Sunday, May 19, 2024

May 26, 2024; Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Readings: Deut. 4:32-34, 39-40; Rom. 8:14-17; Matt 28:16-20. 

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations!

1.     Last Sunday, we reflected on speaking our native language. We concluded that we must learn this language in our families from birth. We must see, feel, experience, practice, and then speak it. The family that speaks this language is the family of God and God’s people. The Trinity speaks the language of love. Love was also the native tongue of the Holy Family. All of God’s people must speak the same language. The Acts of the Apostles remind us that the “Community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts. 4:32). That was their language. The disciples were called Christians because of how they loved themselves. Christ tells us, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love” (Jn.16:11). He gave us a new commandment, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:34-35). We must speak the language of the Trinity, both as a community and individually. The God of love abides where there is charity and love.

2.     Today, we reflect on the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. We worship the God who manifests himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are not three Gods but three Persons in one God. The Father is the Creator, the Son is the Savior, and the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. Though the three Persons have different responsibilities, the responsibility of one Person is the responsibility of all Persons of the Trinity. The Father is not older or younger than the Son or the Holy Spirit; the three Persons are the same in every way. God himself reveals this mystery. We do not seek to understand it as a mathematical equation or calculation but must believe it as a revealed truth. And this is what we profess in the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.” The children of Israel believed in one God; hence, Moses pleaded with them to avoid worshipping the Canaanite gods. The Lord of heaven and earth who created heaven and earth and sustains the world in being is more powerful than any created things or the gods of other nations, which are the work of human hands. 

3.     Little wonder why Moses asked the children of Israel, “Did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with his strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?” (Deut. 4:34). We cannot compare God to other gods. For they are, like the Psalmist says, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths but speak not; they have eyes but see not; they have ears but hear not, and no breath is in their mouths. Their makers shall be like them, all who trust in them.” (Ps. 135:15-18). 

4.     Today, as always, we acknowledge the God who reaches out to us through the Holy Spirit. Hence, St. Paul reminds us, “Those who the Spirit of God leads are sons of God. For you did not receive a Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:14). Due to the Spirit poured into our hearts by the Father and the Son, we can call God daddy, Father. It was unheard of to address God as a son would his Father. God is indeed our Father; he and the Son dwell in us through His Spirit.  

5.     Our mission as Christians is to make the God who manifests himself as Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit known and loved. “Go, therefore, 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.” Baptism, in the name of the Trinity, is the manifestation of our faith. Our prayer is Trinitarian. We begin and end every prayer by blessing ourselves in the name of the Trinity. We offer prayers to God the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. And so, we must teach all nations about the God who loves us and seeks to create a loving relationship with us. May we experience the loving relationship the Trinity enjoys, a relationship of communion, unity, and respect. 

6.     Let us pray that we may speak the language of the Trinity, the language of love, communion, understanding, peace, and unity. May the Triune God who initiates a relationship and communion with us assist us so that we may live in peace and love with one another. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

May 19, 2024. Solemnity of Pentecost (Year B)

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Gal. 5:16-25; John 20:19-23 

Speaking Our Native (Tongue) Language

1.     Today is the birthday of the Church. We often think that the Holy Spirit came into existence on the day of Pentecost. That is far from the truth. God is eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and manifests Himself as such. But on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit became the dominant reality in the life of the early Church. It was the source of all guidance. It was the source of courage and power, the counselor, the comforter, and solace in times of difficulties.

2.     There were three great Jewish festivals to which every male Jew living within twenty miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to attend – the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Pentecost means “The Fiftieth,” or “The Feast of Weeks,” so called because it fell on the fiftieth day, a week after the feast of the Passover. At least as many came to the Feast of Pentecost as to the Feast of Passover. That explains the number of countries mentioned in this chapter; never was there a more international crowd in Jerusalem than at the time of Pentecost.” Pentecost commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. So, it was a holiday for all, and the crowds on the streets would be greater than ever. It was on that day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. The disciples experienced the power of the Spirit flooding their beings in a way they never had before. “All filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Act 2:4). 

3.     In verse 11, we read, “Yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” With the coming of the Spirit, the crowd heard the apostles, for the first time, speaking out openly about the mighty acts of God. They were now ready to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and witness Christ’s resurrection. The Spirit empowered the apostles to preach the Word of God in a way that struck straight to their hearts in a way that the crowd could understand. It gave the apostles a message that penetrated every heart. It broke their chains of fear and intimidation and enabled them to move freely and courageously among Jews and Gentiles alike, armed with the Word to set the captives free and heal the brokenhearted.

4.     The disciples being understood by all is indicative that the ancient tragedy of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9) is now reversed. The people at Babel had arrogantly tried to “make a name” for themselves by building a tower to the heavens – symbolizing the human attempt to see power, wealth, and security without God. Consequently, God confounded the universal human language into many different languages, making it impossible for them to complete that tower. At Pentecost, the Spirit-given ability of Jesus’s disciples to speak in various languages signifies that God is beginning to overcome human divisions. We received the Spirit at baptism which gave us the power to speak words of wisdom that should be understood by all who hear us. The Spirit empowered us to break the bonds of sin and division and initiate unity, peace, and love in our communities. Has our Spirit grown dull and lukewarm? Why has the Spirit not burned the bad habits of our lives and sowed the seed of love instead?

5.     Instead of spreading gossip that stops us from speaking our native language of love, we ask the Spirit to help us become preachers of God’s marvels. Instead of proclaiming falsehood, may the Spirit assist us in speaking words of truth and honesty. For those who harbor strife, vengeful thoughts, and hatred, may the Spirit enable them to love God and their neighbors. We can only speak the language of love if we learn it from birth. Our parents must have taught us not so much by what they say but by what they do. They must speak the language of love first at home with us through social interactions and relationships. We must see, feel, practice, and then speak it.       

6.     Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will come to us with his gifts of “Wisdom and understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and fear of the Lord.” (Is. 11: 2-3). May the Spirit give us his fruit of “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal.5:22-23). May the Spirit help us to conquer the indifference in our world so that we may fight the internal battles of “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies and the like.” (Gal. 5:19-21). And so, we pray: “Come O Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of the faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love, send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.

Monday, May 6, 2024

May 12, 2024; 7th Sunday of Easter - Ascension of the Lord.

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

Stop Staring, Get Back to Work!

1.    William Shakespeare understood life as we see it today. In Merchant of Venice, Antonio tells Gratiano, “I hold the world but as the world, a stage where every man 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 (43) 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 faithful Christian is to be a missionary disciple. 

2.    As Christ was being lifted, the Apostles looked intently at the sky, wondering what to do next. Angels had to intervene 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 in 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 from 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 happen. We make it happen by witnessing 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 reminded 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 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, we are now commissioned to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and 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 participation in the expansion of that Church began. We must start 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 to preach the word and bear witness to him. Christ has no one else except you and me 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 we must do the good he must do. 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 that we may witness to Christ by celebrating His Ascension into glory and hope to join Christ one day to enjoy life in full communion with God and all the saints. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

May 05, 2024; 6th Sunday of Easter (Year B)

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

Love beyond all Frontiers.

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 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 continued: “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 “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). Peter then asked, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?” (Act. 10:47). Cornelius and his household were baptized.

2.      The division, hatred, and barriers in our world are caused by man’s inhumanity to man and our inability to keep the commandment of love. By placing limitations on love, we create hatred among people. The fact that many people think they are better, more intelligent, talented, richer, and better endowed than others, doesn’t make them right. This way of thinking can foster violence and bloodshed among brothers and sisters. The belief that one race is better than or superior to others makes it hard, if not impossible, to love. Hence, St. Paul exhorts 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). And Christ admonishes: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love.” (Jn. 15:12). While John pleads: “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).

3.      God’s love transforms and redeems us. He loves us sacrificially through his Son, who gave up his life for our sake. He reminds 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 misunderstanding and mistrust in our society because we have not kept the commandment of love. Christ demonstrated this to his apostles 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 master’s footsteps; 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 Cornelius’s house, 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, regardless of race, origin, and tribe. All are welcome in God’s house.

4.      John tells us that God is love; to love is to communicate with God. This love goes beyond every frontier and binds us together. St Paul urges, “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 love!

 

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Thursday, April 25, 2024

April 28, 2024; 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 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 transplants is the rejection of the foreign body by the donor body, which is called incompatibility. If husband and wife are not compatible, that marriage has no future. Hence, without compatibility of character between Jesus and His disciples, no growth or intimacy is possible. As sinful people, we need the pruning, purification, and cleansing effect of the Holy Spirit to make us compatible with sinless Jesus. We must align our priorities with Christ to function and bear fruit as his disciples.

2. In today’s 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 Christ that he was against. In Jerusalem, Paul’s new religion and his enthusiasm to preach Christ as the Lord face stiff opposition, suspicion, and doubts. This was Paul who gave permission for Stephen to be stoned to death. How can he be trusted? He was snubbed and avoided. “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, 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).

3.     Barnabas epitomized early Christians’ lives. He was a branch that sprung from the divine vine - Jesus. For he knew that to bear fruit, he had to align his values, ethics, identity, personality, and priorities with Christ. He took charge of Paul and vouched for him as his spokesperson. One wonders how life would have been for Paul but for Barnabas. We need people like Barnabas to support, encourage, and believe in us. We need people who see potential in us and will not judge us for the one mistake we may have made in the past. Barnabas showed himself an honest Christian in the way he treated Paul. He saw that Paul was made in the image and likeness of God; therefore, he 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 try to help others succeed. These Hard Men are good to find.

4.     William Barclay tells us that, “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 treating 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 judgment against him. A person should not be condemned forever just because he once made a mistake. In a baseball game, the rule is three strikes, and you are out. We can apply the same rule to how 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 committed an offense once. There is still room for change if we allow him 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 that is dead and is suitable 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 that we may be Barnabas to one another. With people like Barnabas, our world will be a better place. In this place, 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. May we treat others as we would want them to treat us! For a hard man, it is good indeed to find. God knows we need those hard men in our lives today more than ever. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

April 21, 2024; 4th Sunday 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 world cultures, God is perceived as a woman–mother. Perhaps because mothers care, love, and are dedicated to their children. Mothers are compassionate and 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 mother’s attributes 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 says: “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 before 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 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 chicksThe 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, “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 were 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 stop 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). While we shepherd the flock entrusted to our care, we must be like Jesus. Jesus shows us how to care for 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.     David praised the Good Shepherd thus, “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 along 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, as the sheep, must be humble and obedient, listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd and following their lead. The Shepherd must know their sheep, and the sheep must know their Shepherd. Let us embrace our role as sheep with humility and obedience.


5.     We pray at this Mass that we may see the Good Shepherd who meets us in 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! In the presence of our Good Shepherd, we find comfort and guidance, a sense of security and trust. Let us open our hearts to His voice and feel His loving care. 

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.

Friday, April 12, 2024

April 14, 2024; 3rd 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 today’s first reading, 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 emphasized that the man 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, “I know 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 his listeners 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: “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. Christ’s resurrection is the basic foundation of our faith. Faith in the resurrection will transform our lives as it did the Apostles. The Apostles endured pain and suffering because they were changed from cowards to 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). 

3.     If Adam and Eve had obeyed God 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 tells us that he is 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, we must live a life of forgiveness and repentance. We must die to ourselves to live for others. A life of forgiveness is necessary for witnessing Christ’s resurrection. 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 to 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, opened their minds to scriptures, and explained to them that he needed to have suffered 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 discrimination can be sacrificed over the table of brotherhood, and discords can give way to friendship built 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 indeed risen. Alleluia!

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang MSP

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

April 07, 2024 (Divine Mercy Sunday), Second Sunday of Easter; Year (B)

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, we mark Divine Mercy Sunday, a day that holds the transformative power of grace and forgiveness. 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 a communal life of prayer, breaking the word and the Eucharist, sharing, selling property, caring for one another, and sharing meals. They were not forced to share what they had; it was done freely and in the spirit of the risen Lord. Within the community, some people lied about selling their property, like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). In that Christian community, some denied Christ, and others were absent from community gatherings 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 opened their minds to the Scriptures, and led them to the Eucharist. He appeared to the disciples together and wished them peace. There was no condemnation, judgment, malice, or 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 to touch his wounds and be healed. Doubt no longer; it is I, so do not be afraid. Yes, there was healing and 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 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 demand 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, 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 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 your 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, kind, forgiving, and loving. This is not just a suggestion but a call to action, a reminder of the core values of our faith. 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

Monday, March 25, 2024

March 31, 2024; Mass of the Resurrection - Easter Day (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 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. The younger man, John, 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 and saw the burial clothes neatly folded and put aside. He saw and believed. That is the resurrection account as recorded by St John’s Gospel. However, I want to reflect on St. Luke’s account this morning with the theme, The Stranger that cares.

2.    Today’s Gospel tells us that when we are in need, are bereaved, or sad, we need a stranger who cares, our community’s support, and the word of God to encourage and strengthen us. It also reprimands us for walking away from the community when we are depressed, sad, disillusioned, disappointed, discouraged, and defeated by unforeseen life circumstances. The community will be there to support and enable us to carry on. The Word of God will 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). He did not quite make out what Christ meant by that. He was still sad and disappointed at his death. Cleopas and his fellow disappointed travelers on the way to Emmaus expressed their frustration 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. Usually, we ask why me, Lord? We fall into self-pity and exhibit a 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 in front of us asking if he could do anything for us. This is the story of the resurrection. Sadness, death, and depression should not, in any way, have the last say in our lives. Even from the darkness of the tomb, the risen Christ is waiting to turn things around for us. Our community, our family, our friends, and our support system are ready to come to our rescue. 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 as we listen to him, and he will lead us to the Eucharist. We will recognize him again at the breaking of the bread, for he told us, ‘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, and we are weak. We have 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. Yes, to every Good Friday, there is Easter Sunday. To every failure, there is strength in the risen Lord. Every hurt and wrongdoing we can forgive is proof of the resurrection. When we give in charity, say a kind word, console, or show compassion and mercy, every visit to the sick or kindness showed to the downtrodden attests to the resurrection and our faith in the risen Lord. We may be weak, but the Lord is strong. He is The Stranger who cares. He is Emmanuel, God with us. We are Easter people, so we cannot stop singing alleluia. Paul encourages us: “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. It changed Paul from a persecutor to a missionary. He can also change us if we believe in his resurrection. Jesus showed Thomas his wounded hands and side and healed his disbelief. Let us touch his wounds so that our wounds may be healed. Let us open our eyes to the possibilities that the Stranger who cares brings to our lives. 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 who may care for us even more than our blood relatives. The Stranger in our midst may have gone through his own pains, deprivations, or even death, 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 returned to life. Rejoice, therefore, for Christ is indeed risen. Alleluia!

                                    Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, March 15, 2024

March 24, 2024; Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Year B)

Readings: Is. 50:4-7; Phil. 2:6-11; Mk. 14:1-15:47 

Christ’s Suffering is Our Hope

1.    At this Mass, we celebrate and welcome Christ into Jerusalem to begin his passion, death, and resurrection. We must follow Jesus from the joyful celebration to his cross on Calvary and finally to the resurrection. The palms we carry today demonstrate fully the importance of the suffering of Christ. The letter to Hebrews tells us that Christ, the “Son of God, learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb. 5:9).

2.    Palm Sunday reminds us of the humility of Christ. The second reading expressed it thus: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8). The triumph of Jesus through his humility brings salvation to the world. Christ did not shy away from suffering. He knew that there would be no crown for the world without him passing through the pain, suffering, and accepting the shameful death of the cross. St. Paul tells us, “Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree.”” (Gal. 3:13). May we not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ, for it is in that cross that we find our salvation. Christ reminds us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (Jn. 12:24-25) “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (Jn. 12:32). 

3.    Isaiah, the prophet, explains why Christ was able to obey his Father’s will. He listened to God. “Morning after morning, he opens my ear that I may hear, and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I did not shield my face from buffets and spitting.” (Is. 50:4-6). Through prayer, Christ heard his Father and followed his direction. His will was to do the will of his Father. According to the letter to the Hebrews: “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; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in. Behold, I come to do your will, O God.” (Heb. 10:5-7).

4.    We, as Christians, must accept suffering if we are to enjoy life with God. We must be humble in our service to God and humanity. The passion of Christ presented us with many personalities in the life of Jesus. It showed the unwavering courage of Christ. His face was set on Jerusalem despite knowing that the chief priests and the scribes were plotting against him. Many acts of kindness followed Jesus during his journey to the cross, but prayer was the key to everything. Even when it seemed that God had forsaken him, he remained confident in God’s presence. Let us take these words to heart today: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, distress, or persecution famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things, we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angel, or principalities, nor present height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35-38).

5.     As we embark on the journey with the Lord into his passion, death, and resurrection, let us not allow anything to divert us from the love of Christ. Jesus is more than the collective will of the evil one to distract us from God’s way. The passion of Christ, though filled with suffering, will undoubtedly lead to the glorious resurrection. Let this assurance fill our hearts with hope and strengthen our faith. Amen!

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP