The sixth Sunday of Easter, one figure that featured in all the Readings is the Holy Spirit and the Readings show us the effects of the abiding Presence of God in his Church and of his indwelling in each one of us. Jesus is gradually approaching the end of his earthly ministry, so he promised to send us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the radiant glory that enlightens us. If we remain docile to him, he will guide us in all our decisions and ways through life.
The first Reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us how the Holy Spirit, indwelling in the Church, helped the Apostles to solve major doctrinal problems. In fact in the whole of Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles did not take any decisions without consulting the Holy Spirit. Also, they could not carry out any serious mission without the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit and we have decided,” they said.
The second Reading begins thus: “In the Spirit, the angel took me to the top of an enormous mountain… .” Of course, there is no way John could have seen these things without the help of the Holy Spirit. This Reading taken from the Book of Revelation describes the Church as the Heavenly Jerusalem which replaces the holy presence of God in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem is a city united in love, with the victorious Jesus residing in it and in each of its members.
In the Gospel, as Christ was about ascending back to his father, he promised to send the Advocate to his disciples. The Holy Spirit is the power of Jesus, and yet, a Person in the Trinity, and this Gospel passage reminds us that the Holy Spirit, abiding within us, is our Teacher, our Advocate, and the Source of our peace and joy. The passage offers us a vision of hope as well. Jesus promises his followers that the Holy Spirit will come and instruct them in everything they need to know.
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel passage, that the one thing in life which we can always trust is God’s presence. God inhabits our hearts so deeply and intimately that we become the visible dwelling place of God. His living and life-affirming Presence is always with us, yet ‘”hidden” in the very things we so often take for granted. Thus, we are invited to look for and encounter — “God-with-us,” yet “hidden” — in the person sitting next to us, in the words we speak, and in the songs we sing at worship.
Jesus teaches us in the Gospel Reading the condition for this indwelling of the Holy Trinity, namely, we have to show our love of God by keeping his word, and this keeping of his word will be facilitated by the Holy Spirit, God’s Holy Breath. Jesus further explains that the real source of Christian joy is the certainty that God loves us. We, too, must be ready to express our love for others by our readiness to die for them as Jesus died for us. That we should also remember that true Christian love is costly and painful because it involves sacrifice on our part when we start loving unlovable, ungrateful, and hostile people with Christ’s unconditional, forgiving, sacrificial love. But our Christian call is to love others as Jesus has loved us, and as Jesus loves them.
Finally, the Church advises us that we should be aware of the abiding Presence of God within us for we live in the New Covenant of Jesus, daily facing uncertainty, conflict, and temptations. It is this abiding Presence of God within us which enables us to face the future with undying hope and true Christian courage.
The Holy Spirit whom the Risen Lord asked his Father to send upon his Church prompts us to turn to his Holy Scriptures for support and encouragement, enables us to learn the Divine truths, and grants us his peace at all times. However, to be able to receive these gifts, it is necessary for us to spend a little time each day in personal prayer, talking to God and listening to him. We must deepen our relationship with Jesus, learn to get in touch with him, and sincerely love him. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, we will know his plan for our life and his solutions to whatever problems we face. We will be able to love our fellow human beings, and there will be a core of peace within us. The Holy Spirit teaches us through the Scriptures and preaching during the Holy Mass. Jesus loves us and comes to us in Communion. When the Mass is ended, we go forth in the peace of Christ — all this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
We need to have the belief that we are not alone. We need only allow Jesus into our lives to be liberated from our loneliness. Oneness with Jesus is the greatest gift we can give our children, our friends, or those who see no purpose in life. We can help to bring people into unity with Jesus, a unity that will change their lives. As we celebrate this Eucharistic meal, our Mass, let us celebrate in a special way the price Jesus paid for our redemption. May this Eucharistic celebration empower us to lead a true Life of the Spirit! Amen!
Fr. Jude CSSp
On this fifth Sunday of Easter we continue glorifying the Risen Christ. Gradually Christ approaches his Ascension into heaven. Hence, he promised us a place with him in his kingdom if we persevere in our faith and have love for one another.
