Friday, July 6, 2018

Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces

1.0.Mary’s Election
The Blessed Virgin Mary is a woman of grace! She was chosen by God’s gratuitous grace from the foundation of the world (cf. Gen 3:15). God gave her the highest honour of our race by choosing her to be the Mother of Jesus, and bestowing on her the fullness of grace. Thus, whatever honour we give to Mary, It is the Almighty who has done these great things, and holy is His name (Lk1:49). However, Mary’s personal sanctity comes in her free acceptance and continuous response to the grace, together with the consequences therein.

2.0. The One Mediator
Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim 2:5). To Him alone belongs the grace of mediation as our only Redeemer. The eternal grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is applied to each individual in every generation, according to ones proper disposition and need at that time. Unworthy though we are, the merciful God continues to make this grace available to us through different channels or sub-mediation. This is where Mary and the saints come in. Their mediation is subordinated to that of Jesus Christ. Their mediation is not in contra-distinction to that of Jesus Christ, but the one and only mediation of Jesus Christ elongated or made more readily available and accessible to us through the merits of Mary and the Saints. We have one Mediator, Jesus Christ, but Mary, by God’s election, shares in this grace as our Mediatrix! In other words, she wins for us the grace of Jesus’ mediation through her own merits.

3.0. Mediatrix of All Graces
The Blessed Virgin Mary qualifies as Mediatrix by her participation in the work of our redemption. She shared in the agony of her Son on the Cross. Her mediatrix role shines out in the wedding at Cana in Galilee (Jn 2:1-11). The Church honours her under this title as a doctrine not dogma (Vatican II: Lumen Gentium 61-62). This title extols Mary’s universal Motherhood as the new Eve, through whom we are restored to favour with God in Christ Jesus. Secondly, Mediatrix of all Graces implies that all benefits and helps of salvation can reach us through Mary. She can stand before God as our Mother to win for us all graces we may need. As Mediatrix, Mary is a distributor of grace! Mary’s role is not to short-change nor reduce the position of Jesus as our one and eternal Mediator. Her role is participatory, it extols Christ as our Mediator.

4.0.Conclusion
This brief reflection is not exhaustive. You can get more information from books and catholic websites. As you go through your First Saturday reflection, let this write up be just the beginning...I am constrained by time to elaborate more. Bear with me.
Therefore, my Friends, always run to Mary when you are in need of grace! Do not rely solely on your intellectual or emotive power to respond to situations in your life. You are equally God’s elect; a woman of grace! Congratulations! Continue to give your free response and cooperation to this grace.

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
May 1, 2018-05-01
(St Joseph the Worker).
Mother of Perpetual Help Shrine,
UgwogoNike, Enugu.

MARY THE ATTENTIVE MOTHER

1.0.Prelude
The Modern Society seems to be suffering from attention deficiency. Silence and attentiveness have never been this scarce. We see it everywhere; from a government that is deef to the plight of its citizenry, to couples who don't listen to each other. Often times we see this disconnect between parents and their children, teachers and their students. Attention deficiency has ruined many relationships. In our plight, we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for this grace—to develop our inherent capacity for silence and attentiveness.

We must recognize that attentiveness is an inside job! It is an art; an inner disposition. The art of attentiveness is acquired. Thus, it grows by practice to become a habit. The process of nurturing this habit is called “silence.”

2.0.Mary's open Ear
The Icon our Mother of Perpetual Help depicts Mary in a contemplative mood. In the Icon, Mary's left ear is attentively  open. The Icon speaks of Mary as the Attentive Mother. Her attentiveness is of two fold: to God and to man.

Mary listened and believed in God. “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). She was attentive to the message of the Angel, and asked for clarification, “But how can this come about this I have no knowledge of man?” (Lk 1:34). Attentiveness is enfleshed in action. Mary's response to the message of the Angel proves her to truely and ideally an attentive Mother. She was consistent in her response up to the foot of the Cross...

