Friday, May 14, 2021

May 16, 2021; Homily for 7th Sunday of Easter - Feast of the Ascension (Year B) Stop Staring, Get Back to Work!


Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mk. 16:15-20

Stop Staring, Get Back to Work!

1.     William Shakespeare understood life on earth as we see it today. In Merchant of Venice he said through Antonio, “I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, a stage where everyman must play a part.” (Act 1 Scene 1). And so, it is for everyone; we step into the scene from birth and play our part till death. The feast of Ascension reminds us that Christ, who died, rose from the dead and appeared to his Apostles for 40 days, now ascends into heaven, while the Apostles must continue the work of evangelization. The apostles were prepared for this task from the day Christ began his public ministry until now. He told them, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk. 1:15). And at the end of his ministry, he commissioned them to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk. 16:15). We Christians must believe in Christ and witness to him. To be a true Christian is to be a missionary disciple.

2.     As Christ was being lifted up, the Apostles looked intently at the sky, I guess wondering what to do next. Angels had to intervene in order to bring them back to reality. “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). With that the Apostles recalled the words of Christ. “You will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). They must prepare themselves for their mission. So back to Jerusalem they returned and devoted themselves to prayer while waiting for the Holy Spirit. Aren’t we like that most of the time? Thoreau was right when he said, “We live merely like ants, and our lives are frittered away by details.” We often get caught up in problems and are weighed down by difficulties. We tend to lose direction and find it difficult to see things in the correct perspective. At times like these we need to recall the vision faith gives us regarding the goals and meaning of our lives. Why are we here? What is the purpose of our lives? Christianity is not standing around waiting for something to happen; it is about making something to happen. We make it happen by witnessing to the Good News of Jesus Christ through word and deed.   

3.     The feast of Ascension gives us hope, strengthens our mission and empowers us to bring the gospel of salvation to others. It reminds us of our Baptism; when the word of God was placed on our lips by the minister as he said, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” (The Rite of Baptism). Jesus also received his mandate at his baptism. It was then that his mission was revealed. Hence, he said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Lk. 4:18-19). The letter to the Hebrews told us, “For this reason, when he came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; Behold, I come to do you will, O God.’” (Heb. 10:5-7). This too is our mission, to do the will of God and bear witness to him.

4.     Ascension is about endings and beginnings. Christ’s personal ministry on earth ended, but the operation of the Holy Spirit in his followers to continue his ministry began. It is now time for us to step up and play our part in the mission of Christ. As he commissioned the disciples, so we are now commissioned to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, until the end of age.” (Mt. 28:19-20). Now the time for preparing his apostles for the mission to build his Church was over, but the time for the participation in the expansion of that church began. We must begin witnessing to Christ and carry on his mission to the ends of the earth. But we know that we are not alone. He is with us always in and through his spirit.

5.     To bear witness to Christ we must be men and women of prayer. We come to church to praise God, to hear his word and to break the bread of his body with our brothers and sisters. But we don’t stand by staring up to heaven. We have places to go and things to do. So, we must stop staring and get back to work! We must leave the church with fire in our hearts to preach the word and bear witness to him in the world. Christ has no one else except me and you to continue this mission of love. He has no body but ours, no hands and feet, no eyes and ears, no means to show compassion and love, to show mercy and offer forgiveness, to preach the word and baptize but ours. Our hands must be his hands, our mouth must be his mouth and the good that must be done by him must be done by us. If anyone is to die again for others, it must not be Christ but us, since we are called to bear witness to him. And so, we pray at this Mass that we may witness to Christ by celebrating His Ascension into glory. May this celebration of hope remind us that we too will join Christ one day to enjoy life in full communion with God, to behold his beatific vision, and live in peace and harmony with God and all the saints in glory. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

May 09, 2021; Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year (B)

 

Readings: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 Jn. 4:7-10; Gospel John 15:9-17

Love Breaks all Barriers.

1.     In the first reading, we see Peter, a Jew, in the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. Jews had nothing in common with the Gentiles. The Gentiles were not considered fit to be admitted into any place of importance, not to mention the kingdom of heaven. Peter’s presence in the house of Cornelius was therefore, considered a taboo, scandalizing and very offensive indeed, to the Jews. To that point, Peter said, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean. And that is why I came without objection when sent for.” (Acts 10:28-29). Peter began his preaching with these words: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is accepted to him.” (Acts 10:34-35). While Peter was preaching, we are told: “The Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the holy Spirit would have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.” (Acts. 10: 44-47). All Peter could say was “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the holy Spirit even as we have?” (Act. 10:47). With that Cornelius and his household were baptized.

