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.

Surrender to Jesus

(Reflection for Friday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time Year B)

As God addressed Job, he realised how little he was before God, who is Almighty! Then he made an art of total surrender to God. “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hands on my mouth.” In the last days, God has spoken to us through His Son (Heb 1:2). But some towns and villages where He performed miracles and preached would not receive Him; they refused to repent. So Jesus pronounced woes upon them. The unrepentant heart heads to total destruction.

In Jesus God has given us His final word. He has addressed us in words and gestures. Like Job, our attitude in the face of this divine encounter is total surrender. Our ego and needs must succumb to Jesus, recognising that He has the final say!

The temptation to gradually and succinctly withdraw our sentiments from the truth that confronts us leads to hardness of heart, and the rejection of the Good news of salvation. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary,  we must be open to God's word, and surrender to it. Thus we shall attract God's blessings not woes.

Oh Mary, help us.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R.
Friday October 5, 2018.

“I Know my Redeemer lives”

(Reflection for Thursday of 26th Week in Ordinary Time)
Job 19:21-27, Lk 10:1-12
Memorial of St Francis of Assisi

From the depth of his misery Job recognised that God is alive, and would not fail him. “For I know my Redeemer lives, and at last He will stand upon the earth.” So instead of evoking pity from his friends,  Job longed for God with complete trust that he shall behold Him at last.

This longing for God is transformed into a way of Life in the disciple, sent out to bear witness. Thus Jesus appointed the seventy disciples, and sent them out two by two. He instructed them to be detached from material things, and unnecessary and idle associations. He armed them with the Good news of salvation. “Heal the sick...and say, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

These instructions are forever relevant for all who want to bear witness for Jesus. Like Job, the true disciple is ever conscious of God's presence, and turns his/her heart towards Him. His words of preaching and acts of righteousness express in concrete terms his hidden longing for God. This silent longing for God impels from within. In other words, it is transformed in a force that carries him/her along the difficult pathway of witnessing to Jesus Christ.

Therefore, there's need for us to immediate the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi in following the directives of Jesus today, and detach from material grains. Francis abandoned all comfort to ‘rebuild the house of God.’ The call to witness carries within it the call to be detached from material things so as to be attached to God. This is how we are disposed to be conscious that our Redeemer lives, and are energised to proclaim it, even with our lives.

St Francis, pray for us.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
October 4th, 2018.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

TO WHOM SHALL WE GO!

Reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
(Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18; Eph 5:1-32; Jn 6:60-69)
1.0.The Choice
Joshua was quite dramatic. He summoned the tribes of Israel at Schechem and asked them to choose whether to serve the Lord God or the other gods. The people responded that they would serve the Lord God.  Their reason being that the Lord God did great wonders for them. They made a free choice but informed by God's miracles for them. Human beings are always looking for a model; our hearts often tend to incline to something or someone. But we have the inherent capability to choose where to hang our hearts. Those who do not want to worship the One God end up worshipping many gods!

Faith in God is a free choice. In the Gospel many of the disciples of Jesus deserted him because they could not come to terms with the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Bread of life. They chose to walk away, and Jesus respected their choice. He asked the twelve, “will you also go away?” Peter answered on behalf of the rest, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life; and we have believed, and come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Peter's choice to remain with Jesus is based on a relationship that grasped his person as the Son of God. The miraculous deeds of Jesus could not sustain the faith of the disciples that walked away. But the acceptance of the person of Jesus kept the twelve on. Their faith was rooted, not just on the miracles nor their human understanding but on the person of Jesus. Thus they accepted his teaching even when they could not understand it all.

2.0. The Gracious Choice
Our choice has a direction! There is always a propelling force or reason behind our every choice. Though the human heart tends to be in constant search, it faces the direction where it perceives its quest to be quenched. Every human choice is influenced by a reason. Thus, the freedom of our choice is directly related to the depth of the reason behind it.

Now the Israelites declared for God because of what they benefited. It was enough reason then for them worship Him. But with time their resolution collapsed. In the fullness of time, God's mighty works have been made manifest in Jesus Christ. He manifested this gracious power even in the multiplication of bread. Those asking for mere physical bread from Jesus missed the point, that in Christ Jesus we have been chosen for God's mighty works. From the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ Jesus for every heavenly blessings, that we might be spotless before him (Eph 1:4-14). This is God's gracious choice, which in turn gives us the opportunity to choose God through Jesus Christ.