Mary listened to the directives of Joseph, and walked harmoniously with him to accomplish God's will. At the wedding in Cana, she was attentive to the needs of the new couple. And she responded adequately to get the empty jars refilled. Thus, Mary's open ears are inclined to God and to us her other Children.

3.0.The Attentive Mother
Attentiveness draws us to adequate response like the Blessed Virgin Mary. Indifference and inaction are signs of attention deficiency! Attentiveness to God,  therefore,  summons us to adequate response to both God and our fellow human beings. Silence germinates attentiveness, and attentiveness gives birth to availability.

Mary is our model—our Attentive Mother. She gave God her undivided attention. And her response is extolled in all generations (cf. Lk 1:48). This month, let us invoke her to win for us this grace to be attentive to God and those around us.

Fr. Jude Nwachukwu,  C.Ss.R
Enugu
July 5, 2018.
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

Monday, November 27, 2017

Jesus is King!!!





Reflection for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year A.
(Eze 34:11-12.15-17, Ps 23, 1 Cor 15:20-26,28. Mt 25:31-46)
Today we celebrate Jesus Christ as the Universal King. The readings today unveil to us the three ways in which He rules. Equally, the Gospel tells us what we must do in order to reign with Him.

From the prophet Ezekiel, our king is introduced as the Shepherd-King. Here He rules by searching out and gathering His sheep. He will attend to the injured and strengthen the weak. What about the fat and strong ones? The Shepherd-King will watch over them and feed them too that they may remain strong and never grow slim.

The work of a shepherd is quite humbling. He has to bring himself down to the situation of his sheep in other to help them. If a sheep strays and gets lost, the shepherd wanders around the bush till he finds it. He stays with them in the pastures that they may feed. Thus Jesus assumes our situation upon Himself as our King in other to gather us and lead us to eternal life. 

In the second reading, St Paul presents another model of His majesty. Here Jesus is introduced as the Redeemer-King. He is that King who saves us from evil, subjecting every power under his sovereignty. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. As our Redeemer, He wipes away our sins and delivers us from the hands of satan. He offers Himself as the first fruit from the dead, thereby opening the pathway for us to share in the grace of the Resurrection. At the end, our Redeemer-King transfers us to the eternal Father that God may be everything to everyone.

Thirdly, Jesus Himself talks about His own kingship. He describes Himself as the Glorious-King. “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne” (Mt 25:31). We bow down before His majesty. Before Him we gather and adore! His splendour fills us with joy. Around Him we dance and celebrate. His glorious presence is with us in the Eucharist. Jesus is our glorious King, who has become our reward, our hope. “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34).

Christ’s faithful are royal people. Therefore we are expected to emulate our King. The Gospel indicates we should imitate Him in His capacity as the Shepherd-King. We cannot redeem anyone; neither can we be the glory of others. But we ought to shepherds one another. We do this when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and the prisoner. Being shepherds to one another after the example of Jesus sets us apart for the Kingdom of God. 

The kingdom of God awaits those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as King in their lives. When we humble ourselves as shepherd before others, God uplifts us as His royal Children. Jesus reigns; we shall reign with Him.

Happy Christ the King!!!
­­________________________________________
Fr Chinwenwa J. Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish,
Alulu-Nike, Enugu.
Nov 26, 2017.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