2.     The division, hatred and barriers in our world today are caused by man’s inhumanity to man and our inability to keep the commandment of love. It is the limitations we place on love that create animosity among people. Though many people in our society think that they are better than others, more intelligent, talented, richer and better endowed than others, it doesn’t make them right. Thoughts like these foster violence and bloodshed among brothers and sisters. The belief that one race is better than or more superior to others, makes it hard, if not impossible to love. Hence, St. Paul tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28). Therefore, Christ exhorts us in the gospel: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love.” (Jn. 15:12).  And John stresses in the second reading: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (I Jn. 4:7-8). We must love as we are loved by God.

3.     God’s love transforms and redeems us. He loves us sacrificially through his Son, who gave up his life for our sake. He tells us: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn. 15:13). There is so much misunderstand and mistrust in our society because we have not kept the commandment of love. Christ demonstrated this to his disciples when he said: “You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (Jn. 13:12-15). The disciple must walk in the footsteps of the master; hence the Apostles were so convinced of their discipleship and the teaching of their master, that they were not afraid to die for others as their master did. No mountain was high enough for them to climb and no barrier could prevent them from bringing the gospel of Christ to the ends of the world. Hence Peter went to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, to preach the gospel of salvation to him and his household. God took the initiative and proved to them that salvation was open to all his children regardless of race, origin and tribe. All are welcome in God’s house.

4.     It is not surprising that today we celebrate Mother’s Day. Today we remember those special women in our lives who celebrated and continues to celebrate and love us. They would willingly sacrifice their lives for us. They reflect the heart of Jesus, the heart of love. They were our teachers, our religious education instructors and our sole guide and providers from womb to birth and beyond. Their love for us was not just warm and fuzzy feelings; it was dedication, commitment, care, forgiveness, unselfishness and thoughtfulness. Our mothers’ love is captured by Paul: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, not pompous, not inflated nor rude. It does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). Hence, John tells us that God is love, to love is to communicate God. This love breaks all barriers and brings us together. St Paul urges us to “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13:8). At the end of our life on earth we will be judged on how much we loved God in one another. May God who loves us show us how to love others so as to abide with him in all eternity. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Thursday, April 29, 2021

May 02, 2021; Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter; Year (B)


Readings: Acts 9:26-31; 1 Jn. 3:18-24; Jn. 15:1-8

A Hard Man is Good to Find

1.     In today’s gospel Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5). Christian life must be rooted in Christ and directed by the relationship shared in and with Him. Therefore, Christians must live in such a way as to say with St. Paul “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20). To grow and live with and in Christ demands compatibility of character. The risk in organ transplant is the rejection of the foreign body by the donor body: incompatibility. If husband and wife are not compatible, that marriage has no future. In the same way without compatibility of character between Jesus and His disciples, no growth, nor fruition, or intimacy is possible. As sinful people, we need the pruning, purification and the cleansing effect of the Holy Spirit to make us compatible with sinless Jesus. We must align our priorities with Him so as to function and bear fruit as his disciples.

2.     This brings us to the first reading. Saul the persecutor who had tried to destroy the Church and dragged men and women to prison was converted on his way to Damascus. He is now preaching the same Christ that he was against. In Jerusalem, Paul’s new religion and his enthusiasm to preach Christ as the Lord is met with stiff opposition, suspicion and doubts. Was it not Paul who gave permission for Stephen to be stoned to death? How can he be trusted? He was snubbed, avoided and kept at a distance. We are told, “When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.” (Acts. 9:26). How lonely Paul must have felt. Did he make a mistake? Did Christ really speak to him on that road? These thoughts must have gone through his mind. Then someone by the name of Barnabas also called Joseph came to his rescue. He was a Levite, a Cypriot by birth. The Apostles named him Barnabas meaning ‘Son of Encouragement’. He was “a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith.” (Acts 11:23). He embodied the life of early Christians.

