Tuesday, April 18, 2023

April 23, 2023; 3rd Sunday of Easter (Year )

Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Lk. 24:13-35


Suffering Is Part of Life! 

1.    In today’s Gospel, Jesus called two of his Disciples fools. Why? The two men on the road to Emmaus were frustrated and disappointed. They were upset with Jesus for acting as a stranger in Jerusalem and asking them a question. “What are you talking about to each other as you walk along?” How could Jesus ask them such a question: “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what has happened there these last few days? “What things?” Christ asked them. Christ wants to know what is going on in our lives. He wants us to tell Him about our troubles, sadness, worries, and joys. He wants us to share our stories with Him. He wants us to tell him about the violence in our cities and how irresponsible gun ownership devastates the lives of ordinary people without guns. He tells us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” (Matt. 11:28-30). When we are confused, as the men on the road to Emmaus were, we must find Jesus walking on the road with us. Can we identify him? When in doubt, we must turn to Him for comfort. When we are disappointed, Christ will console us. He understands us now more than ever. Christ will always meet us on the way of our worries, fears, and anxiety. He will ask questions, and He will listen attentively to us. 

2.    “There at times when our sterile worries, futile pleasures, and vain preoccupations cloud our eyes so much that we cannot recognize the Lord as we should. As their conversation reveals, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were thoroughly distracted, unfocused, frightened, and downhearted.” (New Horizon Homilies, Philip John, SSP, and Premdas, SSP). Their answer to Jesus clearly showed their frustration. They closed their minds to the Scriptures. One could feel their incredulity and doubts as they recounted their litany of woes to the stranger. They told him: “We were hoping He would be the one to redeem Israel.” (Acts 2:21). We have been tempted many times to turn away from God, Christ, and the Church because our expectations were unmet.


3.    Often, we think that once we go to Church, say our prayers, pay tithes, and keep the commandments, our problems will be solved. How false are these assumptions? Many people have been so disappointed by the sexual abuse of clergy that they swore never to return to or give money to the Church. Others stopped giving because they felt the Church had disappointed them. Yet others turned away because they disagreed with the Church’s teaching on marriage, divorce, gay marriage, and the like. Many have refused to approach the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and outrightly declined to go to confession. Like the men on the way to Emmaus followed the Lord with hope, joy, and belief that God sent him to establish His kingdom on earth, we often feel that way too. But when the storms of life hit us hard, we are disillusioned and stop believing in God and the Church.

4.    “Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter his glory?” Jesus then explained what was said about himself in all the scriptures, beginning with Moses and the prophets’ writings. Often in our frustration and despair, we turn away from Jesus, but He never abandons us; He speaks to our hearts. As the two men on the road to Emmaus who listened to a stranger talk to their hearts, Jesus is the stranger who walks with us on our road of sadness and stress. He will open our minds to the Scriptures, and our hearts will burn within us. He will lead us to the Eucharist and give us His body to eat and His blood to drink. 

5.    Whenever we turn away from the Church, Christ comes in search of us. He will never force himself on us but will always wait to be invited. And after explaining the Scriptures to the two men, He did as if He was going on further, waiting for them to ask Him in. Once He was invited in, He broke the bread with them. They rediscovered their Lord at the breaking of the bread. He was never far from them; they were too preoccupied to see Him. Let us pray that we may see Jesus who stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. May we hear the voice of Jesus as he breaks the Word that burns our hearts and breaks the Bread that feeds us and makes us whole? Amen.  

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, April 14, 2023

April 16, 2023, Divine Mercy Sunday 2nd Sunday Easter; Year (A)


Readings: Acts 2:42-47; 1Peter 1:3-9; Jn. 20:19-31 

The Divine Mercy Is Our Easter Gift

1.    Today, the 2nd Sunday of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday. Today we celebrate God’s immense mercy, compassion, and love for humankind. St. John Paul ll declared this Sunday as divine Sunday on April 30, 2000, during the Canonization of Faustina Kowalska. Sr. Faustina had a personal apparition of Jesus. According to her, Jesus promised that a person who goes to sacramental confession and receives Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday should receive total forgiveness of all sins and punishment. In his Easter message on April 22, 2001, Pope John Paul ll noted: “Jesus said to St. Faustyna one day: “Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy.” Divine Mercy! The Church receives this Easter gift from Christ and offers it to humanity.” 