In today’s first Reading, Paul encourages us to remain faithful in our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ. He reminds us that: “We all have to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God.” In other words, our suffering as Christians is the stepping stone to our victory. If we do not lose our faith during times of persecutions and hardships we shall be victorious. Therefore love for the word and love for one another must sustain us as we march towards the kingdom of God.
Through the vision of John in today’s second Reading, God gives us a glimpse of that kingdom which Paul spoke of in our first Reading. It is a place of renewal where all our lost glory would be restored. The New Jerusalem is the reward of all Christians who bear an authentic witness to the risen Christ. It is the hope of all who endure persecutions for the sake of Christ and his Good News. It is the hope of those who maintain their faith in Christ.
It is a place of comfort and consolation where the Risen Christ: “… Will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness.” Through this vision, we are once again encouraged and assured that God himself has a place for us in his kingdom. It is his wish that one day we too shall be with him in his eternal kingdom where he promised to make all things new for us. However, before then we must endure the pains of this world.
Today’s Gospel passage gives us the secret of Christian renewal as the faithful practise of Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:35). Jesus has added a new element to the Old Testament command of love by teaching us that the true test of discipleship is to love other people in the same way that he has loved us, with sacrificial, selfless, self-giving, unconditional, agápe love.
Christ gives us a new commandment that will help us to overcome this world and march into the New Jerusalem. Through this, Christ reminds us that the only way we can overcome the tribulations and persecutions of this world is by remaining united in love. In times of trials and persecutions, love is the greatest virtue that sustains every Christian community. The early Christian community understood this very well. They obeyed Christ’s command and were successful in their missions. So their admirers commented thus: “See how they love one another.”
This Gospel Reading reminds us that any Christian community or family which is united in love will never lose its focus or faith in God. This is the love that Paul described in chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthian Christian community. This love cares, it does not exploit the other, it endures and forgives, and it empathizes and sympathizes with the other. This love may be blind but it still remains very prudent, sensible, reasonable and godly.
The love that Christ talks about here is an identification mark. He says: “… By this love everyone will know that you are my disciples.” In other words, it is what defines us as true disciples of Christ. This love of Christ encourages us to have a true renewal of Christian life which means a radical change of vision and a reordering of our priorities in life. Such a renewal brings us to embrace new attitudes, new values, and new standards of relating to God, to other people and, indeed, to our whole environment. Only those who love sincerely can enter the New Jerusalem which the Risen Christ promised his people. This love is a mark of the newness of life which Christ brings to all his people this Easter season.
Finally, the Church advises us to love others in our daily lives as Jesus loved us in the ordinary course of our lives. This means that we should love others by allowing ourselves to be moved with pity for them. We love others by responding to their everyday needs. We can show love by materially sharing with those who have less. We love others by comforting and protecting those who have experienced loss. We love others by serving others in every possible way, no matter how small. We love others by forgiving rather than condemning, by challenging rather than condoning. We love others by responding to the call of God in our lives and by walking in the footsteps of Jesus. We love others by making sacrifices for them. This is how the world will know that we are Disciples of Christ!
Fr. Jude CSSp
Homily for Good Shepherd – Vocation Sunday
My dear people of God, this Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday. It is a Sunday in which we reflect on Christ as a good shepherd who does not abandon his sheep. On this Sunday too, we reflect on and promote the vocations to the consecrated life, (nuns and brothers who take the vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience), and to the priesthood, following the words of Jesus that, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest” (Lk 10:2).
In the Gospel of today, (Jn 10:27-30), Jesus Christ described himself as the Good Shepherd whose voice is recognised by his flock. He knows his flock and they follow him to eternal life. Characteristics of a good shepherd include that the flock can decipher his voice and that he is able to protect them. A story is told of raiders who raided some property and made away with lots of flock. When the police, through their investigations, uncovered the paddock where the stolen flock were hidden, they invited shepherds from the area who had reported their stolen flock. Each shepherd could separate his flock from the fold because each flock was able to identify the voice of their shepherd.
Jesus is our good shepherd and we are his flock; he loved us and cared for us to the point of shedding his blood for our justification. For “no greater love than this, that one lays down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jon 15:13). We are all invited to listen to Christ’s voice, and he will lead us to greener pastures.