 

3.     Barnabas did not only epitomize the early Christians life, but he was also a branch that sprung from the Divine Vine - Jesus. He lived the life of Christ and knew that to bear fruit he had to align his values, his ethics, his identity, his personality and his priorities with Christ. He came to Paul’s rescue and took charge of him. He vouched for him and became his spokesperson. One wonders how life would have been for Paul but for someone like Barnabas. We need people like Barnabas to support us, to encourage and to believe in us. We need people who see potentials in us and will not judge us from the one mistake we may have made in the past. Barnabas showed himself a real Christian in the way he treated Paul. He saw that Paul was made in the image and likeness of God, therefore, should be redeemed and not condemned. He believed in the best in others. While others saw Paul as a spy, Barnabas saw him as an asset, an instrument to bring the Gospel of Christ to the gentiles. How wonderful would our world be if we had more people like Barnabas. Those who are not afraid of people, are not suspicious and cynical, but who see themselves in everyone and tries to help others succeed. These Hard Men are good to find.

4.      According to William Barclay, “The world is largely divided into those who think the best of others and those who think the worst; and it is one of the curious facts of life that ordinarily we see our reflection in others and make them what we believe them to be. If we insist on regarding a man with suspicion, we will end by making him do suspicious things. If we insist on believing in a man, we will end by compelling him to justify that belief.” We must be like Jesus in the way we treat others, especially those who do not look, think and talk like us. Barnabas was that man. Like Jesus, he did not allow someone’s past to influence his judgement against him. A person should not be condemned forever just because he once made a mistake. In a game of baseball, the rule is: three strikes, and you are out. We can apply the same rule to the way we treat those who have wronged us, knowing that Christ tells us to make it up to seventy-seven times. (Matt. 18:22). For “If you, O Lord, should make our guilt, Lord, who would survive.” (Ps. 130:3). Never condemn someone because he had once committed an offence. There is still room for change if we give him an opportunity to do so.

5.     The early Christian community that produced a man of character like Barnabas “Were of one heart and mine, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts. 4:36-37). Their faith was rooted in Christ. Christ is the vine, and every Christian is a branch. We must be one with Christ and must grow in Him. If we do not, we become a withered, rejected branch which is dead and is good for nothing. When we are together in Christ, we bear fruit. St. John made this point in the second reading. When we get together and are united in Christ and with one another, we live a life of truth, love and peace. God relates with us in love and with love we must “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Eph. 4:32). Let us pray at this Mass that we may be Barnabas to one another. With people like Barnabas, our world will be a better place, a place where no one will be suspicious of others, where violence and hatred will give way to forgiveness, tolerance and love; where we will see the image of God in one another and so treat them as we would Christ, in love. In everything may we treat others as we would want them to treat us. For a hard man is good indeed to find. God knows we need those hard men in our lives today more than ever before. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, April 23, 2021

April 25, 2021. Homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter; Year B

 

Readings: Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; Jn. 10:11-18 

We Are the Sheep of His Flock

1.     In many cultures of the world God is perceived as a woman – mother. Perhaps because mothers care, love and are dedicated to their children. Mothers are compassionate, forgiving and have the ability to empathize and feel for their children in ways that are difficult to describe. Mothers will be willing to sacrifice their lives for their children. I know a woman who refused to abort her baby to save her life. She died so that her child may live. The mother’s love can be likened to Christ’s love. All the attributes of the mother can fittingly describe the virtues of a good shepherd. Hence, Christ calls Himself a ‘Good Shepherd’. A good shepherd is prepared and willing to lay down his life to save others. Christ assures us of this when he said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13). Christ laid down his life for us because he loves us. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jer. 31:3).

2.     To understand why Christ is our good shepherd, we must realize that God’s love is prior to and essential for any human value. “Love consists in this: Not that we have loved God but that he has loved us first.” (1 John 4:10). John tells us point blank, “God is love.” (John 4:16). In today’s Gospel, Jesus says of Himself: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn.10:11). The protection of the shepherd and his willingness to lay down his life for the sheep is seen, not just in women but even in animals. The maternal instinct is to guard, protect and defend those entrusted to their care. There is a story told of firefighters who were putting out the last hot spots in a forest fire. Such fires can rage with intense heat and spread quickly overtaking animals in their path. In the course of their work, a firefighter came across a mother bird, sitting on the ground, charred black in death. Why hadn’t the bird flown up to safety, the firefighter wondered to himself. Had it been sick or injured? But as he lifted the bird up, he found the reason why. Beneath the dead mother’s body were five baby chicks. The mother bird had sacrificed her life to keep her chicks safe. And that is what the Good shepherd, Christ, did for humanity on that Good Friday afternoon. He laid down his life for humanity, to save us from damnation and reconciled us to God the father. St Paul reminds us that “Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:7-8).  

