps we fall into while searching for greater value and meaning outside the fold of revealed divine truth. Out of a hundred, when one sheep strays, common logic and laziness will settle for the ninety-nine. In the parable, the shepherd left the ninety-nine on the hills and went in search of the one that was lost. By leaving the greater number behind, he put them at risk, thus, he made a great sacrifice in search of the prodigal sheep.

 

In addition, by staying behind on the hill, in obedience and love, the ninety-nine participated in the sacrifice of their master for the one lost sheep. This is where the prayers and merits of the saints contribute to salvation of sinners. The Shepherd goes ahead in search of the one lost sheep, armed with the obedience and love of the ninety-nine. When the one sheep is found, the joy of the Shepherd is also shared by the ninety-nine. And this is a resounding joy, which is more than the joy he had over the ninety-nine.

Meditate on this great joy of salvation, and see how we who dwell in the desert of sin, look forward through this Advent for our approaching Savior. The mood of this joyful anticipation is what the prophet announced in the first reading of today. “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Yes, comfort is coming; violence will be no more, and iniquity shall be pardoned. Hear the good tidings: “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him. Filled with these expectations, the lost sheep will be ready to welcome the Good Shepherd when He comes. Jesus said at the end, “So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Amen.

 

 

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,

Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.

Tuesday December 6, 2022.

www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

Monday, December 5, 2022

STREAMS IN THE DESERT

 Meditation for Monday of the Second Week of Advent
(Is 35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26)

 In our meditation today, we hear the prophet Isaiah addressing the dry land and the desert. Often the word of God is portrayed as coming like rain drops to overcome the dryness of the desert (Deut 32:2; Is 55:10). Dry land is discomforting, and does not support vegetation. Thirst and hunger are associated with it since there is no water there. In addition, it is not habitable, and as such, there are no roadways there. The dry land is symbolic of a life of sin or a life without divine grace. Such life is usually “dry”, “Empty” and full of discomforting obstacles. But the prophet addresses the word of God to the dry land, and announces the good news.

“The desert shall rejoice and blossom.” The dry land shall be fruitful again; the weak shall be strengthened, the fearful shall be courageous. There shall healing for the infirm, “For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” And there shall be a highway there, which shall be called the ‘Holy Way’, the unclean shall not pass over it. The beautiful words of Isaiah dispel the dryness of the desert, and the new and enriching look of the wilderness manifest the transforming power of God.

In our meditation, we see how this transforming power of God takes a living presence among us in Christ Jesus. The Gospel says as Jesus was teaching, “The power of the Lord was with Him to heal.” This is the power that can transform dryness to fruitfulness, sin to righteousness, and sickness to health. The friends of the paralyzed man were attracted in faith by the healing power of Jesus. First, Jesus spoke to him saying, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” After the Pharisees complained, He addressed the paralytic saying, “I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.”

Just as Isaiah addressed the word of God to dry lands that streams may break forth in them, so did Jesus speak to the paralyzed man and his sickness transformed to health. Pause and meditate on this transforming power of Jesus. See how He makes such opportunities available to us in faith like a highway of holiness in the desert of sin. So, we move forward in faith, and lay before Him our ‘dryness’ that He may speak to them gracious springs life gush forth upon us. Amen.

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R

Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,

Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.

Monday December 5, 2022.

www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com