As we reflect on vocations today, I wish to give a succinct account of my vocation to the religious – priestly life. The letter to the Hebrews had advised that no one should take the priestly honour upon oneself, “except one who has been chosen and called as Aaron was” (Heb 5:4). May I state that to me, a call to the religious and priestly life has been a privilege. I grew up as any other child of my time. I applied to join the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, (Spiritans), after my secondary education.
This journey to the religious – priestly life included nine years of seminary training which included a novitiate, studying philosophy and theology and a pastoral year. The novitiate was a year of prayer in which I learnt more about the life and work of the Spiritan Fathers and Brothers. What attracted me to the Spiritans was their simplicity of life, their ministry among the poor and marginalised people all over the world, and that they live in community. Like the community of the early Christians, their motto is “one heart and one soul”. During my formation years through spiritual direction, studies, pastoral experiences and advices from my formators, I was enabled to discern my call to the religious – missionary life. There were moments of doubt and struggle because we are merely the earthly wares that God has allowed to hold the treasure – “the surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2Cor 4:7).
Since my perpetual consecration as a religious in August 1993 and my ordination to the priesthood in July 1994, I have served in various ministries in Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and now Australia. I have found the ministry at times challenging but always fulfilling. It is the ordinary men and women who have been called and equipped by Christ to do extra-ordinary things. For our youths, may I propose to you that, as you discern a possible career for yourselves, let the vocation to the religious or priestly life also be on your cards. The Church needs you! The Archdiocese of Melbourne needs you! The Spiritans needs you!
Today too, we acknowledge the vocation to motherhood as we celebrate Mother’s Day. We Congratulate and salute our mothers for their unflinching love and care for their families. Scripture underscored the unconditional love mothers have for their children and families when it rhetorically asked, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, and have no compassion on the child she has borne?” (Is 49:15). We know that mothers willingly give the last drop of their blood for the good of their families. They willingly sacrifice everything for their families.
Mothers are agents of unity and peace in the family. Dad is the head of the family, but mum is like the soul of the family. The book of Proverbs delineated the worth of a wife and mother when it declared, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family.… She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy, (Prob 31:10 – 30).
Wives and mothers, the above passage is about you! Do not lose hope when your demanding work is not reciprocated.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we thank our Mums, both living and dead, for their immense contributions to our society. We thank them for being there for us. We pray that the Good Lord will bless all Mums and grant eternal rest to the Mums who are resting in peace.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp
The Gospel for this Sunday begins with the disciples’ fishing on the Sea of Tiberias, also called the Sea of Galilee. Knowing that the best time to fish on the Sea of Galilee is at night so that the fresh fish can be sold at the market in the morning, the disciples fish all night. But they catch nothing. Then, “just after daybreak” (21:4), the disciples encounter Jesus on the shore; however, they do not recognize him. Jesus asks the disciples whether they have any fish and they tell him no. Jesus then tells the men to “cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some” (21:6). John is the first to recognize that the person on the beach is Jesus. But Peter is the one who hastens to the Lord by jumping into the sea and making his way through the water to Jesus.
Once on shore, the disciples see that Jesus has prepared fish over a charcoal fire to serve them a meal. This image of Jesus as servant and leader is strengthened throughout the story. Jesus instructs Peter to bring more fish to place on the fire so they can share a meal together. The Gospel tells us that the disciples catch 153 fish in the net. Since the time of Saint Jerome, who said 153 represented the number of species of fish that existed in the world and therefore symbolized the universality of Jesus’s message, scholars have speculated what this number symbolizes. The true meaning has been lost to history, but we do know that Jesus shares the bread and fish in a manner similar to the Last Supper when he shared the bread and wine of Passover with the disciples.
After they eat breakfast, Jesus says to Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (21:15). Jesus is creating an opportunity for Peter to profess his love for Jesus in contrast to Peter’s denial of Jesus after Jesus’s arrest. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (21:16). Three times Peter responds, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you” (21:15). Each time Jesus tells Peter what to do with that love: “Feed my lambs” (21:15) . . . “Tend my sheep” (21:16) . . . “Feed my sheep” (21:17). Peter, when given the chance, chooses to affirm his love for Jesus and seeks reconciliation for his denial of Jesus. Peter desires atonement for his actions so he can again be one with Jesus. Atone contains the words at and one. When we experience true atonement, we are once again in a right relationship—one with God and with others.