3.     In calling himself a good shepherd, Jesus distinguished himself from other shepherds who are not good. “…Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather pasture sheep?” You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured…. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves…I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” (Ezek. 34:2-16). In shepherding the flock entrusted to our care, we must be like Jesus. He shows us how to take care of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7. He hears the cries of His sheep and comes to their rescue. “I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.” (Ezekiel 34:15-16). “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care.” (Is. 40:11).

4.     With confidence David said, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me alone the right path for the sake of your name.” (Ps. 23:1-3). Who are our shepherds?  They are our parents, police officers, military men and women, teachers, doctors, priests. They are our leaders, spiritual and temporal. They are those placed in positions of authority over us. Their duties are to guard, defend and protect us. Anyone in a position of authority over us is our shepherd and we are the sheep of their flock. How they shepherd us matters. Hence, we demand accountability from them. That is why we hold our police officers accountable and demand that they be responsible in their policing. At the same time, we must be the kind of sheep that listens to the voice of the good shepherd and follow their lead. The shepherd must know their sheep and the sheep must know their shepherd.                                             

5.      We pray at this Mass that we may open our eyes to see the Good Shepherd who meets us at the hour of our needs. Like the sheep of his flock, let us listen to our Good Shepherd and hear Him call us by name and lead us to green pasture, to God our Father. Amen!

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.

Friday, April 16, 2021

April 18, 2021. Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter; Year B


Readings: Acts 3:13-15,17-19; 1 Jn. 2:1-5; Lk. 24:35-48

You Are My Witnesses!

1.     In the first reading of today, Peter used the occasion of the healing of a crippled beggar at the beautiful gate to address the people on the resurrection of Jesus. He told them that the crippled beggar was cured through the invocation of the name of Jesus whom they had put to death but who was raised to life. He blamed Christ’s death on them. “You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14-15). He reminded them “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus.” (Acts 3:17-21). Peter linked the resurrection of Christ to repentance and forgiveness of sins and called us to be his witnesses in the world.

2.     As Christians we must believe that Christ died and rose again from the dead. St. Paul made this point clear when he noted “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty too, your faith.” (1 Cor. 15:12-14). We are called to be witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. It is the basic foundation of our faith. It is faith in the resurrection that will transform our lives as it did the Apostles’. The Apostles endured pains and suffering because they were changed from being cowards to being bold preachers. When warned against preaching in the name of the risen Christ, Peter had this to say, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20). The resurrection of Christ makes sense when humanity understands the reason for his death which is repentance and forgiveness of sins: “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins; we are witnesses of these things as is the holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:29-32). Christ died to “gather into one the dispersed children of God.” (Jn.11:52).

3.     If there was no disobedience in the garden of Eden, there would have been no Good Friday. Therefore, we sing in Exultet, “Our birth would have been no gain had we not been redeemed. O wonder of your humble care for us! O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son! O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer.” Having celebrated his death, we must be witnesses to his resurrection. For we all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:21). Hence, in the second reading John calls us his children and tells us that he his writing “this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins.” (1 John 2: 1-2).  If we truly believe that Christ died and rose again, then we must live a life of forgiveness and repentance. We must learn to die to ourselves so as to live for others. A life of forgiveness is a necessary condition to witnessing to the resurrection of Christ. Paul tells us that God had reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation. “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:118-21).

4.     In the gospel we see Jesus Christ as a stranger walking on the road with two of his disillusioned disciples. He felt their pains and frustrations. He spoke to them and opened their minds to scriptures and explained to them that it was necessary for him to have suffered thus so as to rise again. He led them to appreciate the Eucharist, the greatest act of thanksgiving. They were energized to return to the community, fully equipped, to proclaim the good news that Christ was alive. Through the resurrection of Christ, miracles can happen in our lives if we believe in him. He can change us. We can begin to forgive hurts, reconcile with our enemies, stop bad habits and rebuild our lives. Our marriages can be restored, racial discriminations can be sacrificed over the table of brotherhood and discords can give way to friendship build on trust, love and forbearance. Because we have experienced God’s forgiveness, we can now be agents of God’s forgiveness and love. When we are confused, we must turn to Jesus. When in doubt, go to Him for comfort. When we are disappointed, Christ will console us. He understands us now more than ever before. Christ will always meet us on the way of our worries, fears and anxiety and restore our lives. For he has truly risen. Alleluia!

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang MSP

Thursday, April 8, 2021

April 11, 2021; Homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday.

 

Readings: Acts 4:32-35; 1 Jn. 5:1-6; Jn. 20:19-31 

Be Merciful for Your Heavenly Father is Merciful

1.     Easter is the celebration of the sacred and the secular, the celestial and the mundane, faith and doubt, the absence and the presence. It is a celebration of hate and love, the merciless and the merciful. It is a celebration of God’s mercy to mankind and man’s continuous abandonment of God’s love. Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. On April 30, 2000, during the canonization of Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul ll designated today as the Divine Mercy Sunday. Sister Faustina received from Jesus the biggest promises of grace related to the Devotion of Divine Mercy, in particular that a person who goes to sacramental confession and receives Holy Communion on that day, shall obtain the total forgiveness of all sins. On April 22, 2001, Pope John Paul ll, in his Easter message stated: “Jesus said to St. Faustina one day: “Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy. Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity.”

2.     In the first reading, we see the community of God’s people bound together in mercy and love. They were not perfect! They were broken, yes, but full of hope. They enjoyed communal life of prayer, breaking the word and the Eucharist, sharing, selling of property, caring for one another, and sharing meals together. They were not forced to share what they had, it was done freely and in the spirit of the risen Lord. Within the community there were people who lied about the sale of their property, like Ananias and Sapphira, (Acts 5:1-11). In that Christian community also, there was someone who denied Christ, others were absent from community gathering and prayer. We even met two men on their way to Emmaus who left the community last week, because they were disappointed with the death of Christ. They had their minds closed to the resurrection of Christ. Yet in the Gospel, Christ met them as a stranger, consoled and open their minds to Scriptures and led them to the Eucharist. He appeared to the disciples together and wished them peace. There was no condemnation, no judgement, no malice, no anger, only love, forgiveness and mercy. Because with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption. (Ps. 130).

3.     In today’s gospel, though Thomas was absent from the community when he first appeared, Christ did not ignore him, He accommodated him with his weaknesses and shortcomings. He invited him to Come touch his wounds and be healed. Doubt no longer, it is I, do not be afraid. Yes, there was healing, there was forgiveness; faith was restored, and a profession of faith was elicited: My Lord and my God! This is what mercy means: to have a heart of compassion for those who suffer or to have a heart willing to suffer for others. “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” (1 Peter 2:21). But that is not all. The seven works of mercy demands that we instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful – we all have doubts and questions about our faith, like Thomas; that we admonish the sinner, that we bear wrongs patiently, that we forgive offenses willingly and finally that we comfort the afflicted and pray for the living and dead. Christ also gave the Spirit to His Apostles and entrusted to them the power to forgive sins. “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (Jn. 20:23). We experience the mercy of God more when we humble ourselves and go to God in the sacrament of reconciliation and penance. There we meet, face to face with the God of mercy and love, a God of forgiveness, who said: “As I live, says the Lord God, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live.” (Ezek. 33:11).

4.     With the mercy of God, we know and are convinced that good will always triumph over evil, that life is stronger than death and that God’s love is more powerful than our sins. In the Paschal mystery we just celebrated, God our Father appeared to us as He is, a tender-hearted Father, who does not give up in the face of his children’s ingratitude and is always ready to forgive us. According to St. Paul, “Where sin increased, grace overflow all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 5:21-22).

5.     Let me conclude with the words of Jesus. “Love your enemies and do good to them. Lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as you Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk. 6:35-38). So be compassionate, be kind, be forgiving and be loving. This is how we know that we are God’s children if we love one another. May God bless and keep you now and always. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, April 2, 2021

April 04, 2021. Mass of the Resurrection - Easter Sunday Year B

 

Readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col.3:1-4; Lk. 24:13-35 

The Stranger That Cares

1.     On the day of the resurrection Mary went to the tomb and did not see the body. She Panicked! Then ran to Peter and reported: “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.” Peter and John ran to the tomb equally confused. John, the younger man, outran Peter and got to the tomb first, but did not go in. Peter got there later, went in and noticed the empty tomb. John then went in, saw the burial clothes neatly folded and put aside. He saw and believed. That is the account of the resurrection as recorded by St John’s Gospel. I want to reflect this morning however, on St. Luke’s account of the resurrection with the theme, The Stranger that cares.

2.     This Gospel tells us that when we are in need of help, when we are bereaved, when life does not go our way, what we need the most is a stranger that cares, the community that supports and the word of God will encourage and strengthen us. It also reprimands us against walking away from the community when we are depressed, despondent, disillusioned, disappointed, discouraged and defeated by some unforeseen circumstances of life. The community will always be there to support and enable us to carry on. The Word of God should always be at hand to assure us that God is real and that He cares, and the stranger will somehow come around to put things in perspective for us.

3.     The feeling of Cleopas, one of the disciples on their way to Emmaus described how they felt at the death of Jesus. Of course, he remembered when “Jesus told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt.16:21). They did not quit make out what Christ meant by that. They were still sad and disappointed at his death. Cleopas and his fellow disappointed travelers on the way to Emmaus expressed their frustration this way when the Stranger asked what they were discussing as they walked along. “They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, Cleopas, said to him in reply “Are you’re the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.” (Lk. 24:18-21).

4.     When we are sad, perplexed and disappointed, we often close our minds to the scriptures, turn away from the church, run away from our community and feel that we are all alone. Often, we ask why me Lord? We fall into self-pity and exhibit complete lack of trust in the person of Christ and sometimes, in our hopelessness take to self-destructive practices to escape from our problems. At times like these we do not often see the stranger right there in front of us asking if there is anything he could do for us. This is the story of the resurrection. Sadness, death, depression and frustration should in not any way have the last say in our lives. Even from the darkness of the tomb, the risen Christ is right there waiting to turn things round for us. Our community, our family, our friends and our support system are ready to come to our rescue and the word of God is there to point the way and of course the stranger who cares will speak the words that will make our hearts burn within us even as we listen to him and he will lead us to the Eucharist. We will recognize him once again at the breaking of the bread for he had said, do this in remembrance of him.     

5.     The resurrection of Christ reminds us that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. Yes, we are still broken, we have our weaknesses, our anger issues, we are short-tempered, stubborn, jealous, ill-mannered, frustrated; we still experience the worries of this life. But the resurrection of Christ assures us that God loves us, and that Christ has conquered our weaknesses and death in all its forms. Yes, to every Good Friday there is an Easter Sunday. To every failure there is strength in the risen Lord. Every hurt and wrongdoing we are able to forgive is a prove of the resurrection. When we give in charity, say a kind word, console, show compassion and mercy; every visit to the sick or kindness shown to the downtrodden attest to the resurrection and our faith in the risen Lord. We may be weak, but our risen Lord is strong. He is The Stranger that cares. Emmanuel, God with us. We are Easter people and so cannot stop singing alleluia. According to Paul: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). Because Christ is alive today, we can see tomorrow. “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Philippians. 3:21).

6.     The resurrection changed Peter from being a coward to a fearless preacher, Paul from a persecutor to a missionary. He can also change us if we truly believe in his resurrection. He showed Thomas his wounded hands and side and healed his unbelieve. We must touch his wounds so that our wounds may be healed. So, on a day like today, it is good for us to open our eyes to the possibilities that the Stranger who cares brings to our life. May we not take our community for granted or question the importance of our support system provided by our families, friends, church and so many people out there who may care for us even more than our blood relatives. The stranger in our midst may have gone through his own pains, his deprivations or even death like Christ, but he is the wounded healer. Through his wounds we are healed. He is our resurrection and our life, our Lord and our Savior, He is our Messiah, oh yes, he is the stranger that cares for us. He came so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Let us rejoice that he who was dead and buried has now come back to life again. Rejoice, therefore, for Christ is truly risen. Alleluia!

 

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP