Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Journey back Home

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Lent Year C
(Joshua 5:9, 10-12; 2Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
Today's reflection is drawn from the beautiful and inspiring story of the Prodigal son. This story reveals God's infinite mercy and our wretchedness in the state of sin. Here, repentance and mercy embraced!

The journey begins
At what point did the Prodigal son begin to trace his steps back home? It was not his hunger that pull the string. In his hunger he looked for alternative ways to satisfy himself. But the realization of his Father's mercy summoned him to a deeper reflection, and the subsequent steps back home followed. Every genuine repentance is prompted by God's mercy.

The young man saw within the confines of his Father's generosity an end to the misery he brought upon himself. Thus realizing his Father's mercy and generosity deepened his awareness of his wasted and miserable life. This is the moment of truth. All the lies he used to fence himself crumbled. Now, all is set for the journey back home to begin.

The Confession
"I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son, treat me as one of your paid servants."' For repentance not remain as mere psychic imagination, or a sensational good wish, there is need for confession. By its very nature confession needs a witness and acceptance. In this way, repentance is no more a mere private affair. Confession of sins is a concrete expression of contrition and a source of assured forgiveness. It is a crucial step along the journey back home.

                                          The Father's Embrace
Image result for the prodigal sonWhile the Prodigal son was still a long way off, the father ran to meet him, embraced and kissed him. This implies that even before the boy began his journey home, the father's mercy awaited him. That means the father had already embraced him in his heart before running down to meet him. At this meeting point of mercy and contrition, the father first 'confessed' his love for his son through the concrete gesture of hug and kiss, even before the boy confessed his sins and contrition.

After his confession, the voice of the Prodigal son was heard no more! The Father's voice re-sounded over and over again as if the boy disappeared in his Father's embrace! The man continued to speak words of acceptance, celebration and beauty. Further, the father became a 'voice' for the Prodigal son and defended him against the elder brother's accusation. 

The Celebration
The love and mercy of God is at the beginning and end of our journey of repentance back the life of grace. There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Lk 15:7). The 'fattened cow' is slaughtered; the party is on...Now, the repentant son receives more--more grace--than he had before he embarked that futile adventure. The generosity and mercy of the father exposed the Prodigal son's selfishness, and equally conquered it. There is this overwhelming sense of embrace we often feel whenever we receive worthily the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic, Church,
Tedi, Lagos                                                                                                                                             
Sunday March 31, 2019

Saturday, March 30, 2019


Reflection for Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
(Hosea 6:1-6; Lk 18:9-14)
Jesus tells us the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee boasted about his ‘righteous’ deeds, while the Tax Collector stood afar off and pleaded for mercy.

The self-righteous man stood before God’s presence and was comparing himself with others. There was no place for God in his prayer; he made God a mere spectator of the competition between him and others. But the Tax Collector ‘compared’ himself with God. He recognized God’s holiness in relation to his sinfulness. God Himself was the centre and focus of his prayer. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” He went home justified.

Whenever we come closer to God, His holiness reveals our sinfulness—there is always something to repent of. So we approach Him with utmost humility. There is neither comparison nor competition when we come to God in prayer. He relates to each of us in our individual uniqueness. His package of blessings is unparalleled with no other.

Encounter with God summons us to humility, in which true relationship with God is established.

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Ss Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi, Lagos.
Saturday, 30 March 2019.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Today we celebrate  the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. It is a unique point in human history when the Word took flesh!
The Angel Gabriel was apt in his delivery, and the Virgin Mary was overly receptive...Yes, any message or prompting from the Lord is alway good news. The message and the process of its actualization may not be convenient, but it ends up a good news!
This too is my disposition as I resume today at Ss Peter and Paul Catholic Church,  Tedi-Muwo, Lagos. This is my third missionary journey since ordination.
Thank you Jesus!
Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
As Peter and Paul Catholic Church
Tedi Lagos.
Monday March 25th, 2019

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Victory over Temptation

Reflection for 1st Sunday of Lent Year C
(Deut 26:4-10;Rom 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13)
Moses explained to the people how they would make an offering of first fruits to the Lord. He described how God led them from slavery in Egypt, and planted them in the land flowing with milk and honey. “And behold, now I bring you the first fruits of the ground, which you, oh Lord, had given me.” But St Paul explains in the second readings that now our salvation from slavery is given through faith in Christ Jesus. So God's mighty arm with which He delivered the Israelites from slavery is now given in the ‘double edged sword’ of the word of God. Hence, we carry the word on our lips and in our hearts, and confess that Jesus is Lord... “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rm 10:13).

The battle for our freedom could be seen in the battle of Jesus with Satan. Sin leads to slavery! “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (Jn 8:34). Jesus’ victory over Satan announces our freedom and triumph in time of temptation. However, we must be ready to face temptation at all times. Jesus was tempted to change stone into bread and eat, to worship Satan in exchange for earthly power and glamour, and to tempt God by jumping from a cliff. These, and every temptation,  are all rooted in selfishness and the emancipation of the human will even over and above God’s will.

So human hunger or desire cannot redefine God's purpose for things. A stone is never meant for food! The temptation here is to put God's will aside and replace it with human hunger by changing the stone to bread. Secondly, God alone is unconditionally worshipped. This is  where we have to be careful about the modern day quest for miracles. The desire for authority and wealth often lead to different forms of idolatry. Thirdly, God's word is to be fulfilled, not in human terms but in God's. Presumption is like trying to unseat God, and attempting to institute oneself as master of the future. There is a growing temptation to know things beyond us. Thus many seek interpretations of dreams, some consult visionaries and sorcery. Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

“If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” (Jn 8:36). That is why St Paul says that if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Thus the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our Passover from slavery to freedom. Therefore, we offer the Eucharist—The First Fruit—Jesus Christ, who is the first fruit from the dead (1Cor 15:20), the first born of all creation (Col 1:15). In Him temptation has lost its grip.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help,
Ugwogo-Nike, Enugu.
Sunday March 10th, 2019.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

"Follow Me": The Call to Conversion

Reflection for Saturday After Ash Wednesday
(Is 58:9-14; Lk 5:27-32)
"If you take away from your midst, the yoke, the pointing of finger, and sneaking wickedness...then shall your light rise in the darkness." Repentance involves a practical action. The Prophet Isaiah gives some guidelines on the proper practical steps to be taken, and the blessing that will follow. He emphasized 'honouring the Sabbath' as an important step to show repentance. This might sound odd to the modern ear!

The Sabbath,  the 7th day, is the day God set aside for Himself, and He imposed a blessing upon it that creation and the rest of the days might be blessed through the Sabbath day. It is the day God 'drew attention to Himself'. Thus, honouring the Sabbath day becomes an external gesture of 'giving God attention.' And the attention we give God is worshipp. The repentant sinner who honours the Sabbath, therefore, worships the Lord. Of what use is repentance if it does not give God the attention that is His due?

However, God established for us a new place of 'rest.' Jesus is the New Sabbath where God's rest awaits us (cf. Heb 4:1-12). God drew all attention to Himself in Christ Jesus. "When I Am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself." He invites us to come and enter into His new place of rest. This is the invitation to conversion--the invitation given to Levi in the Gospel of today. '"Follow me.' And He left everything, and rose and followed Him" (Lk 5:27-28).

Reflect on the action words, 'he left everything', 'he rose', and 'he followed.' Now place them side by side with what we do every Sunday! Is it not how we move to participate at the Mass? The feast at table with Jesus can be likened to our dinning with the Lord at the Eucharist--sinners, repentant sinners, who are now supposed to be 'in a state of grace' surrounding the communion rail.

Therefore, the culmination of our practical steps to repentance is the worship of God, giving God the attention that is His due. This is what Isaiah prophesied as honouring the day of the Lord. Repentance without worship is self-righteousness, which leads to the hypocrisy of pointing fingers. Our Lenten  journey to conversion cannot stop until we seat at table with Jesus.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help,
Ugwogo-Nike, Enugu.
Saturday March 9th, 2019.

Friday, March 8, 2019


Reflection for Friday after Ash Wednesday
(Is 58:1-9; Mt 9:14-15)
On this first Friday of Lent, the readings address the issue of fasting. There is a deeper understanding about fasting in the teachings of Jesus than in the Old law. The Prophet Isiah introduces fasting as a means of appeasing God for transgressions. He condemned mere external show, which does not reflect in righteous deeds. “Is not this the fast that I  choose: to loose the bonds of the break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry...”

Thus even in the Old Law fasting has a positive connotation. It is not mere ‘punishment’ for the body, but a ‘hunger’ for righteousness. God accepts such fasting that leads to a change of heart for goodness. It means, therefore, that in choosing the objects of our fast, we must choose to deny ourselves those things that pull us out of grace and make us selfish. “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry, and He will say, Here I am.”

Furthermore, this question of fasting is brought to Jesus. As if wearied, burdened and trapped in their own fasting, the disciples of John the Baptist approached Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” This hypocritical attitude is common. When someone fasting begins to notice those who are not, distraction has set in. And it makes fasting burdensome and scary! Jesus’ explanation and introduction to the new order of fasting is liberating and enriching.

“Can the wedding guest mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Thus, fasting is ‘timed’, and for the exaltation of the ‘Bridegroom’, whose “taken away” announces the time of fasting. In other words, the ‘wedding guests’, Christ’ faithful, in full communion with Him, have achieved the ultimate purpose of fasting, for Christ Jesus is their Righteousness. But the ‘time’ of fasting awakens when we long for this fullness of grace and communion with Jesus. Thus, we fast because we long for Jesus; our fasting is our expression for our hunger for Jesus. Whatever that is the object of our fasting is such that must increase our desire for Jesus.

It is joyfully and fulfilling to thirst for Him who thirsts for us!

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help,
Ugwogo-Nike, Enugu.
Friday March 8th, 2019.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The ‘Crossroad’ of Decision-making

Reflection for Thursday after Ash Wednesday
(Deut 30:15-20; Lk 9:22-25)

In this season of Lent, we are being summoned to make the right choice for our salvation. Lent is a time of decision-making—to choose God and choose life. “I call upon heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death...” our Lenten observances train us to have the right disposition to choose life, and enter into our eternal inheritance. The promise and blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob await those who make the right choice in life.

Nevertheless, the ultimate victory over life and death is set before us in the Cross of Christ. “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things...and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’” In the Cross of Jesus is the ‘crossroad’ of decision-making. Our choices are judged right or wrong to the extent they draw life from the Cross. If we reject the Cross in an attempt to save our lives, we will lose it. But, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me...Whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” Lent gives us the ‘platform’ to accept the Cross of Jesus through our daily crosses. There lies a life-saving choice, enriched with heavenly blessings.

Therefore, we freely and joyfully impose upon ourselves acts of penance! This becomes a ‘training ground’ where we acquire the necessary spiritual strength, and the proper disposition, to carry our daily crosses to Jesus. Thus, we learn humility and patience, which enables us to allow Jesus to lead the way, no matter the weight of the burden upon us.

Thanks be to God, the Lenten summon to choose has already been made for us: God the Father has chosen us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, and destined us for every spiritual blessings in the heavenly places (cf. Eph 1:3-6). Blessing that even surpasses that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but is now made available through the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Mater Domini Community,
Thursday March 7th, 2019.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Now is the Favourable Time

Reflection for Ash Wednesday 2019
(Joel 2:12-18; 2Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6,16-18)
‘“Even now,’ says the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart...’”(Joel 2:12). The first and second readings both say the time to repent is 'now': “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2Cor 6:2).

The annual Lenten journey comes anew each year. The fragrance of lent, like the sacrificial smoke of incense, spreads and penetrates the Church with ever new ardour. Lent is new; it occurs now! ‘Now is the favourable time.’ Though it is stretched across 40 days, we take each day as it unfolds. Our past days are renewed in this ‘now’ of Lent, and our future receive boost and direction from this favourable moment.

Traditionally, all our Lenten observances are grouped under prayer, fasting and almsgiving, but how do we approach these in order to receive the mercy and favour announced by the Prophet Joel and Apostle Paul?

Jesus says we must practice them in secret! That means our prayer, fasting and almsgiving should be offered without the interference of the ego; without the pleasure of momentary reward or recognition. Also there should be no comparison or competition here. The fragrance of our Lenten observances belong only to God; “...and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

In the secret place of our hearts—in truth and silence of heart—we joyfully make our Lenten journeys. It is only when we offer our prayer, fasting and almsgiving from the secret room of our hearts can we swim in the “now” of salvation—the moment of God's favour—without anticipation for a long future,  or depression from a dry past. Thus, to perform our Lenten observances in ‘secret’ removes tension from the ‘now', the present moment of each day of lent. This will enable us to freely and joyfully participate, enriched with grace and favour, with a renewed heart and mind.

God bless you.
Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu,  C.Ss.R
Mater Domini Community,
Alulu-Nike, Enugu.
Ash Wednesday March 6th, 2019.

Saturday, March 2, 2019


Reflection for 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
(Sirach 27:4-7; 1Cor 15:54-58; Lk 6:39-45)
The real battle is in who takes control of the human mind. “When the sieve is shaken, the refuse remains; so a man's filth remains in his thoughts”(Si 27:4). The first reading goes ahead to show that the secret thoughts of a person manifest through his words. “...So the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man's mind. Do not praise a man before you hear him speak, for this is the test of men”(Si 27:6).

Speech is easy, but it is not easy to ‘cultivate’ the mind. Most people are more in a hurry to speak than to take time to cultivate their minds. Speech from an enlightened mind is wisdom, which uplifts the speaker and direct the audience aright. Funny enough, the quest to lead others seems more appealing than the process of formation of a person's mind. One who pays much attention to ‘cultivate’ his mind, to acquire knowledge and good conscience, will not be obsessed with leadership. This is because such a one enjoys authority within himself. But when people are in a hurry to offer advice, correct, criticize or lead, they often end up as blind guides!

So Jesus asked, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not fall into a pit?” (Lk 6:39). Surely, they will. It is hypocritical for one to neglect his blindness or the log on his eyes while extending guidance to others. Sin has blindfolded us. We can no more see God. This was the predicament of Adam and Eve after they disobeyed. Our vision of life is blurred; the future is far removed and we cannot envision our salvation. Being conscious of our short-sightedness is the first step forward. Like the Pharisees, if we do not admit and work on our ‘blind spots’, we end up as blind guides (cf. Jn 9:40-41). “Lord that I may see”(Mk 10:51).

“We want to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). He is the True Guide. “In your light we see light” (Ps 36:9). We need Jesus to open our minds, lead us aright, and we follow Him as the Way. Any guide that is not of Christ Jesus will lead us to the pit of hell. “Though the Light has come into the world, people prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19). We need to allow the light of Christ to penetrate our innermost being, to enlighten our understanding, and thus, guide our words and actions (cf. Eph 1:18). “For no good tree bears bad fruit...for each tree is known by its fruits”(Lk 6:43-44). Our minds are the storehouse of good and evil. “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”(Lk 6:45). If the storehouse of our heart and mind are guarded by Jesus Christ, then we will have enough vision for ourselves and for others too.

Therefore, Christ Jesus is the ‘Cultivation’ of our mind! He is the ‘Life' of every living conscience. He is the ‘Living Sieve' that removes filth from our minds. The battle for the control of the human mind has been won! “Death is swallowed up in victory...O Death where is your sting?”(1Cor 15:55). No more shall we allow ‘blind guards' to short-change the eternal vision we have in Christ Jesus. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor 15:57). Thus we must remain steadfast in faith, and abound in good works.

Fr Jude Chinwe Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Mater Domini Community,
Sunday March 3rd, 2019.