In Jesus’s lifetime, the disciples come to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. The Easter experience of the resurrected Jesus and the ongoing post-Resurrection encounters with Jesus deepen their conversion and result in the deepening of their faith. This call to conversion by Jesus is ongoing (see CCC, number 1427).
Baptism sacramentally marks the first conversion, but as life unfolds its mysteries, there is a continuous call to conversion. We mark these moments sacramentally with Penance and Reconciliation. Peter is a witness to this second kind of conversion that sometimes is called a conversion by tears. In Baptism, we are washed clean of sin and sanctified. Then we are robed in a white garment—literally “putting on Christ.” “Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], number 1426) is an ongoing process of conversion throughout one’s lifetime.
In the ordinariness of daily life, Jesus takes the opportunity to feed the disciples a meal, to serve them. Jesus continues to model for the disciples the importance of being a servant leader. This week’s passage is about the tender and moving discourse between Jesus and Simon Peter. Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to publicly affirm his love for Jesus to counter Peter’s public denial of Jesus. In the early Christian community that John addresses in his Gospel, Jesus’s followers have already experienced persecution. Peter’s tears upon encountering the merciful eyes of Jesus demonstrate his conversion. Jesus’s merciful love helps Peter recognize what he did when he denied Jesus. Peter has a contrite heart. John wants his readers to understand that forgiveness is possible for those who have a genuinely contrite heart. And just as Peter is directed to care for Jesus’s “sheep,” those who seek God’s forgiveness must demonstrate God’s gracious act through their charitable actions.
Text: Youth Reflections – Liturgia – 3 Easter Year C
Today is divine Mercy Sunday. Our gospel is a message of God’s love for us.
This gospel is a story for the early church (and for us). John the Evangelist is writing about 100AD, seventy years after the death of Jesus. Few living members of the Christian community had actually met Jesus. They had to rely on the witness of others. They were being distracted by stories of magic; magic enthralled John’s people. The recounting of this story of Thomas was to counter a magical notion of what the resurrection is about. Our gospel story emphasises the real, the tangible, the physical; the post resurrection Jesus, bearing the marks of his torture and death, can be touched.
When you read the resurrection accounts of all four gospels, you realize that Thomas is not alone in his doubt. In fact, doubt isn’t the exception but the rule.” Yet was he a “doubter” or did he see himself as a realist? Remember, he had seen Jesus nailed to the cross and die.
The realism of this story is very telling. No one, even after all the predictions, no one says to Jesus, “Welcome back,” or “We knew it,” or even “What took you so long?” No, when Jesus shows up, there is doubt or confusion.
Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith but, actually, part of it; maybe even an essential part of it. Jesus doesn’t rebuke Thomas, rather He blesses all those who have managed to believe without the benefit of direct experience; all those who have managed to come to a faith that lives with doubts and yet still finds a way to believe.
There is another message the evangelist John, our parish patron, is sharing with his community. Trust in the faith community. Is Thomas doubting Jesus or is he doubting the witnesses – like Peter doubted the witness of Mary of Magdala?
Thomas doubted the witnesses, those claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead. Very few of us go through life without having serious questions about God, Jesus, the Spirit and the Church. These are good questions within themselves, necessary for a mature adult faith. What we need to ensure is that we sincerely want to know the answers and not use them as excuses for wandering away from the Faith.
What happened to Thomas? He had rejected the witness of the faith community, yet they remained faithful to him in his doubts. We know this because he is still with them a week later. They didn’t eject him – they held onto him in the hope that he would experience the Lord for himself. In this we should take the earliest church as our model and stay faithful to our doubters.
The birth of the Church is an ongoing act of God’s creation. It took time. People will be at different stages at different moments. Like any family. Pope Francis commenting on family stated, “The perfect family doesn’t exist, nor is there a perfect husband or a perfect wife. It’s just us sinners.” He continues “A healthy family life requires frequent use of three phrases: “May I? Thank you and I’m sorry” and “never, never, never end the day without making peace.” (Meeting with engaged couples, Feb. 14, 2014).
Our fidelity and love for one another on life’s journey is only surpassed by Jesus himself who does not give up on us, no matter how many questions we ask or how much we doubt. He came for all, not just the few. That is what divine mercy is about.
Jesus took Thomas’ fears, doubts, and disbelief and transformed them into a powerful Christian message that has sustained generations of us who struggle with life and faith. Remember always His words to each of us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Rev Deacon Kevin Pattison
Christ The Lord Is Risen: Alleluia, Alleluia!
Christ is Risen Alleluia! Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope. “Easter” literally means “the feast of fresh flowers.” We celebrate it with pride and jubilation.
A couple of weeks ago we started what looked like a hopeless, and an endless journey. Today we have come to the end of that journey. Today is the greatest of all Sundays in the Christian calendar because of the newness of life that it brings. Today a new epoch has completely began. This is because the historical Jesus, who suffered, was crucified, died and was buried has now been glorified.
In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our Faith in Christ, a Faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross…” (CCC # 638).
The short story is that Christ has risen in fulfillment of his promise: “I will rise on the third day.” The battle is over. There is no controversy because Jesus is Lord! Today, we celebrate the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness, and of peace over chaos. We celebrate hope, patience and the fulfillment of God’s Promise to his people. We also celebrate the uniqueness of our religion, the Resurrection of our Lord.
Through his Resurrection, Jesus affirms that he is the Lord of the living and the dead. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then the Church is a fraud and Faith is a sham. But if Jesus really did rise from the dead, his message is true!
One question that we must ask ourselves this Easter Sunday is: Did I resurrect with Christ this Easter? Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus left the linen cloths in the grave. In order words he did not cling to any “worldly” thing or allowed them to pull him down. If we must rise with Christ, we must equally be ready to detach ourselves from all unnecessary things that pull us down spiritually. Through our Lenten observances we died with Christ, so let us rise with him through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Like Paul, today our song should be that of thanksgiving to God: “We bless God the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ who in his great mercy has given us a new birth…by raising Jesus Christ from the dead”. This is because Christ’s death was our death and his Resurrection is ours too. Therefore, his joy, glory and triumph are equally ours.
As Christ’s disciples, our testimony from today shall be: “I saw Christ’s glory as he rose…Christ my hope has risen…! Like the apostles, our duty is to spread the good news of the Lord’s Resurrection to the entire world. Like Peter in today’s first Reading we must say to all people: “Now we are those witnesses…we eat and drank with Him after his resurrection…”
Having been raised with Christ, we must act like the living and not the dead. We must seek the things of light, things that are noble and things that glorify God. We must seek heavenly things by living like citizens of heaven rather than “earth bound spirits.” This is what Paul calls us to do today when he says: “Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is…” In other words, we must live the type of life which is worthy of one who has risen and reigns with Christ.
The Church reminds us that Easter, the feast of the Resurrection, gives us the joyful message that we are a “Resurrection People.” This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits, and dangerous addictions. It gives us the Good News that no tomb can hold us down any longer – not the tomb of despair, discouragement, doubt, or death itself. Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the real Presence of the Risen Lord in all the events of our lives. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” (Ps 118:24).
The living Presence of the Risen Lord gives us lasting peace and celestial joy in the face of the boredom, suffering, pain, and tensions of our day-to-day life. For the true Christian, every day must be an Easter Day, lived joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord.
We are called to be transparent Christians showing others through our lives of love, mercy, compassion, and self-sacrificing service that the Risen Jesus is living in our hearts.
Easter reminds us that every Good Friday in our lives will have an Easter Sunday, and that Jesus will let us share the power of his Resurrection. Each time we display our love of others, we share in the Resurrection. Each time we face a betrayal of trust and, with God’s grace, forgive the betrayer and forget the offense, we share in the Resurrection of Jesus. Each time we fail in our attempts to ward off temptations – but keep on trying to overcome them – we share in the Resurrection. Each time we continue to hope – even when our hope seems unanswered – we share in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. In short, the message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us – not pain, sin, rejection, betrayal, or death. Because Christ has conquered all these, we, too, can conquer them — if we put our Faith and trust in Him.
Finally, I once watched a local football match at a school playing ground. As I sat down, I asked one of the boys what the score was. With a smile, he replied: ‘They are leading us 3-0 down.’ I said; ‘Really! I have to say you don’t look discouraged.’ ‘Discouraged?’ the boy asked with a puzzled look. ‘Why should I be discouraged when the referee has not blown the final whistle? I have confidence in the team and the managers; we shall definitely overcome.’ Truly, the match ended 6-3 in favor of the boy’s team. He waved at me gently with a beautiful smile as he left. I was amazed, mouth wide open; such confidence; such beautiful faith. As I got back home that night, his question kept coming back to me: “Why should I be discouraged when the referee has not blown the final whistle?”
LIFE IS LIKE A GAME. Why should you be discouraged when the Almighty God is your Manager? Why should you be discouraged when there is still life? Why should you be discouraged when your final whistle has not sounded? The truth is that many people blow the final whistle themselves, but as long as there is life, nothing is impossible for God and it is never too late for you, for CHRIST is RISEN. Don’t blow the whistle yourself for CHRIST is ALIVE. Be encouraged! Don’t give up!
Fr. Chinua and I, with hearts full of joy and appreciation for all your prayers and support, wish you all a very joyful and Happy Easter with God’s choicest Blessings. … Fr. Jude CSSp
Palm Sunday is the last Sunday in Lent and the beginning of the most Holy Week in the Christian Calendar, when we commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Holy Week is a week of no swearing, no quarrels, no gossips and no hatred or hurtful feelings in our hearts. It is a week of love, reconciliation, fairness, kindness and of peace. Palm symbolises peace and victory, hence, the use of palms today portrays Christ as the King of peace.
Jesus came to reconcile humanity with itself and humanity with God. He said, “blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Mt 5:9). St Paul also informed us that in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us, and now, He has entrusted to us the task of spreading the Good News of God’s reconciliation. (2 Cor 5:19). Though in Christ, God has reconciled the world to Himself, however, the world is still in dire need of the fruits of this reconciliation. Hence, there is a need for humanity to allow Jesus’ way of life to permeate their lives by accepting him as their King, Lord, and Saviour! We do this by renouncing all forms of violence, bigotry, intimidation, and victimization.
Today, we are celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to accomplish the mission entrusted to him by the Father. This celebration is both joyous and sober. The first part of the ceremony relates to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem which is joyous and the second part which narrates his passion is sober.
Jesus who is our King, Priest and Prophet had shied away from drawing attention to himself during his earthly ministry. When he healed the sick, he would instruct them not to reveal his identity to others. Though he was God, he emptied himself and became human for our sake, and being human, he lived a humble life. (Phil 2:6-7). Jesus invites us to emulate his self-emptying by getting rid of unnecessary pomposity in our lives. He also calls on us to come to him with our joys and sorrows, for he said, “come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest, shoulder my yoke for I am lowly and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:20-30).
Just as Jesus allowed his glory to become manifest to his disciples at his Transfiguration, likewise, in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he allowed himself to be treated as a king. Angel Gabriel had proclaimed during the annunciation that Jesus was to be born to take over the throne of his ancestor David and that his kingdom will have no end. (Lk 1:32). Jesus consecrated by the Holy Spirit and sent by the Father, entered Jerusalem for the climax of his mission. The Father had attested that he was His son in whom He was well pleased, and He had asked us to listen to him. (Lk 9:35).
In the Gospel of John, in the lead up to his Passion, Death and Resurrection, many people came to the awareness that he was the Messiah and believed in him; thus, obeying the instruction from the Father that we should listen to him.
The Gospel of Luke, (Lk 19:28-40), narrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Even in his moment of glory, Jesus still chose the humble path. He chose to ride on a donkey which espouses humility and peace, rather than on a horse which is more magnificent and projects power, strength and war. His disciples spread their cloak on the donkey and Jesus sat on it. Some people in the crowd placed their cloaks on the road, others cut tree branches and placed them on the road. They chanted with joy and praise, “hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heavens!”
Today as we celebrate Palm Sunday, let us with hearts full of gratitude to God raise our branches with songs of praise to Christ our King. Let us adore and worship him with our hearts, minds and bodies. Jesus enters Jerusalem to undergo his Passion, Death and Resurrection; may his sacrifices bestow on us grace upon grace. (Jn 1:16).
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp
In the first Reading of today, (Is 43:16-21), the Lord, through the mouth of prophet Isaiah, addressed the Israelites during their Babylonian captivity. After about 70 years in exile, the Israelites were wondering if the Lord has abandoned them for ever. The Lord spoke words of encouragement to them by letting them know that he was doing something new in their lives which would be greater than he had done in the past. The Lord said, “No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before. See, I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to light; can you not see it?” The greatest story the Jewish people reminisced about was their freedom from slavery in Egypt. The Lord was saying that their greatest story would now be their reconciliation with God; the pardoning of their sins.
This becomes more evident in the Gospel of today, (Jn 8:1-11), where a woman caught committing adultery was brought to Jesus by the Scribes and the Pharisees. According to the Book of Deuteronomy, a man and a woman who committed adultery must be put to death. (Deut 22:22).
The Scribes and the Pharisees enquired of Jesus if he supported carrying out the injunction prescribed in the Law on the accused. It was a difficult question for Jesus because he must not be seen as condoning sin. However, the people brought only one of the culprits – the woman, which in itself is unfair. The people of today might frown at killing a spouse because he or she committed adultery. Yes, the punishment is extreme, however, we must not forget that fidelity to one’s spouse in marriage is of supreme importance!
Jesus, while not condoning the sin the woman had committed, however, in a gentle but persuasive way pointed out to the woman’s accusers that each of them in one way or another do commit sin and were in need of God’s mercy. Some sins are graver than others, nonetheless, everyone needs God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Stoning was the mode of carrying out capital punishment in Israel in Jesus’ time, which explains Jesus’ command to the woman’s accusers that the person without sin be the first to cast the stone on the accused. The woman’s accusers suddenly realised that they were all sinners in one way or another and needed God’s mercy and forgiveness. Hence none of them raised their hands on the woman and Jesus said to the woman; “neither do I condemn you but go and sin no more.” Wow! Isn’t that a great healing to experience the mercy and forgiveness of one’s spouse, friend, parents or business associates after we have offended them, especially in very serious ways.
The mercy and forgiveness of God abounds in Jesus and “nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus our, (sic) Lord.” (Phil 3:8). Let us not gloss over our past mistakes if they were serious, nor should we only dwell on the wrong choices we have made. Make restitution for the harm and pain you may have inflicted on people and with the grace that comes from true repentance; and the desire to not re-offend, move your life forward.
Paul was a persecutor of the Christians. While on his way to Damascus to arrest and torture the Christians, he had an encounter with Christ through a vision. He heard a voice call out to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He enquired about whose voice it was and was informed that it was the voice of Jesus and he, (Saul), was persecuting him, (Jesus), as he persecuted the Christians.
Paul underwent a transformation from that moment and became a protagonist of the Gospel of Christ after receiving Baptism. He worked very hard to make as many people as possible come to know about Jesus Christ and the salvation which he brought to humankind. He founded many churches. His hard work for the faith was a way for him to make restitution for the harm he caused to the nascent church. He did not allow his past mistakes of persecuting the Church to be all that defined him. No! His doggedness in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ has made him to be remembered as an apostle of Christ and a saint! Thus, we should not allow our epitaph to be on our mistakes but on how we were able to triumph despite our mistakes, by the grace of God.
Next Sunday is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of the most Holy Week in the Christian calendar. Today, I am sending you forth to your family members and neighbours to invite them to re-connect with their faith by joining our Parish in the celebration of the Paschal Mystery – the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know that there is a lot of negative news about the Church these days, but with Christ, we will remain sailing!
Fr. Chinua Okeke CSSp
The theme that permeates the Readings of this Sunday is ‘Reconciliation’. This theme which is implicit in the first Reading, is explicit in the second Reading and the Gospel. The return of the people of Israel to the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua after over two hundred years of sojourn in Egypt was a form of reconciliation with the land. This reconciliation was cemented in the Israelites eating from the produce of the land. (Jos 5:9-12).
In the second Reading, (2 Cor 5:17-21), St Paul stated that in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself not holding people’s sins against them. Thus, in Christ, our old self of sin is subsumed in our new self of grace. We are therefore ambassadors of Christ, entrusted with the task of making the Good News of Christ’s reconciliation known to everyone.
The Gospel, (Lk 15:1-3,11-32), is traditionally known as the parable of the prodigal son. The background to the parable was that the “tax collectors and sinners” were attracted to the message of hope and reconciliation preached by Jesus, such that a considerable number of them came to listen to him and interact with him. We recall that Jesus had included Matthew, a tax collector, among his apostles, and he had declared that it was the sick who needed the doctor not the healthy, (Mk 2:17), and that he came not to call the virtuous but sinners, (Lk 5:32). The Scribes and Pharisees were appalled at Jesus mingling with “tax collectors and sinners”, hence, he responded to their complaint with the parable of the prodigal son.
Per the parable, a man had two sons, the younger demanded from his dad the estate that would have gone to him when his father died. In doing so, he wished his father were dead which was an evil thought. Secondly, in demanding that their father shared his estate between him and his elder brother, he usurped the right which belonged to his elder brother as the first-born. To underscore the gravity of what the second son did, imagine as a parent, one of your children saying to you, “I want you to hand over to me right now whatever you have willed to me, I do not care how much longer you may live; you must give it to me right now!” I believe this would be a big shock to any parent and may trigger resentment from his siblings.
The father gave the younger son his share of the estate, and he sold it and left for a distant country where he squandered the money in licentious living. Once his money ran out, he learnt the hard way that all that glitters may not be gold. He realised too late that the freedom he sought for must go with responsibility and that those he thought were his bosom friends were mere ravenous wolves.
Once money and friends were gone, he tried to make ends meet by hiring himself out to a local farmer who sent him to work in his piggery. As he worked with an empty stomach, he came to his senses! He recalled that his father’s paid servants had more dignity than he now has, hence, he decided to go back to his father to admit his wrong doing and ask for forgiveness. A true sign of contrition is the willingness to acknowledge and confess the sin, and a firm resolve not to re-offend.
When he reached his hometown, before he got to his father’s property, he was amazed that his father ran and met him on the way. His father clasped him and kissed him because he knew that his son was dead but had come back to life, he was lost but has now been found. Anyone who is in serious sin is considered spiritually dead. The prodigal son acknowledged his guilt by saying to his father, “father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” Every sin we commit also effects our relationship with God, (Ps 51:4), which explains the younger son’s acknowledgement that he had sinned against heaven and against his father.
Though the prodigal son’s father was deeply disgusted with his behaviour, however, he was willing to give his now repentant son a second chance by restoring his sonship. He did this by ordering a new robe be put on him and a ring on his finger. He also organised a lavish banquet in his honour to celebrate his conversion. St Monica, the mother of St Augustine would have thrown such a banquet if she had the means to celebrate the conversion of her son, St Augustine.
When the elder son came back from working in the fields and heard that his younger brother had come back and their father had organised a banquet to welcome him, because he had become repentant, he became angry and refused to join in the celebration. I acknowledge that people do go through hurt and trauma because of the injustices or bullying or other forms of abuse meted on them. The deeper the hurt, the longer it may take to heal.
However, God always gives us a second chance so we are invited to dispose our hearts to forgive, especially when the offender is truly repentant. The father of the two sons came out and pleaded with the elder son to give his brother a second chance because he was remorseful of his bad behaviour. The elder son was so angry with his younger brother that he had severed the sibling tie between them. He referred to his brother in his conversation with their father as “this son of yours”.
The father assured the elder son that his place in the family was not in dispute, but evil must always be condemned and the good acknowledged; hence, the need to celebrate because his brother who was dead has come back to life and who was lost has been found.
May the Lord always find us when we are lost! And may our Lenten observances dispose our hearts to true repentance. Amen.
Fr. Chinua Okeke CSSp