THE LIGHT OF CREATIVITY



Reflection for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
(Prov 31:10-13. 19-20. 30-31, 1 Thes 5:1-6, Mt 25:14-30)
1.0. The Craft of Charity
“A man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property...to each according his ability” (cf. Mt 25:14-15). This story from the Gospel of today presents yet another end-time scenario, in which the servants were summoned to give account of how they used the talents entrusted to them. The story presents the master as shrewd in his charity. He bequeathed his property to them, trusting in their ability to be creative with them. “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one.”
He gave each according to his ability
This is not partiality. He distributed his gifts according their different abilities. In this way he demonstrated that his generosity met each at the point of his need. Sometimes people enslave others in the name of being charitable to them. But the master’s charity to his servants is liberating, meeting each at his genuine need or ability. The Master does not allow His servants carry a cross they cannot bear (cf. 1Cor 10:13). His charity to them was not causal; it was well crafted. He loved each servant despite his shortfall or mightiness, each according to his ability.
In addition, his delay in returning is part of his craft of charity. He gave them ample opportunity to put in their very best. The servants were not under pressure. They enjoyed free space and time. “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” Their outputs showed how each responded to the generosity of their master, who bequeathed to them, talents, time and space. We must note that time and space was given equally, but talent was given to each according to his ability.
2.0.  The Light of Creativity
Creativity and industriousness shine out like the good wife, as described in the first reading. “Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates” (Prov 31:31). In the same way, the first two servants put their talents to use. The master praised them for their creativity and hard work. “Well done, good and faithful servant...enter into the joy your master.” We could feel the joy and confidence in the two servants who put their talents to profitable use. Creativity enlightens the heart. Those who are ingenious and industrious rejoice at the work of their hands. 
 “Not so are the wicked, not so. For they are like chaff that is blown away by the wind” (Ps 1:4). The servant with the one talent hid it in the ground. He subjected the one talent to darkness and decay! He blamed his master for  his failure: “Master, I knew you to be a hard man...so I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground” (Mt 25:24-25). He did not know his master. In his selfishness, he never appreciated his master’s charity, and obviously, never loved his master. We are asked to fear God, but never to be afraid of Him. Fear of God is wisdom. To be afraid of him is the outcome of unbelief and hardness of heart. Thus, there is darkness in his heart.
The master exposed him: “You wicked and lazy servant!” (Mt 25:26). His first problem is wickedness, which indicates the lack of love in his heart. He is a man of anger, vengeance and decay. The light of charity could not penetrate his darkened heart. His heart was unfruitful, so he could not yield any profit.  Secondly, he was a lazy man, so unwilling to work or take risk. He who does not want to carry his cross will end up being a cross to others. It is funny that this servant could not take any initiative for productivity, even to deposit the money with the bankers. This man is contrasted with the good wife, who is loving and hardworking. The lazy servant ended up in the outer darkness, where his heart belongs, and “where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth” (Mt 25:30).
There is joy when we use our talents well
God is the source of creativity. The more we realize ourselves in God, the more creative we become. Faith and love enlightens us and dispels that fear that tries to darken our hearts. Creativity shines.
3.0. The joy of the Harvest
“Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap” (Ps 126:5). The master’s method of reward is quite unique. He applied the same standard of reward to the two servants who were productive, showing that he loved them equally though their abilities vary. “I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master” (Mt 25:21,23). Now, the servant shall enjoy like his master. No eye has seen, no ear has heard what God planned for those who love Him (cf. 1Cor 2:9). The joy of the harvest surpasses the pain of the sowing. The sufferings we go through now cannot be compared with the blessings that await us (cf. Rm 8:18). Abundance awaits those who put their talents to creative use.
“But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief” (1Thes 5:4). The light of creativity shines on us through Jesus Christ. “In your light we see light” (Ps 36:9). He enlightens our hearts that by loving God, we may discover ourselves and love the gifts he has bequeathed to us, each according to his ability. Jesus tells us this parable to prepare us for the judgement day so that we would not be taken unawares. Furthermore, this parable encourages us to be creative and industrious with our talents. There is no alternative to hard work and creativity.
Wickedness and laziness should not be part of the children of light; they belong to darkness. They spread poverty like a plague. “For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or darkness” (1Thes 5:5). Therefore, keeping awake in faith and love of God, floods the light of creativity into our hearts. But we must be courageous to be industrious like the good wife and put our talents to use. Hard work does not fail. The joy of the harvest awaits us, even to eternity.
___________________________________________
Fr Chinwenwa J. Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Church of Ascension, Nyahasang,
Calabar, Nigeria.
Sunday, November 19, 2017.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