Thus, Joshua and his people were able to choose God because God chose them first as His people. Peter and Twelve chose to stay with Christ since He chose them first.  God's gracious choice,  which worked wonders for them, gave them reason and direction in declaring for God. Maybe that is why only a fool can reject God (Ps 14:1). At the end, God's gracious choice for us must be the underlying reason that propels our choice in Faith. Hence Jesus said, “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." It is by grace that we can recognise Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3). It is by opening our hearts to this gracious choice that we can say with Peter, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the message of eternal life...’ At the end, this gracious choice for God in Jesus leads us into a relationship with Him, where reason and human benefit is sustained by grace. Grace as the last resort, however, does not deny nor downplay reason and human wellbeing, but itself suffices as that which gives direction to our free choice. This is the only way our choice for Christ Jesus can endure. It is the Father that draws us...!

3.0.To Whom Shall we Go!
Our society today is gradually losing direction. Identity crisis leaves its mark almost on every facet of our life. Even the Religious are not left out. Marriage and human relationship are on the fast track of redefinition. We question everything, and quickly jettison what does not guarantee immediate results. In our hearts are impressed the question: To whom shall we go? 

We want to choose the direction of our lives, and choose it in freedom. Sometimes freedom is perceived as amorphous, open to anything. Such idea of freedom of choice will leave our hearts in endless search for identity and worship. Our choice in freedom is responsive. There is already a direction laid down, from which we freely respond to. Faith is defined; our choice to worship follows a directed path. The free choice between married couples for each other is a living example as given in the second reading.

One enters marriage freely. But one only marries in freedom if he/she chooses to marry the one who has chosen him/her. This freedom of choice, sealed in the Blood of the Lamb, is irrevocable. The mystery of marriage is that couples are free but bound together. Each couple plays out his/her role in freedom but modelled after Christ.

Therefore, Jesus Christ is the unifying centre that holds all things in being (Col 1:17). It is to Him we shall go! Those who walk away from Christ, depart from truth. And they will end up walking away from dignity of life and true freedom. Since we have been chosen in Christ for every heavenly blessings, our choice in faith must be centred on the person of Jesus Christ, the True Bread that Satisfies.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R.ķ
St Louis Catholic Church,
Ekuku-Agbor, Delta State,
Nigeria.
26th August, 2018

Friday, August 17, 2018

THE QUESTION OF DIVORCE!

Reflection for Friday of the 19th week in Ordinary Time, Year B
(Eze 16:1-15,60,63; Mt 19:3-12)

1.0.God's faithfulness
The Prophet Ezekiel exposed Israel's abominations, and showed how God remained faithful despite their unfaithfulness to the covenant he made with them. It was God who brought Israel up and adorned her with beauty. Instead of appreciating God and being faithful,  she took pride her beauty and prostituted by worshipping other gods. “Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl, and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you...I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord GOD.” God remained faithful even when Israel was unfaithful.

2.0.The Question of Divorce?
This is an ancient question. It seems to be as old as marriage itself. This question was brought to Jesus as a trap. Even today, divorce smells of dishonesty.  Jesus answers that marriage,  from its nature and foundation, does not admit of divorce.  "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate."

But they seem to have a justified reason for divorce. "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?" Does this imply that Moses was to blame for giving such law? Shifting of blame is common with divorce. Jesus' response shows that the law that allows divorce is never founded within the nature of marriage nor its very good. Again, while marriage is rooted in the heart of God, divorce is rooted in man's hardness of heart. "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Thus Moses merely allowed it because they would not accept the truth. In other words, there hardened heart compelled Moses, who tried to control the aberration by instituting the law of the writ of divorce. Jesus implied that divorce flows from their hardness of heart. 

3.0.Hardened Heart
It is a heart that is not open to God. The people of Israel in the first reading were hardened. All that God did for them did not turn their hearts to Him. Thus they continued to be unfaithful to Him. Also, the Pharisees approached Jesus with hardened hearts. Their minds were made up; they were only looking for a way to trap Him. A heart that is not open to God will closed to its neighbour. Only those who turn their hearts to God embrace the mystery of marriage as rooted in the Divine plan. And the question of divorce will continue to arise in hardened hearts.

4.0.Fidelity in Marriage
Marriage is partened after God's covental relationship with Israel; of Jesus and the Church. The covenant is irrevocable. It stands the test of time because God is faithful though Israel is utterly unfaithful. God continues to forgive their transgressions, keeping in mind His covenant with them.

Often times, marital fidelity is like that. One partner puts in more to keep the union going. Marriage is a bedrock of forgiveness. Couples ought to parttern their commitment to their marriage after God's steadfastness in His covenant with Israel. That is why our hearts must be open to God so we can embrace fidelity in Marriage. Every sacrifice we make to keep our marriages is worth it. 

The question of divorce is prevalent in our society today. It shows how far our hearts are turned from God. 

Fr. Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Church of Assumption,
Asokoro, Abuja.
Friday August 17th, 2018.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

ASSUMED TO GREATNESS

According to Benedict XVI, our first parents tried to pull themselves from God, unlike Mary who proclaimed God's greatness. This was at the core of original sin. “They feared that if God were too great, he would take something away from their life. They thought that they could set God aside to make room for themselves.”  But Mary created room for God in her life and heart. The magnificat mirrors the entire personality of Mary. “Mary wanted God to be great in the world, great in her life and present among us all. She was not afraid that God might be a "rival" in our life, that with his greatness he might encroach on our freedom, our vital space. She knew that if God is great, we too are great. Our life is not oppressed but raised and expanded: it is precisely then that it becomes great in the splendour of God.”

Whatever that is sown in God increases and multiplies. That is why Jesus described the Kingdom of God as mustard seed sown in littleness but which grows to greatness (Mt 13:31-32). Unless we died with Christ we remain our little and weak selves that cannot save. If we die with him, then we reign with him (Rm 6:8; 2Tim 2:11). Mary sowed her life in God. She lived in hope of the fulfilment of God's promises (Lk 1:45). She contemplated God's mysteries because there is space for God in her heart (Lk 2:51). Through her words, ‘let it be done to me according to your words', Mary opened up herself to contain God in her womb.  So we call her the New Ark of the Covenant,  the first Tabernacle. And the Almighty lifted up His lowly handmaid.

In us there is room for God. Through faith we open the doors of our lives to God so that God can be the power that gives our existence path and life. If God becomes great in us, we lose nothing, instead our lives become rich and great.

On the other hand, there is space for man in God. This is the message of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. That was why God tried to reconcile man after the fall, and He announced the defeat Satan through this woman (Gen 3:15). So from the first moment of her existence, Mary enjoyed this singular privilege of Immaculate Conception, and she committed her life to God in virginity. Thus she was free from sin and its burden—death and decay. Her escape from Satan, the ancient dragon, was total and complete. Assumption can be likened to the wings that was given to her to escape the fierce dragon that opened its mouth to swallow her (Rev 12:1-6).

Being assumed in God, she was raised to greatness and shares more intimately in the life of the Trinity. Thus she is closer to us and her universal motherhood shines out. Her motherhood transverses time and space. “All generations shall call me blessed” implies that what God has done through Mary cannot be relegated to the past. Her blessedness illumines every generation and culture. Assumption of Mary is, therefore, a consequence of the singular privilege she enjoyed. It is an affirmation that all generations will call her blessed,  and she, in turn, can bless all generations.

This great solemnity enlivens our hope that heaven can contain us. God awaits us. Heaven is our destination. The human life, body and soul, is endowed with a dignity beyond itself. If we model our life after Mary, being open to God, the joy of the Assumption of Mary equally awaits us. Let us open our life, family, works, society to God. There is room for us in heaven (Jn 14:2). “Only if God is great is humankind also great. With Mary, we must begin to understand that this is so. We must not drift away from God but make God present; we must ensure that he is great in our lives. Thus, we too will become divine; all the splendour of the divine dignity will then be ours. Let us apply this to our own lives.”

According to Benedict XVI, the modern generation wants to put God outside its space, thinking that without God we will be free to do whatever we want. “But when God disappears, men and women do not become greater; indeed, they lose the divine dignity, their faces lose God's splendour. In the end, they turn out to be merely products of a blind evolution and, as such, can be used and abused. This is precisely what the experience of our epoch has confirmed for us.”  The same applies our expression of our cultures.

Our collective ways of life must be open to God. This is how our ways of expression can be life-giving and sustainable. If not, we remain locked up in our individual cultures, with a localized horizon. Only if we embrace God with our culture can we appreciate the diversity of cultures. Then we can overcome the tribalism, and animosity towards people of other cultures. Like Mary, if we embrace God totally,  even with our cultures,  He will increase us.

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R.
Church of Assumption, Asokoro,
Abuja.
16/08/2018
Reflection given at the parish Marian retreat in preparation for the Parish feast day and cultural day celebrations coming up on Sunday August 19th, 2018.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

TAKE MARY HOME

Mary, a gift in faith and love
1.0. A Gift in Faith
The Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said to him, “Joseph son of David,  do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20). After Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, his human love for her could not carry him on...But being a man faith, he listened to the instruction of the Angel and took Mary home as his wife (Mt 1:24). At this point he  acted out of obedience of faith, for he was a righteous man before the Lord (cf. Mt 1:19). In other words,  he took Mary home not on his personal decision,  but in obedience to the instruction of the Angel. Thus, he recived Mary into his home as a gift—yes, a gift he recived in faith.

St Joseph stood unbehalf of God's faithful,  the generations of believers, to receive Mary in faith. She is our Mother in faith.  The Almighty has done these great things,  and given Mary to His Church. She brings forth Jesus; she wins us salvation (Mt 1:21).

2.0.A Gift of Love
“No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). This is what Jesus did on the Cross. From this hieght of love, before totally surrendering His life, He gave His precious Mother to His beloved disciple (Jn 19:25-27). He emptied Himself for us, taking the form, not just a slave,  but even the form of an orphan on the Cross (cf. Phil 2:7) that we might not be left orphans (Jn 14:18). We have a Mother...!

John stood with love at the foot of the Cross to receive Mary on behalf  of all God's beloved Children. Mary is given to us in love; a parting gift from the Master who was determined to teach all He learnt and handover all He received from the Father (cf. Jn 17:8). “From that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:27). Thus,  when we receive Mary in our hearts with love, our relationship with Jesus becomes more joyous. Mary is our model in charity, a Gift of love. Her presence assures of our filial relationship with Jesus.

3.0.Faith and Love
Faith and love are the two wings on which God's children fly to the beatific vision. Faith is the foundation, love is the outer structure that gives beauty to the house. Without faith the structure collapses; without love the foundation is desolate. Thus, the edifice of our life in Christ is built on faith and love. It is within this edifice that we make a Home for Mary, a Gift in faith and love.

Faith needs understanding or reason. That is why the Angel had to explain to Joseph why he should receive Mary in faith. “...Because she has conceive what is in her by the Holy Spirit...”(Mt 1:20-21). Accepting Mary, therefore, is guarantee that what the Lord said would be fulfilled (Lk 1:45). Those who accept Mary as their Mother in faith need not understand everything before believing. She steps in as a Guarantor, a living Assurance of faith.

Love needs no explanation! That is why Jesus did not explain to John why he should take Mary home. Love is its own answer; the reason for love is love. That is why immediately after handing over His Mother, “Jesus knew that everything has now been completed” (Jn 19:28). Love brings completeness. Accepting Mary in love brings us satisfaction even in the midst of lack.

Faith is necessary but love is sufficient. Take Mary home! She has been given to us in faith and love. Accepting and appreciating a gift throws one into a deeper relationship with the giver.

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu,  C.Ss.R
Mother of Perpetual Help  Shrine,
Ugwogo-nike,  Enugu.
August 4th, 2018.
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 12, 2018

THE BREAD GIVEN FOR YOU

                                  Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
                                          (1Kg 19:4-8; Ps 34; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51)

1.0. “Arise and Eat”
Food tastes more delicious and palatable when one is hungry. It is then we appreciate its sweetness and value. Elijah was worn out from his journey and prayed to God to take his life. The depth of his hunger was so great that he could not continue. An Angel of the Lord brought him cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water twice. “Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.” While Elijah was concerned about his hunger, the Angel was interested in the extent of the journey. The miraculous food sustained him for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

In the Gospel Jesus offers His flesh as the Bread which comes down from Heaven. This heavenly bread sustains us to eternal life; “That a man may eat of it and not die.”

2.0.The Hunger and the journey
The Eucharist is enjoyed, eaten over and over again by those who know their need of God. Deep within, we are conscious of our hunger. We feel empty, lonely and afraid. Like Elijah, sometimes we feel like quitting—quitting the job, the marriage,  the relationship or even to keep off from spirituality and morality. It seems our efforts can no more carry us on. Being self-aware of our need for strength and nourishment encourages us to arise and eat.