2.    In today’s first reading, we see the community of God’s people bound together in mercy and love. Broken, yes, but full of hope. They enjoyed communal life, sharing, selling property and goods, caring for each one’s needs, and sharing meals. In this community, there was someone who denied Christ, those who ran away from Him, one who was absent from community gathering and prayer, and of course, those who wanted a share in the restored kingdom of Israel. Yet in the Gospel, Christ met them all together and wished them peace. There was no condemnation, judgment, malice, or anger, only love, forgiveness, and mercy. Come, touch my wounds, and be healed. Doubt no longer, and it is I, do not be afraid. 

3.    In that community, there was healing and forgiveness; faith was restored, and a profession of faith was made: My Lord and my God! This is what mercy means: to have a heart 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. Christ gave the Spirit to His Apostles and entrusted to them the power to forgive sins. We experience the mercy of God more when we humble ourselves and go to Him 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 through Ezekiel the prophet: “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.” (33:11).

4.    In the Paschal mystery we just celebrated, God 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. 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. St. Paul stated thus, “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.    Our opening prayer address the Father as “God of everlasting mercy.” And the psalm repeated several times, “His steadfast love endures forever.” All these readings illustrate God’s mercy in action. We are invited to feed the hungry, fight injustice, stand up for the truth and justice, and to know that God’s mercy is everlasting. Suppose we see ourselves as undeserved recipients of God’s mercy and love. In that case, we will understand that, ultimately, mercy results not so much from human effort but from God’s gift to humanity. 

6.    And so today, we are invited to experience God’s mercy if, in turn, we want to forgive others. That is what we pray for in the Lord’s prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The spiral of hatred and violence, which stains with blood the path of so many individuals and nations the world over, can only be broken and healed by the miracle of forgiveness and mercy. God’s mercy is His way of dealing with the broken world, and humanity is consumed with an insatiable hunger for power. Let us commit our lives to the mercy of God. Let us resolve today to show mercy instead of judging others harshly and irrationally. May we not be so concerned with the wrongdoings of others for, “If you, Lord, mark our sins, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, and so you are revered.” (Ps. 130:3). May we treat others as we want to be treated ourselves. Amen.


                                           Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

April 09, 2023;Easter Sunday; Year (A)


Readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col. 3:1-4; Jn. 20:1-9


Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

1.    I always imagine the day of the resurrection to be chaotic! No one expected Christ to rise from the dead. He did. He told his apostles, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Matt. 20:18-19). They neither believed him nor took Him seriously. After all, after the above prediction of his death and resurrection, the mother of the sons of Zebedee wanted Jesus to “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (Matt. 20:21). 


2.    Like His disciples and apostles, we, too, are inundated with our issues and problems than to be bothered with the resurrection of Christ. You would recall that at the announcement of the birth of Christ, the Angel said: “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” (Lk. 1:36-37). And so, when Mary went to the tomb and did not find the body, she panicked and ran to Peter and John, who were shocked when they were told, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.” Could it be true? Now they remembered he had said, “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). The empty tomb made one thing sure, Christ is not in the grave. Could he have indeed been raised! Everyone can see the tomb, but did everyone believe that He had been raised? It is easy to see with our eyes but to believe, and we must have faith. Seeing is nothing; believing is everything. It is when we believe that we see; we walk by faith, not by sight.


3.    The resurrection of Christ demonstrates that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. We doubt because we are broken and weak. We have anger issues and are short-tempered, stubborn, jealous, ill-mannered, frustrated, and lazy. But the resurrection of Christ assures us that God loves us and that Christ has conquered our weaknesses, sin, and death. We have to believe that to every Good Friday, there is Easter Sunday. We know that every failure has the strength of the risen Lord. Every hurt and wrongdoing we can forgive is a prove of the resurrection of Christ. When we give in charity, say kind words, console, and show compassion and mercy, every visit to the sick or kindness to the oppressed attest to the resurrection and our faith in the risen Lord. We may be weak, but our risen Lord is strong. 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). “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). The resurrection changed Peter from a coward to a fearless preacher; He changed Paul from anti-Christ to his courageous defender. He changed men and women down through the ages to carry the gospel to the ends of the world. Jesus’ resurrection is an invitation to share in his eternal life. He showed Thomas his wounded hands and side and healed his unbelief. We must reach and touch his wounds so that he may heal us. 