THE BACKUP WISDOM



Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
(Wisdom 6:12-16, 1 Thes 4:13-18, Mt 25:1-13)
1.0.  The Dawn of Wisdom
As we draw closer to the end of the Liturgical year, the readings talk about the end times. Patterning our present lives for a successful ending is wisdom. The first reading describes wisdom as adorned with feminine beauty. She is radiant and unfading, and readily available to those who seek her.
The wise seek Jesus
Intelligence is the ability to interact with the power of our imagination. Imaginative prowess is intelligence. That is why an intelligent person is future-oriented or far-sighted. Wisdom is action! It is the ability to put into action what has been grasped by intelligence. It is practical intelligence. 

However, the first reading personifies wisdom. Now, it has become a practical response to a person. There is a limit our human mind can understand. The far-sight that goes beyond human mind can only be grasped through revelation. The fullness of this divine relation is given in Christ Jesus. Hence, the wisdom that lights up our life even after death is here with us in Christ Jesus. Therefore Jesus is the Incarnate Wisdom. Our intelligence is enriched when we begin to understand Jesus, and we are acknowledged to be wise when we put into action the life of Jesus. 

2.0.     “Behold the Bridegroom!”
Jesus tells us the parable about the wisdom that leads to eternal life. Ten virgins took their lamps to meet the bridegroom, five of them were wise, and five were foolish. By choosing the ten to enter the wedding hall with the bridegroom, the greatest act of charity had been shown them. But their personal commitment and choices are necessary for their realization of the opportunity given them. 

“As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.” Their hopes were stretched! They all got tired of waiting. But the five wise virgins had a backup plan; they took extra flasks of oil with their lamps. This practical step rendered them “wise”, as compared with the foolish ones. The extra oil was a practical demonstration that they did not know the hour the bridegroom would arrive. Now, they had to carry lamp in one hand, and extra flask of oil in another. That means they took extra ‘inconvenience’, which is a demonstration of personal responsibility and commitment to the invitation. Wisdom is not cheap.

Furthermore, the wise virgins were able to carry backup oil because their minds were focused on the coming of the bridegroom. They directed their imaginative gaze at the Bridegroom and his feast, and followed him up with a practical step. Wisdom is selfless. Meditation is the school of wisdom. A wise choice secures an enduring future. Even while we slumber in human weakness or our hopes diminishing, our earlier wise choices would back us up. So, we must guide our thoughts and act for a better tomorrow. 

“But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’” It is from the treasury of our earlier choices can we meet the bridegroom. The wise are revealed in retrospect. However, our present choices can continue to shine if our mind and heart are focused on Jesus. The Incarnate Wisdom is our guide.

3.0.  The Backup Wisdom
“Lord, let us learn the shortness of our lives that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Ps 90:12). St Paul in the second reading talks about the end of life. Knowing that human life will end one day is intelligence. But living so as to continue life after death is wisdom. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1Thes 4:14). At the end, the living shall also meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. This means that Jesus is the meeting point of life and death. He is our hope in life, and our life in death! Those who died shall live in Christ Jesus, and we who are alive should die to Jesus (cf. Phil 1:21, Rm 6:8). Therefore, wisdom is to live for Jesus.

It is a wise choice to put Jesus at the centre of our lives. If our present choices are informed by the faith and love we have in Jesus, they would constitute a treasury of wisdom that would guarantee our participation in the heavenly banquet. This is the kind of backup wisdom that would see us through even when our hopes are stretched to the twelfth hour. This backup assures us of a future with the Bridegroom. Thus, abandoning our selfish ways, and following Jesus each day and in every situation we may find ourselves, is wisdom that endures—a backup wisdom that carries us along...

The light of the wise continues to burn. When it dims, they refill from their backup flasks. For this they were recognized as wise. Let your light shine. Those who light up their mind and heart with Jesus will always have the light of their lives shining. Wisdom is radiant and unfading.
_____________________________________
Fr Chinwenwa J. Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
St Francis Catholic Church,
College Road, Ekenwan,
Benin City, Nigeria.
November 12, 2017.

         


Saturday, November 11, 2017

THE BURDEN OF HYPOCRISY

Reflection for 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
(Mal 1:14-2:2.8-10, 1Thes 23:1-12, Mt 23:1-12)

Hypocrisy, among other things, is a burden. This is an important lesson from today’s readings. The person, who is first laden with this burden, equally transfers it to others, especially his audience. This burden is so dicey that the one who bears it might not recognize it easily. In other words, it is difficult for one to identify himself as a hypocrite.  There is one way out of this problem.

The immediate victims of hypocrisy from the readings are those who occupy the chair of Moses. Since a priest is called from among his brothers (cf. Heb 5:1), and God calls the weak to shame the strong (cf. 1Cor 1:27), it is easy for the minister of God to battle between being mere human and living out his authentic divine vocation. Hypocrisy is a way of life, where one habitually lives contrary to what he teaches or stands for. Through the prophet Malachi, God announces his displeasure on priests who cause others to stumble and water down the covenant.

From St Paul’s authentic witness among the Thessalonians, it is obvious that the preacher of the Gospel must be personally committed and affectionate like a nursing mother to her baby. This cannot be so if he is not personally touched by what he preaches. By bearing the message upon himself, the priest brings healing to the people. Therefore, it is only those who bear the yoke of Christ can be true minsters of the Gospel, through whom the faithful are relieved. “Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt 11:30). “Always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body” (2Cor 4:10). The Cross is the point of departure.

The Pharisees rejected Jesus, the Truth. Since they were not living out what they preached, they had to burden themselves with many externalities. And in order to impress the people, they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders. This is the same with some preachers of today. Once the imprint of the Cross, the yoke of Christ, is not in their lives, they divert their energies to lots of other things in order to acquire sense of relevance. Whenever a priest’s sense of relevance is rooted in something other than salvation of souls, he has laden himself with the yeast of the Pharisees (cf. Mt 16:6-12). The priest has to live out what he preaches. This is how he allows himself to be sustained by Christ Jesus, so that through him, Jesus will liberate the people. 

The burden of hypocrisy is on everyone who is not true to his/her vocation. For example, imagine the load upon an unfaithful husband who warns his children against fornication? The same goes for the corrupt politician who promises what he cannot do. Hypocrisy rears its head when people live dishonest lives, or raise themselves above their standard of living. Titles and positions are for service; to untie the burden on people. Most importantly, the burden of hypocrisy is equally laden on the faithful church member who does not accept the Gospel for what it really is, God’s word, and not some human thinking (1Thes 2:13). Such a believer hinges his/her faith on personalities. Those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in truth (cf. Jn 4:24). “Accursed be anyone who trusts in human beings, who relies on human strength” (Jer 17:5). However it comes, hypocrisy seeks vainglory and undue sense of relevance. 

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt 23:12). The triumph of the Cross is our victory over hypocrisy. Jesus has borne our burden upon Himself on the Cross. Our participation in His victory, by accepting our crosses each day, is our only escape from the burden of hypocrisy. “So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free” (Jn 8:36). Any priest or preacher who does not project Christ, but infuses himself within the message, adds heavy burden upon the people. Unless we bear the yoke of Christ, the imprint of the Cross in our bodies, we remained burdened, and cannot lighten other’s burdens. Jesus is our only Master. “You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am” (Jn 13:13). Yes, as we follow Him humbly, bearing authentic witness, He exalts us, and liberates us from the burden of hypocrisy.
_________________________________________
Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
St Francis Catholic Church,
College Road, Off Ekenwan Road,
Benin City, Nigeria.
5 November, 2017.