But where does this lead us to? We do not know by ourselves. The extent of the journey is given by revelation; the future is in God's hands. So the Angel revealed to Elijah that the journey would take him to Horeb. Jesus reveals that He the Bread of life will lead us to conquer death and enter Heaven. Therefore,  our inherent weariness and divine revelation impale us to frequently approach this throne of grace.

3.0. The Bread Given for You
“And the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The bread given to Elijah was baked on hot stones, just as the bread of life given by Jesus was baked on the Cross. It comes as the greatest sacrifice. The most expensive food for nourishment and for the journey, which is given for us. Hence, the life within this heavenly bread is transferred to us who receive...

Therefore,  St Paul warns us,  “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,  in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” This life-giving bread summons us to responsibility. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you...” We have the duty to pull ourselves from these negative dispositions, and direct our hearts to virtue. “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” That means we are to model ourselves after the bread given for us.

“Therefore be imitators of God,  as beloved children.” St Paul insists that we must model our lives after the sacrifice that nourishes and sustains us. We too who have been fed, must be baked on the hot stone of love. The Bread given for us energises us to offer ourselves as a fragrant offering for others—a life sacrificed to God.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Holy Provincialate Chapel,
Katampe Extension,  Abuja.
August 12, 2018.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

THE END OF HUNGER

                                        Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
                                                Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 17,20-24; Jn 6:24-35)

The Hunger
“The whole congregation of the sons of Israel murmured against Moses and Aeron in the wilderness.” Hunger is synonymous with desire, which can make someone restive. The discomforting nature of hunger is worse when it has no hope of being satisfied. In their hunger the Israelites complained against Moses and Aeron. The wilderness offered them no hope of satisfaction so they redirected their desire backwards  towards Egypt. “Would that we had died by the hand the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full...” In their desperation they preferred the bread of slavery to the hunger of freedom. Their desire was focused solely eating to satisfaction regardless of its consequences.

In the Gospel,  the multitude that Jesus fed ran after Him to enjoy more free bread and fish. Their desire was shifted from the person of Jesus who is the source to mere bread that satisfied their immediate hunger. This is selfishness. So Jesus said to them, “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” Jesus proposes an end to an endless regress in our quest.

“Lord, give us this Bread Always”
God cares for His people. He rained bread for the Israelites, as Jesus multiplied bread and fish for the multitude. Last week we recognised that this miracle points to Jesus Himself, who is the Bread of Life. This is where our hunger should be directed.  It's only when we are fed by God are we satisfied and free. The Israelites desired selfishly, without faith, and longed for the bread of slavery.

That is why St Paul warns us not live like unbelievers, chasing futility—a life marked with deceitful lusts that cannot be satisfied.  Our minds must be constantly renewed by focusing them on God in true righteousness and holiness. There is a freshness of life that comes when we enter into the silence of our hearts and direct our innermost thoughts and sentiments to God. From this depth, God bestows satisfaction and freedom.

This sweet and serene freshness,  which Jesus gives from the silence of our hearts, shines out to bestow calmness on our every other temporal hunger. But it increases our hunger for Jesus, whom we have come to recognise as our only source of satisfaction. Then we frequently seek for Jesus, like the multitude, but for His own sake, and to say to Him, “Give us this Bread always.”

The End of Hunger
Every hunger has an end in view. Unfortunately,  if in our hunger for well-being, our hearts are turned from God, we enter into an infinite regress. Then we are enslaved. Jesus offers Himself as the end of our hunger, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” This implies that only our hunger for Jesus can satisfy, and can be fully satisfied. In other words, the hunger for Jesus brings us satisfaction in our every other temporal hunger such that these others are mere signs. That means our hunger for health, wealth, status, family, etc are pointers to our desire for Jesus since acquiring them does not fully satisfy. But when we encounter Jesus all these others begin to satisfy, no matter how little we might have them.

Therefore, it is only our desire for God that can be fully satisfied in Heaven. However,  even now, our hunger for God is satisfied because it is the only hunger that is its own satisfaction; it is the only  desire that is quenched merely by desiring...Deep calling on deep.

Thus, the end of hunger comes as an exchange—that point of encounter where our thirst jams Jesus' thirst for us.

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Holy Ghost Father's Chapel,
Katampe Abuja.
August 5th, 2018.



Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Seed of Life

                                  (Reflection for Monday of the 17th week in Ordinary Time)
                                                         Jer 13:1-11, Mt 13:31-35.
Why did God tell the Prophet Jeremiah to hide his new linen loincloth among the rocks, where termites destroyed it! He used it to give example of what would happen to the wicked who do not abide in God's word. In the Gospel this morning Jesus described the Kingdom of God like a mustard seed and like the yeast that leavens the flour. 

The Seed and the Yeast
A seed sown can germinate if it has life within it. The Kingdom of God is alive! Once sown, it germinates and grows to greatness. Like little mustard seed, the Kingdom of God grows from little acts of righteousness. The man who sows this seed in his farm automatically enjoys this rise to greatness. Similarly, a yeast has an inherent capacity to increase the volume of the flour, to produce smooth and tasty bread. Hence, once it is mixed with the flour, the yeast acts according. The kingdom of God increases us...Thus, Jesus gives this parable that might plant the seed of God's kingdom in the farm of our endeavours, and mix the flour of our lives with the yeast of the Kingdom.

The Loincloth and the Kingdom
God spoke Jeremiah that as a waist cloth clings to loins of a man, so close did he bring his people to Himself.  But they refuse to hear His word, instead they their own hearts and other gods. Therefore,  they would end up like the loincloth that was eaten by termites,  having no beauty, no life and useless.

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rm 14:17 KJV). God has given us opportunity to grow to greatness like a mighty tree by sowing the seeds of the righteousness of the Kingdom. And to mingle our lives with His righteousness such that it increases us automatically from within. “The Kingdom of God is within you”(Lk 17:21).

The Seed of Life
Then the ultimate seed of God's kingdom is sown, and has grown to greatness. Jesus is the Kingdom of God among us. He is that Seed of the Kingdom that was sown in littleness but in three days He burst the earth and germinated to the highest glory. The life within Him could not be conquered by death nor held down by the grave. Such supra-abundance of life is now available and accessible to us in Christ Jesus.  Like birds of the air, we take shelter on Jesus, the true Vine.


Fr Jude Nwachukwu,  C.Ss.R
Our Mother of Perpetual Shrine,
Enugu
30/07/2018

Monday, July 30, 2018

THE BREAD THAT SATISFIES

                                  (Homily for 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
1.0. The Miracle
“How am I to set this before a hundred men?” the servant asked Elisha. At the word of God the Prophet responded, “They shall eat and have some left.” Thus Elisha fed so many with so little. In the Gospel, while Elisha fed 100 men with 20 loaves,  Jesus fed 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. God, who created from nothing, is able to give abundance from so little.

2.0. The Bread and Fish
Elisha fed them with bread and grains, while Jesus multiplied bread and fish. The hallmark of the miracles is that surplus came from so little.  What was brought was insignificant in the face of such magnitude of demand. In the readings, we encounter the God who can turn our little inputs into great outs.

We have so much temporal and spiritual hunger. And what we often have by ourselves in the face these are like few loaves and fish before the multitude.  We rarely can keep ourselves contented  by our efforts and achievements. In an effort to quench this hunger some have entered the world of pleasure, consumerism, power and ego, etc. These deepen the hunger and leave a residue of frustration. Our bread and fish cannot satisfy...

3.0. Bread and Fish offered
Elisha committed the  bread and grain to the word of God, while Jesus lifted up the bread and fish...Thus what was little before men was in turn received from God as abundance! What could not satisfy from human perspective,  is received back from God with utmost satisfaction. God's providence does not fail. Our little temporal and spiritual resources,  such as time, health, wealth, faith, virtue, etc, cannot guarantee our spiritual and physical security. But when we offer them to God, we receive in return abundance of satisfaction,  even while these resources appear little before us.

Thus, St Paul enjoins us to respond to our vocation with utmost humility. It is God who gives the increase.  In gentility we offer ourselves, being pour way like libation to God. Whatever is offered to God diminish.

4.0.The Bread that Satisfies
In lifting the bread to the Father for the people,  Jesus gave the ultimate sign that points to Himself as the Bread of the life. He is the living Bread, offered up for us that all generations may eat and be satisfied. In the Eucharistic,  therefore,  we offer up our humble selves with all our hunger. In the Eucharist lies immeasurable serenity and satisfaction that awaits all who participate faithfully. This is the real Bread that Satisfies.

Fr Jude Nwachukwu,  C.Ss.R
Mother of Perpetual Shrine
Enugu.
29/07/2018

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