4.    The resurrection of Christ taught us once more that adversity always brings out the best in humanity. Though we do not know what tomorrow holds, we know who holds tomorrow. Christ has risen, and so we rejoice! May the resurrection of Christ help us to see things and people differently. May it teach us to have a better understanding of the teaching of Christ so that we may be generous, prayerful, gracious, forgiving, loving, tolerant, and accommodating. May we have the same experience that the Apostles had when they emerged from the Upper Room; that filled with the Spirit of the risen Lord, we may speak the word of God boldly so that those who hear us will say, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? …yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” (Acts 7-11). Rejoice, for Christ is indeed risen. Alleluia!


                                    Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

April 02, 2023; Palm Sunday; Year (A)


Readings: Is. 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mt. 26:14-27,66


By His Wounds, We Have Been Healed

1.    Today is Palm Sunday, or the passion of Christ, and the beginning of Holy Week. Palm Sunday is a joyful and triumphant celebration for Christ as he was given a red-carpet reception into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The use of palm branches to welcome royalties is an old tradition in the olden days and even today in some cultures. “The palm branch symbolizes victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world. The palm was sacred in Mesopotamian regions and, in ancient Egypt, representing immortality. A palm branch was awarded to victorious athletes in ancient Greece, and a palm frond or tree itself is one of the most common attributes of victory personified in Ancient Rome.” So, Christ was received this day as a victorious king in Jerusalem. He did not ride a horse - a prestigious symbol of war, but a donkey, indicative of peace and humility – He is the king of peace.   

2.    The passion narrative from Matthew’s Gospel today displays many characters playing different roles in their relationship with Jesus. Judas Iscariot betrayed him; Peter denied him; the other apostles ran away, leaving him alone. But Christ relied on His Father: “The Lord God is my help; therefore, I am not disgraced.” (Is. 50:7). Many discordant voices, reactions, and insults trailed Jesus on the road to Calvary. False witnesses arose against him, and the Scribes and the Pharisees wanted him dead. Before Pilate condemned Christ to painful torture and crucifixion, he humiliated him by having him flogged. Women cried for him, while some men despised him. Soldiers ridiculed him, and bystanders mocked him. Those with Palm branches threw them away, and Hosanna to the Son of David was replaced with “Away with him, crucify him.” Yet Jesus rides on to Jerusalem with love and forgiveness for his murderers. Yes, “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. 2:7-8). 

3.    “O Cross of Christ, immortal tree, on which our Savior died, the world is sheltered by your arms that bore the Crucified.” (Lenten Hymn). As we begin this Holy Week, we call to mind God’s love for humanity through the death of Christ on the cross. “Greater love than this no man has, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13). God’s love for us calls us to love Him in return. This love is creative and understanding for humanity. Christ’s love is redemptive. It is salvific. It is sacrificial. It goes above and beyond mere emotions to the very heart of God, who “Gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16). Christ’s love was so strong that He died the most shameful and excruciating death on the cross for our salvation. He reminds us, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mk. 8:34). 

4.    On this Palm Sunday, we are encouraged to reciprocate Christ’s love for humanity. Do we pray for forgiveness and repentance for our sins and the sins of others, especially our presumed enemies? Do we forgive others as we want God to forgive us? Do we seek God’s mercy for the times we have hurt others? What does Christ’s love tell us when we lie to cover our iniquities? Are we faithful to our spouses or significant others? Do we get closer to our families in prayer, love, and charity? Was the Lenten period a good time to bond with our children, friends, and others? Did this season of grace create a spiritually fertile ground for us as families? Did we pray, read the bible, say the rosary together, and meditate on the passion of Christ as we recall His love?

5.    We can do all these and more while we look forward to celebrating the paschal mystery of Christ on Easter Sunday. We can reciprocate God’s love even more by committing ourselves to this Holy week of grace and mercy. As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, “Let us give thanks to the Lord for everything, for “His anger lasts only a moment, his goodness for a lifetime. Tears may flow at night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5). Amen!


Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, March 24, 2023

March 26, 2023; 5th Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Readings: Ez. 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; John 11:1-45


Untie Him and Let Him Go!


1.    The readings of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent in Year A are carefully selected to be used for scrutinies. “The scrutinies are rites for self-searching and repentance and have, above all, a spiritual purpose. They are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen, all that is upright, strong, and good.” (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). We saw that in the story of the Samaritan woman (3rd Sunday of Lent), who came to the well to draw water (John 4:5-42). From her interaction with Jesus, she discovered that Jesus is the Messiah who came to give us everlasting life through his words. Jesus told her: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14). In the story of the man born blind, John 9:1-41 (4th Sunday of Lent), we discover that we are all blind; hence, we must accept our blindness, faults, and shortcomings and go to Jesus for a cure. Christ warns: “If you were blind, then you would not be guilty; but since you claim that you can see, this means that you are still blind.” (9:41). In the bible classes hailed on Wednesdays of Lent, we look at the ‘Our Father’ prayer, to see the implications of this prayer in our lives and the fact we have not been able to apply it to our life as we should. In the second part of the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us. The problem is that we do not forgive as a people. If we do not uncover why we should forgive those who sinned against us, beginning with ourselves, others, and God, we will not be able to live the authentic Christian life. Let us ask Christ to open our eyes so we may see him as our Savior, our Lord, and our God. In today’s Gospel reading from John 11:1-45, we see Jesus at the graveside of his friend, Lazarus. Christ wept for him and then raised him to life again. Jesus tells us: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (Jn. 11:25).


2.    In the first reading, Ezekiel promised the people that God had not abandoned them. He is with them permanently to rescue and bring them back to the land of Israel. “O my people, I will open your graves, and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.” (Ezekiel 37:12). God promised to pour out his spirit on the dead bones and restore them to life again. In the Gospel, Jesus wept for Lazarus before he brought him back to life. He told those standing by to untie Lazarus, who came out of the tomb “tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in cloth, and let him go.” (Jn. 11:44).


3.    When faced with sad and frustrating situations, we want to hear those words, untie him, and let him go. We want someone to say; it will be ok; you are not alone; I am here. If there is anything you want, call on me. This is the time to see Jesus weeping with us. Let us be consoled that the Christ who weeps with us knows what to do for us, to draw us out of the darkness of despair to the light of his love. His love and concern for us will triumph over our sadness, pain, and loss. We must trust him enough to entrust our worries and anxiety to him. The book of Proverbs cautions us that “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” (Prov. 12:25). And Peter urged us to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1Peter 5:7). While Paul encourages us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6-7).  


4.    The God who does the impossible will do the possible for us in our despair and worries. We must do what Mary and Martha did - send words to Jesus, wait for Christ to show up, and then run out to welcome him, hoping he will cry for us and with us. After weeping, he will ask us, where have you kept him? What is the problem? How can I help you? Once these questions are asked, we know that our miracle is close at hand. He will call out in a loud voice and restore us to wholeness. He will call for us to be untied, released, and set free. Christ needed others to unbind Lazarus. He wants us to cooperate with him to free ourselves from bondage. We must be free from our shackles, frustrations, and doubts so that Christ may give life to our brokenness.


5.    May we never give up hope, for we know that after Good Friday comes Easter Sunday. We are not alone. “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). We pray that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is our life and our resurrection, may set us free from the sin of unforgiveness and teach us how to live a life of forgiveness and mercy. Amen.


Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Thursday, March 16, 2023

March 19, 2023; 4th Sunday of Lent (Year A)

 Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41


And Are You Trying to Teach US? Then They Threw Him Out.

1.    Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent – Laetare Sunday, so called from the first word of the entrance antiphon. Laetare “Rejoice,” taken from the Latin translation of Is. 66:10-11. We celebrate joyfully as we anticipate Easter Sunday 3weeks from today. The Gospel reading relates the story of the man born blind, whose eyes were opened by Jesus, demonstrating that Jesus is the world’s light. He came to cure us of our blindness if we accept that we are blind. So, how do you react when someone you feel inferior to you tries to tell you something you don't want to hear? Or the person accuses you of not listening to him. You are infuriated and tell him to get out of your sight. It doesn’t matter whether the person is telling you the truth. You feel they have no right to tell you anything. Instead of facing the truth about your life, you ask the wrong question. Who sinned? The question presupposes blame. Who is responsible for your bad situation in life?  

2.    When faced with national and natural disasters, sickness, and devastation, we always ask the wrong question: who sinned? We find faults and look for the culprit. But are we asking the right question? Christ directs our thoughts beyond the wrong question. Could we use the misfortune of others to correct the mess in our life? “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed: do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But if you do not repent, you will perish as they did!” (Lk. 13:4-5). So, to the question: “Who sinned?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Through the permissible will of God, evil can bring about some good for those who are prepared to learn from the mistakes of others. Like from the dead of Jesus on the Cross, we are told, by your Cross, you have redeemed the world. The death of Jesus became the means of our salvation, and the wood of the Cross became the tree of life for us. In the face of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, landslides, mudslides, fire disasters, or otherwise, our question should not be, ‘Who sinned?’ It should open our eyes to see how God’s glory could be manifest through our pain and suffering. 

3.    Today’s readings point us away from the darkness of sin to Christ, the light of the world, as seen in the cure of the man born blind. Christ came into the world to destroy the darkness that envelopes us so we may be bathed in his light. Maybe we have been too complacent to the extent that we cannot see Christ in our midst. We must open our eyes and wake up from our spiritual blindness so Christ may shine in our lives. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us to “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth… awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light. 

4.    We are all blind in one way or the other. Our blindness may be physical, moral, or spiritual. Physical blindness, like the man born blind, maybe our inability to see with our eyes. But that does not mean the blind person is disabled. When we are deprived of one sense, like sight, touch, smell, taste, or hearing, other senses are heightened and enabled to fill in for the lost one. We are morally blind when we fail to see or deny our defects. Spiritual blindness may be caused by an inability to relate to Jesus due to ignorance, hatred, anger, or lack of forgiveness. Today, Jesus cured the blind man of his physical and spiritual blindness. He healed the blindness of those around him and convicted those who felt they could see. They were blind and refused to recognize Christ in their midst. They were blinded by their hatred of Jesus and projected that hatred onto the man born blind.  

5.    God is able and capable of healing our blindness. He can raise us from obscurity to greater heights, as he did for David in the first reading. Christ came to cure our blindness, physical, moral, or spiritual. But we must go to him. This, again, is the process of coming to faith in Christ. Before baptism, we were in darkness, but after baptism, we are washed in the water of rebirth and anointed, like David, and raised to the exalted position of king. Our understanding and knowledge of Jesus must grow exponentially, like the man born blind, from seeing Christ simply as a man – “The man called Jesus made a clay and anointed my eyes.” To a prophet – “He is a prophet.” And finally, Lord – “I do believe, Lord.”                                                                                  

6.    Being a disciple of Jesus may cost us everything. The blind man had to surmount many social difficulties. He endured insults, abuses, ex-communication, and abandonment by his parents. But he had a simple faith: he obeyed Jesus. He went to the pool and washed his eyes. His obedience was rewarded with the gift of sight, a symbol of his faith. He confronted the Pharisees: “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind, and now I see. I told you already, and you did not listen. “This is so amazing that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would be unable to do anything.” With his newfound faith, the man is now a disciple of Jesus. We are called to be missionary disciples of Jesus, like the man born blind from now on. 

7. I ask you, brothers and sisters: “Are we blind, or do we claim that we can see?” Christ warns: “If you were blind, then you would not be guilty; but since you claim that you can see, this means that you are still blind.” If we refuse to acknowledge our shortcomings and open our eyes to see those in need around us, we condemn ourselves to darkness and deprive ourselves of the gift of faith and the light of Christ. Are we blind to our faults? Do we blame others and ask: “Who Sinned?” Or do we simply drive those we don’t care about away? The greatest of our weaknesses is to be conscious of none. The time is now to pick up our bible and read. The sacrament of reconciliation is still an option for Catholics. The area priests will gather for confession on March 23 at 7:00 pm at St. Joseph’s Monastery. Let us ask Christ to remove our blindness in the sacrament of reconciliation as we are washed clean to celebrate the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Let us be less cynical but trust in the goodness of people. To do this is to recognize that Jesus is always in our midst. He wants to cure us of our blindness. The problems in our lives are never insurmountable for Jesus. The question is not ‘who sinned?’ but so that God’s works might be visible through us. Amen! 

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

March 12, 2023; 3rd Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2,5-8; John 4:5-42


What will Satiate Your Thirst?

1.    The book of Exodus today relates how the children of Israel were disgruntled over their lack of water and how Yahweh heard their groaning and provided them with fresh water. Their ingratitude was met with God’s generosity in keeping to his promise. He chose them to be his own and will always stand by them. As a reminder of their nagging and forgetfulness of God’s mercy and generosity, Yahweh called that place Massah, meaning testing place, and Meribah, meaning a place of quarrel. 


2.    In the Gospel reading, we see Jesus with a woman at the well in the afternoon. Jesus was tired and hungry from his journey. He sat at the well to rest while waiting for his disciples who had gone shopping in the city. And there came the Samaritan woman. For obvious reasons, she went to the well in the afternoon to fetch water. Women usually go to the well in the morning and evening. She went in the afternoon, perhaps, to avoid meeting with other women; it could be because of her lifestyle. She may have been an object of gossip and ridicule in the city, so she tried to avoid other women as much as possible. 


3.    The Samaritan woman may have gone through a lot and was thirsty – not for water, but acceptance, love, meaning, and happiness. She was lonely and tried to obey her thirst for anything. The men in her life did not satiate her thirst, she had had five already, and the 6th one was not her real husband. She tried to hide that fact from Jesus: “I do not have a husband.” She was a lost soul, but a very interesting one at that. She was suspicious of Jesus and his request for water, but she was prepared to engage Him. She brought up issues of concern to her, even the racial and spiritual ones: “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” She challenged Jesus’ assumptions: “Sir, you do not even have a bucket, and the cistern is deep; where can you get this living water?” She confronted Jesus’ claim and questioned his authority: “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flock?” She called Jesus’s bluff: “Sir, give me this water so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” She stood up to Jesus on religious matters and put him on the defensive: “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you people say the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” At last, she capitulated after learning from Jesus; she demonstrated that, though her moral life may not mean much, her religious knowledge was flawless: she was not hopeless: “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” When she heard that Jesus was the expected Messiah, she forgot what brought her to the well in the first place; she has now received the water of life: “the woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” She is energized by the words of the Psalmist: “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God.” (Ps. 42:2-3). She had a steady and progressive understanding of Jesus, from ‘Sir’ to ‘Prophet’ and finally to ‘Messiah.’ she is now a disciple and ready to spread the good news of salvation. She is no more ashamed of being seen in public but is prepared to face her future, knowing that the Messiah is on her side. The encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well mirrors a process of coming to faith, underscored by the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). The Samaritan woman was predisposed to receive the message of salvation; Jesus created enabling environment to bring that about. 


4.    Like the woman at the well, we are to be thirsty for living water. We must come close to Jesus, listen to his words, receive him in the Eucharist, and allow him to refresh us with the water of life in the sacrament of reconciliation. Though Moses struck the rock and water flowed for the children of Israel to drink, they were thirsty again. They failed to see the God who journeyed with them every step of the way. They would soon find fault and grumble against God again and again. May we not be quick to satisfy our thirst with whatever we can lay our hands on. It is not everything that can satisfy us and satiate our thirst. As the Samaritan woman discovered, Jesus will always fill us with abundance so that we will never be thirsty again. Our thirst can only be satisfied by God. St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are made for God, and they will not rest until they rest in God.” Our human hearts have spiritual thirst, and we must satisfy them with spiritual food. The Samaritan woman was thirsty for love, understanding, peace, joy, and community; she found the fulfillment of her desires in Jesus. We, too, are thirsty for joy and happiness. Our greatest joy can only come from the freedom that Jesus gives us – from fear, worry, and anxiety.   


5.    Let us listen again to the words of Jesus to the woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Let us ask Jesus to give us this water always so that his grace and love may fill and sustain us. Amen.


                            Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

March 05, 2023; 2nd Sunday of Lent; (Year A)

Readings: Gen. 12:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9


We Have Moved!


1.    Today, God calls us, as Abram was, to move from where we are to the land God would show us. “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.”(Gen. 12:1). This call implies God’s choice, mission, and promise.  


2.    God calls us not because we are good, what we have done, or what we own, but because God loves us. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” (Jn. 15:16). To Timothy, Paul said: “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (2 Tim.1:9). Isaiah tells us, “O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.” (Is. 43:1). God calls and designates us for his mission: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” (Jer. 1:5).  


3.    God’s mission may entail sacrifices. God calls us to take action that may mean leaving our safe environment, the familiar, the known, the tested, and the tried to the unknown, unfamiliar, and the untried. Sometimes it demands speaking different languages and living with people of different cultures, races, and creeds. We may have to change our lifestyles, like missionaries who must leave their countries to preach the gospel in foreign lands. Abram went through these and more. He moved from the land of his birth, leaving behind a prosperous commercial area to settle in a land that was relatively primitive and underdeveloped. Paul reminds us to “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel.” (2 Tim. 1:8). God’s mission for Abram was to establish a new covenant with him. “Walk in my presence and be blameless. Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.” (Gen 17:1-2). God would change his name to Abraham and make him a father of many nations. 


4.    As Christians, our mission is to love our family, community, job, church, and friends. Our relationship with God determines how we do this. The closer and more intimate our relationship is with God, the stronger our commitment will be to those we serve. God calls us to move from our emotional stagnation, social ineptitude, moral decadence, spiritual stupor, psychological blindness, spiritual laziness, mental slavery, and physiological sloppiness and experience a transformation brought about by our obedience to God’s will. Our mission here and now is to wake from our sleep, change our hearts, and redirect our steps toward God and our neighbor so that we may receive our reward - salvation. St. Paul exhorts us: “And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than we first believed; the night is advanced, and the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” (Rom. 13:11-14).


5.    The promise of a better life is rooted in God’s plan for us. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, and I will change your lot.” (Jer. 29: 11-14). God promised to be with his chosen people. He is faithful to his promises. In Abram’s case, God promised him, posterity. Before the promise was made, Abraham was 75, and his wife, Sarah, was 65; both were childless. Yet, God visited them and gave them a child who became the father of nations, as promised.


6.    The Gospel of today reflects the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. Christ had to move up to be transfigured. He left the known to the unknown and found a blessing, a confirmation, and affirmation of his identity and mission. In this scene were Peter, James, and John. They will be present again at the garden of Gethsemane. They, who witnessed the glory of Christ on the mountaintop, would also see his agony in the garden. Now they are prepared to face the scandal of the cross. Jesus called them to be in communion with him, to see his glory and splendor on that beautiful mountain. He will call them again for support during the lowest point of his life, as he struggles to do his father’s will. He will need them to pray with him and be prepared for their mission.


7.    Before the transfiguration, there was a lot of argument about the person of Christ. Who was he? Was Christ in doubt of his identity and mission as well? In Matthew 16, he asked his disciples at Caesarea Philippi, “Who do people say the Son of Man is.” This may have been a hot topic at the time. At the Transfiguration, God answered that question definitively in the presence of Moses (the law) and Elijah (the prophets), “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt. 17:5). 


8.    God called his Son and gave him a mission and a promise. His mission was confirmed, and his blessing assured. He was to save the world and be raised from the dead for his blessing. “Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11).


9.    On this 2nd Sunday of Lent, God calls us to move from the known to the unknown. He has put a sign on our doors, warning those who do business with us that we have moved. We have moved from darkness, selfishness, sin, division, backwardness, unforgiveness, and mercilessness to a place of light, peace, and joy. God calls us to be transformed and transfigured into a new existence, to be members of Christ's kingdom—a kingdom of peace, love, and joy. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9). We must listen to Christ and walk with him daily, thinking, speaking, and relating as he does. We must leave our selfish ways behind and embrace Christ’s selfless ways. We must die to ourselves and live for others. So, my friends, look around you; perhaps there are some habits you may want to leave behind as you move: habits like drunkenness, being engrossed in pleasure-seeking, quarreling, and tearing people apart. Or laziness that creates problems in your family. Tell Jesus in prayer that you are ready to move and leave those vices behind. Move then to the land that God will show you and receive the promise that awaits you so that, like Peter, you will say: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”


                            Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.