Homily for 1St Sunday of Advent, Year B

Advent: A Season Of Great Expectation And Joyful Hope
Readings: (1st: Ish 63, 16-17. 64, 1-8: Ps 79, 2-119; 2nd: I Cor 1, 3-9; Gos: Mtt 13, 33-37)

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

“…Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Emmanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good…”(Ish 17, 14). Today is both the first Sunday of Advent and of the Church’s liturgical calendar year B. Remarkably, as we begin a new liturgical year today, we move from Matthew’s to Mark’s Gospel, the shortest of the four canonical Gospels.
Advent is a season of hope and a period during which as Christians we await the fulfillment of the promise of God through his prophets. In addition to being a season of hope, it is equally, a season of great patience and prayer. It suffices to note that why we prepare physically, the most important preparation is that of the spirit. Therefore, during these four weeks what are we expected to do? What will you do if you are informed that very soon your president will visit you right in your home in a couple of week time? Surely, you are not going to rest until you have turned your home around so that every nook and corner of it will be comfortable for your August visitor. If we could do this just for the sake of Mr. President’s proposed visit, what should we do to welcome the new born king of the world? This season is all about getting set for the birth and coming of the messiah.
Our first reading from Isaiah is both a prophetic message as well as a prayer of hope. Isaiah begins by first acknowledging the greatness of God: “O Lord you are our Father, Our Redeemer is your ancient name…” and progresses to lamentation or complain to God: “Why leave us to stray from your ways”. Finally, he expressed the hope he has in God: “Return, for the sake of your servants…Oh that you would tear the heavens open and come down…?” This is a prayer of hope because, as Isaiah rightly demanded, God will not keep silent until we are saved. That salvation is what the hope we have in the coming of Christ will accomplish for us when he is finally born. This hope that the prophet expresses today is what will see us through this season until Christmas when our Redeemer will be born. Therefore, when Isaiah says, “Oh that you would tear the heavens open and come down…”, he is expecting God to come in power and might. He is like saying as we pray, “Our Father, let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven? This is also the hope that Paul constantly expressed whenever he says “Maranatha” (come quickly Lord Jesus). That power and its manifestation is what we await and hope to see at the end of this season of Advent when God’s word finally would be made flesh. However, until then our major duty and preoccupation should be how to prepare well.
In our second reading, Paul thanks God for the graces he received through Christ. He equally encourages us to be faithful as we wait for the coming of Christ. Even though in this letter, Paul was referring to the second coming of Christ (Parousia), yet this reading is very ad rem to this season of Advent. Of Importance here is the fact that Paul reminds us that we have received the gifts of the Spirit. It is these gifts that will strengthen us as we wait for Christ to come. Of course, what this means is that we need to implore theses gifts in order to prepare well. The Holy Spirit will certainly teach us how best to prepare, and he will show us the items necessary for welcoming the infant Jesus. If we walk with him this season of Advent our hope will not fail us, because, “the expectation of the righteous shall not be cut short” (Pr 23, 18). Therefore, we must be ready to prepare for the Lord’s coming prayerfully, and by employing the help of the Sacraments that the Church has left at our disposal for the edification and sanctification of our souls. This is with special regard to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We must not be carried away by the physical preparation during this season at the detriment of the spiritual. We must not prepare for the coming of Christ as pagans do. It is not a time to get rich quick or to disenfranchise others in order to celebrate Christmas “lavishly and worldly”. Instead it is a time for deep reflection upon the loving kindness of God who came to dwell among humanity by taking flesh in a mortal being. It is a time to be good to others, a time to love, respect and to reach out to the poor, weak and the sick.
The gospel of today is a clarion call to be awake and alert, and only the Spirit of God can help us do this faithfully. Therefore, rather than hearken to the spirit of this world this season, we must tenaciously hold on to the Spirit of God, who consequently is the Spirit of the Good News of salvation, because he alone can keep us awake until the Lord comes. This is what the season of Advent calls for. For our hope not to disappoint us this season we must be alert and get ourselves ready at all times. This season, the Lord wants us to have our hearts and minds fixed on him and his word. He wants us to be ready for his coming and grace in our lives, and of course, in our world. If we wait patiently for, and on him this season, we shall not be disappointed and we will surely receive his grace and saving help. This season, if we do all things without lightening up our lives spiritually for Christ to walk into and through it, if we prepare all things and places without preparing a manger for baby Jesus in our lives then, our preparation might definitely be in vain. God forbid! During these four weeks of grace we must constantly ask ourselves, how best can I prepare to welcome the infant Jesus-King, have I prepared a manger in my heart for him so that he could be born anew within me, and, am I watching and waiting for the Lord’s action in my life with expectant faith and joyful hope this season?
Finally brethren, this season, as we eagerly anticipate and desire the coming of the Lord, our hope and expectation should prompt us to be always awake and vigilant, it should make us prepare adequately in order to avail ourselves of Jesus’ mercy. Therefore, our constant and confident prayer during this season of Advent must be as Isaiah prayed today: “Oh Lord that you would tear the heaven and come down,” and also, as Paul constantly prayed and concluded most of his letters: “Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” However, for this to bear fruit, we must also, humble ourselves this season and pray along with the psalmist: “God of Hosts bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved”.
Peace be with you all!


Homily for Solemnity of Christ the King (34th & Last Sunday of ordinary Time, Yr A)

Let Christ The King Of The Universe Reign in Your Life
Readings: (1st: Ezek 34, 11-17; Ps. 22, 1-6; 2nd: I Cor 15, 20-28; Gos: Mtt 25, 31-46)

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

Hurray! Today is the thirty fourth and last Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A. Most importantly, it is the solemnity of Christ the King. The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in order to ward off the cantankerous, deadly influence and activities of Secularism. The feast is intended to proclaim in a resounding, striking and effective way Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations. The Holy Mother Church and all her faithful celebrate today the King of the universe who rules in power and majesty, the King who is compassionate and love, and the king who does not rule with iron fist but delivers justice on a platter of gold.
Once in a kingdom, a deadly plaque tormented the people. Every effort made to curb it proved abortive and yet no solution was in view as the inhabitants were at the verge of being wiped out. One day, a certain wise man appeared and claimed to have the solution to the plaque. Immediately, the king summoned him to his palace. He told the king that only one thing needed to be done to defeat the plaque. This news delighted the king. Then, the wise man added: “There is a balm within the forest that could cure the plague, but the problem is that someone needs to go and get it.” The king responded swiftly, “That is not a problem at all!” But the wise man retorted, “My king it is a big problem.” Again, the king said, “My friend that is not a problem because in my kingdom I have brave men and women who can do anything to get it.” To this the wise man added, “My king but the oracle has chosen someone already for this task.” The king said to him, “So tell me who it is and we shall fetch him immediately.” The wise man hesitated and then broke the silence: “He is your heir apparent and only son!” At this, the king was enraged and immediately condemned the wise man to death by hanging. A few days later, he sent his bravest men into the forest in search of the balm, but none of them returned alive, again and again he continued sending until he and his son were the only men left. Eventually the plague hit the palace and both of them were struck dead the same day, and the entire dynasty was annihilated. One man could have saved this dynasty and possibly lived, but because of the self-centeredness of the king all went down. This is not the kind of king we celebrate today. We celebrate the King who was ready to, and actually died for us his flock in order to give us life in full. He is not selfish but self sacrificing. This King differs from our worldly kings because he is love himself as well as the model of all kings.
In the first reading of today, the Lord through his oracle prophet Ezekiel reassures us of his continuous readiness to look after us: “I am going to look after my flock myself… I shall rescue them…I shall be a true shepherd to them…” We must note here that the Lord God himself will do his job. One remarkable thing about this reading is that for nine times the personal pronoun “I” was employed to convey first, the fact of God’s personal interest in his flock and second, his promises to all of us his children which he has long ago fulfilled through Jesus Christ our King and ruler of the universe. In this reading also, God sort of presented the manifesto of his government to be headed by Christ. His, is quite different from those our earthly vote and political power seekers present to us, such as the following: free education, housing, medical care, transportation, low taxation, more jobs, high income rates and even free air, water, wives and husbands etcetera. You and I know full well that they hardly come close to fulfilling even ten percent of their promises before the end of their tenure in office. Yet, another set returns with the same old fashion lies. In contrast, the manifesto of God is absolutely different, because it is real, true and devoid of falsehood. It is not charity with a hook. God is a faithful King who never lies but fulfils his promises as the book of Numbers reminds us: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Nu 23, 19)
In the second reading, Paul takes us memory lane about how Christ achieved his kingship and how he will continue to maintain it until he has conquered our last enemy death. Christ accomplished a task that no other could. This task is the defeat of sin and Satan through his own death. It was a hundred percent knockout. He had to do this to salvage us from the whips and caprices of Satan our arch enemy: “By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col 2, 14). This is what he has done for our sake and for the sake of his kingdom. So we must abide with him who shed his blood for us. We must be part of his kingdom and pay homage to him every day of our life because, he reigns supreme over the entire universe.
In today’s gospel, Matthew reminds us of the rule and reign of Christ. His reign is one of justice because he will judge each one according to his or her action. He shall uphold the just and reprimand the culprit. There is no corruption, embezzlement, manipulation, or structural injustices in his kingdom or during his reign. Rather, his reign will be the reign of peace because: “…He will judge among many people, rebuking strong nations far away; and they will reshape their swords as plowshares and their spears as pruning hooks. No nation will threaten another, nor will they train for war anymore” (Ish 2, 4; Micah 4, 3). His scepter shall be peace and justice. My dear brethrens, today’s celebration will only make meaning to us if only we have given Christ the highest seat and key to the kingdom of our hearts where he earnestly desires to reign. If he reigns in every heart, then he reigns in our world. If he reigns there already, then rejoice and celebrate, if not, then let us ask him today, to come in because he says to us: “I stand at the door waiting, if you open I will come in to eat and dine with him” (Rev 3, 20). If he reigns in you, then yours are all gains and no losses.
In conclusion, as we celebrate Christ the King of the universe today let us allow him to be truly in control of the kingdom of our heart because as the “Buen Pastor” (Good Shepherd), Jesus will not oppress or lead us astray as our earthly kings do. If we make the Lord our King and Shepherd, then there is nothing we shall lack, because, his goodness and mercy will follow us, all the days of our life. Of course, in the beautiful court of King Jesus’ palace shall we all dwell.
Peace be with you!

Homily for 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A

Devoted and Faithful In Waiting For Christ Our Head and Master
Readings: 1st: Prov 31, 10-13.19-20; Ps 127, 1-5; 2nd: 1Thess 5, 1-6; Gos: Matt 25, 14-30

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

As we draw closer and closer to the end of the 2014 liturgical calendar, year A and also, to the beginning of a new one marked by the season of Advent, the church encourages us to remain faithful and dedicated to our Head and Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore as a family of God, with Christ as the head; the Church as the Mother; we (the faithful) as the children; and the angels as the faithful servants waiting on and watching over us, we must be steadfast and united as we hold and celebrate today a feast in honour of Christ the head of our family. We must be ready to bring him the talents of a virtuous woman, devoted children, and faithful servants
Here is a true life story about faithfulness in waiting. Hachiko, was an Akita dog born in 1923 and was owned by Eisaburo Ueno, a professor at the University of Tokyo. The professor used to take a train from the Shibuya Station every day to go to the university. Each day Hachiko accompanied him to the train station when he left for work. Upon returning, he would find the dog patiently waiting and wagging its tail. This happy routine continued until one fateful day in 1925, when the professor was taken ill on the job and unfortunately died before he could return home. As usual, the dog waited at the train station that day for his master to return back. However, seeing that he was not coming back, Hachiko waited till night fell and retuned back home. The next day Hachiko went back to the train station again, waiting for his master to come back. He patiently waited till sunset and then retuned back home. The dog was so devoted to the professor that he continued to visit the train station everyday for the next ten years! The people who passed the loyal dog each day were so touched by his story that they erected a statue in his honor at the Station in 1934. In 1935, Hachiko died at the very same spot where he used to wait for his master (Extracted from Wikipedia and Fabulous Travel.com). Dear brethrens we have, by virtue of our baptismal vows pledged allegiance to the Lord. Therefore as the faithful Hachiko, we should be faithful to our Head – Jesus Christ.
Our first reading for this Sunday is from proverbs. The virtuous woman of Proverbs radiates as a bright beacon in this wonderful wisdom book of precepts and warnings. The book presents us with the qualities of the virtuous woman, and the term “virtuous” simply refers to strength, efficiency, or ability. Here it refers to strength of character. That is, moral strength and firmness (Ruth 3:11). The virtuous woman is good, faithful, and knows what to do to keep her family intact. In addition, “she holds out her hand to the needy”. Today, the virtuous woman represents two things for us. First, she is the symbol of the Holy Mother Church who leaves no stone unturned in her bid to make sure that she prepares us adequately to meet Christ our Head. The church as the virtuous woman does this through her constant, untiring teachings, admonitions, and through her charitable works. As a mother, the church knows her duty towards her groom Christ and towards us her children. She never and will never go to sleep until she has presented us to Christ worthily. On the other hand, it is a call for us to emulate the qualities of the virtuous woman as we hold today a festival in honor of our head Christ. Like the virtuous woman, it is essential for us to cultivate inner beauty. If this is absent, then, it is impossible to exhibit the strength and efficiency fit enough to wait for Christ our head. We are to be as faithful and devoted to our callings and mission as the virtuous woman is.
In the second reading Paul presents to us a description of the conduct expected from a child of the light. He reminds us of the inevitable – The Lord’s Day. According to him, one of the most significant characteristics of this “Day” is that it will be sudden: “it is when people are saying, ‘how quiet and peaceful it is that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as Labour pain on a pregnant woman…” In order words, Paul is simply encouraging us to be vigilant and active in our preparation for this very day of the Lord. “Gregoreuo” is a Greek word employed by Paul that connotes the idea of a sleeping man rousing himself, so that he is mentally alert and in a state of mind opposite to that which characterizes one’s mind while in sleep, and this is the position we ought to adopt as Christians waiting for their Master. We must be faithful and devoted in good works as the virtuous woman in our first reading. This “Day” must not catch us by surprise because, “to before warn is to be fore armed.” As people of light we must per due in the light and avoid all the snares of darkness. Therefore, as faithful and devoted children of God, we must be about our Father‘s duty without allowing ourselves to be distracted at all. We must live expectantly in the light of Christ our Head’s return, realizing that our works will be judged and that our opportunities for service on earth will end. We must live with eternity’s values in mind and in view all the time. If we do, we will certainly enjoy a better life than those who compromise with the world. We are therefore to live like soldiers in active service (2 Ti 2. 4), and like the virtuous woman working to please her husband and children.
In the gospel, Jesus uses the parable of the talent to equally remind us that given the imminence of his return, each one of us must be ready to render a good account to him as our head. In order words, he has endowed us differently according to our various capacities. He also expects us as devoted and faithful children to render a good account of the “talents” he has endowed us with. While Jesus’ parable challenges all of us to put to full use all the potentials that God has given us for the sake of the kingdom, he most importantly, instructs us his disciples to endure through difficult times and to live in anticipation of His return. Hence, this parable simply reminds us of the inevitability of the Lord’s coming and how we as his disciple ought to live in expectation of his great return. Furthermore, it depicts how we are to display faithfulness as we anticipate the return of Christ our head. Therefore, while we wait for the Lord’s return, it must not be in idealness, but we must be industrious and active by bearing effective witness to Christ while bearing in mind that an account must be demanded from us. It is true that like the three servants, we do not have gifts of the same degree, but God expects of us a result that is commensurate with the gifts he has given to us. So, we must use whatever talents we have been given to the best of our ability for God’s glory, and when we have done that, we are on an equal playing field with other faithful. As trustworthy servants of God we must therefore, avoid a life of indifference, apathy, licentiousness, and complacency towards our mission and work as these will not fetch us any reward from Christ. We are faithful, devoted and wise disciples if only while waiting for Christ’s return, we emulate and expand his ministry. He announced the arrival of God’s kingdom by feeding the hungry, visiting and curing the sick and imprisoned, blessing the meek, serving the least, clothing the naked, and welcoming the stranger (Mtt. 25:31-46). If we are found faithful in this same ministry, we will definitely hear our master and head say to us when he returns: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Peace be with you all!!

Homily for Dedication of Lateran Basilica (32nd Sunday, Year A)

Celebrating God’ Sacred Presence With and Within Us!
Readings: 1st: Ezek 47, 1-2. 8-9.12; Ps 45, 2-9; 2nd: 1 Cor 3, 11. 16-17; Gos: Jh 2, 13-22

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

“The beauty and harmony of Churches, destined to render praise to God, invites us, limited beings and sinners, to form a ‘cosmos,’ a well-ordered edifice, in communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies…Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony.” (Pope Benedict XVI Nov 9, 2008, Feast of Lateran Basilica). Exactly after one week of being granted the privilege by God and his Church to celebrate and reflect on the dual feast of All Saints and Souls, today the 32nd Sunday of ordinary time, we are once again given another opportunity to celebrate and reflect upon God’s divine closeness and presence with and within us through the Feast of the Dedication of St John Lateran Basilica. Two basic points are important in today’s celebration. First the physical building as well as us, are both God’s temple and dwelling place. Second, both the physical church building and us are both the physical evidence and manifestation of God’s presence on earth and as such, must be kept holy and sacred.
There is a great misconception about this feast and most importantly about St. Peter’s Basilica Rome both among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Rather than St. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Pope’s church as the Bishop of the archdiocese of Rome is the Lateran Basilica which bears on its facade: “omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput” (the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world). This Basilica was built by Constantine and was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324. This feast was first observed in Rome, but was extended to the Universal Latin Church. This is a way of expressing our love, solidarity, union and faithfulness to the Chair of Peter which our holy father Pope Francis occupies today as the primus inter pares. In personifying and referring to this church as “The Mother” of all churches, it means that as a mother she bears, nurtures, feeds, cares and protects her children. She is a place of refuge. This Lateran Basilica and indeed every other dedicated church around the world is therefore the symbol of God’s divine physical manifestation and presence among his people. It is also the symbol of the holy mother church on earth, and of Our Lady who is truly the mother and mistress of the church. She stands close to us all especially during difficult moments with her arms wide open as: “The Refuge of Sinner”, “The Comforter of the Afflicted”, “The Tower of David”, and “The Ark of the Covenant”.
In our first reading today the vision of the prophet Ezekiel about the temple of Jerusalem is presented to us in a most articulate and dramatic fashion. This reminds us of God’s ever abiding presence within his temple. As a sign of God’s presence among his people, the Temple or “Church” is a place from where the river of God’s joy emanates and flows towards us in order to nourish and satisfy us. It is a place of refuge and a place where we find eternal bliss, a place where our spiritual hunger and thirst are satisfied, and most importantly, it is a place of healing where we find Jesus our balm of Gilead (Jer 8, 22) that heals our wounded souls. Ezekiel recapitulates thus about this river that flows from God’s temple or church: “Wherever the river flows all living creatures teeming in it will live…for where ever the river flows, it brings health, and life…because this water comes from the sanctuary”. It suffices to note that there is both a significant ontological as well as functional difference between a “Dedicated Church” and an ordinary hall, a factory building, make-shift canopy, an abandoned warehouse, a shop/store, an auditorium, a classroom, a dining room, a parlor, capitols or town halls, just as there was a much difference between the Temple of Jerusalem and the synagogues (town halls). Therefore, in every dedicated church dwells the fullness of the presence of the Trinitarian God. It is a sacred, permanent dwelling of God, and a place of prayer. So, it must be accorded utmost reverence.
In the second reading, Paul takes us to the next and very important dimension of the temple of God and that is us: “You are God’s building…did you not realize that you are God’s temple and the Holy Spirit of God was living among you?” This is straight and direct to the point and this is what we are. We are the seat of God’s government because our hearts are the innermost sanctuaries of the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds us of God’s special presence within us. We are God’s living and mobile temple. Therefore, there is a special call today to keep this temple holy, pure and sacred, because, God does not dwell in a flirty temple. If our temple remains sacred his spirit will continue to dwell therein. Otherwise we may experience “Ichabod” (the departing of God’s glory, 1 Sam 4, 21) as Israel did when they offended God and consequently, the Ark of the Covenant was captured. Unfortunately many of us Christians in the name of “freedom/liberty” and its twin sister – “human rights”, have abused ourselves (God’s temple) so much. Some have done this through drug and alcohol addiction, sex addiction, excessive make ups and tattoos, and even attempts to take our own lives etcetera. All these however, are manifestations of our sheer ignorance of who we truly are – the temple of the living God. We belong primarily to God because we did not create ourselves. This is why Paul warns us of the imminent danger associated with treating God’s temple with utter disrespect, contempt and impunity: “If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred and you are that temple.”
In the gospel, Jesus’ action in the temple brings us to the climax and significance of today’s celebration. He gives us a typical good example of how we ought to threat and reverence the temple of God. John summarizes Jesus’ action and words thus: “Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will rebuild it…but he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body…” Our bodies as God’s temple were purchased through the water of baptism, and consecrated through the sacred oil of Chrism and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit whereas the physical church is also consecrated by both the presence of the Trinitarian God and the presence of “God’s priestly, holy and chosen people” (1Peter 2, 9). Therefore, as we commemorate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica today which reminds us of God’s sacred presence with and within us, let us joyfully acclaim with the psalmist: “The water of the river give joy to God’s city, the holy place where the Most High dwells…God is for us a refuge and strength…the Lord God of Host is with us, the God of Jacob is our strong hold…!”
Peace be with you all!!

Maranatha (Ven Senor Jesus)!!!

Homily for 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time Year A

Waiting in Joyful Hope, and Wisely for the Lord
Readings: Readings: 1st: Wis 6, 12-16; Ps 62, 2-8; 2nd: 1 Thes 1, 13-18; Gos: Mtt 25, 1-13

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

With just two Sundays to the end of this liturgical calendar of ordinary time, year A, today, the church encourages us her beloved children to be steadfast and ready without being discouraged or distracted until the Lord comes. Indeed, “the waiting game” is not an easy one but it requires lots of patience, humility and most importantly lots of wisdom. If we must succeed in this waiting game for the Lord, we must learn that patience is the greater courage while wisdom is the greatest of it all. Today therefore, we must ask God to grant us wisdom to know what to do at all times especially when we tend to run out of the spiritual oil (patience, courage, hope, faith etcetera) necessary for waiting for the Lord to act in our lives. This is most especially, when it does appear to us that Jesus is delaying too much to come to our recue.
Once, I saw a small boy seating patiently by the gate in front of their house. Considering that it was getting dark and chilly I asked the boy to go into the house. But he politely refused. When I enquired why he would not go in, he responded: “I have to wait here to open the gate for my mummy when she comes back, and I know that she is on her way now.” Surely, the poor boy was right, and I got it wrong because while we were still conversing we heard a car horn and a flash, and the boy with bright eyes and a bold smile on his face said to me, “here she comes, I told you I know my mummy is on her way.” Immediately, he left me to open the gate for his mum. I guessed, he was happy because he has proved a point to me, and even happier because he has taken the wise decision to continue his waiting game instead of succumbing to my temptation to seek some pleasure inside the house. This should be our attitude as we wait for Christ. Unfortunately, the tendency is for us to become impatient or act foolishly. However, with wisdom, we will definitely make the right choice.
In the first reading of this Sunday we are reminded that “wisdom is found by only those who look for her”. Here wisdom is personified as a woman, and it only takes a wise man to go out in search of her. The wise man does this with patience and hope, and so, never gives up until he has achieved his aim. Hence, with wisdom we are better Christians and more equipped to face the challenges of this life. Unfortunately, many of us neglect this fact and indeed the very fact that God has endowed us with wisdom in order to know how best to worship him. This is especially in our pursuit of truth through religion. Without wisdom our spirituality will be shallow and un-balanced. Without wisdom, our religious and Christian life will remain at the levels of mere fanaticism, fundamentalism, and all forms of senseless extremisms. Without wisdom, we are losers in every sphere of life. But with wisdom, we seek, find and worship God well. So in order to go to heaven, we need to be wise. Therefore, we must pray for it and earnestly ask God to help us find her because finding her is finding God and the path of eternal life.
In the second reading, Paul encourages the Thessalonians as well as us not to bother or grief too much about those who have died or gone before the second coming of Christ. That is, the Parousia. “…Do not grief about them like other people who have no hope…God will bring them with him…” This advice is anchored on the hope we have in the resurrection of the dead. So instead of worrying so much about them, the wisest thing to do is to worry about ourselves. What is supposed to bother us should not be what will become of the dead but, what will become of us the living when Christ comes. What should bother me is, how do I get there, how prepared am I for the Lord should he appear now as he promised. We must note carefully that there is no time or space attached to this coming of Christ, the least idea that Paul gives us is that “we shall see him when he appears in the sky.” But the sky is not a particular geographical location. So it could be anytime or any where! In spite of what seem to us humans in our limited wisdom as delay in the fulfillment of Christ’s promise about his coming, the fact is that: “All the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God …” (2 Cor 1, 20). It is quite unfortunate that even Christians now make caricature and mockery of Christ‘s promise about his Parousia. Once, I heard someone say to another, “I hope this promise of yours will not be like the promise of Jesus’ Parousia (second coming)?” They laughed over it because Christ’s word and promise is now empty. For this fellow, he has waited too long, and Christ on his part has delayed too long. So there is no need of trusting him anymore. He has delayed so long that he need not be believed any longer. What a pity! But the truth is that the wise never give up. They never get tired of waiting, all they do is get themselves fully prepared, ready and yet, keep themselves busy. So whether we are dead or alive, Christ’s promise will be fulfilled.
In the gospel of this Sunday Jesus used the parable of the ten virgins which is unique to Matthew, to teach us how best to be vigilant and prepared at all times for the coming of the Lord into our lives. While five of the virgins were wise in waiting for the “bridal train”, the other five were foolish in waiting for the same train. What separates these two categories of waiters or disciples is that same “thin line” that separates wisdom and foolishness, heaven and hell, good and evil etcetera. As thin as this line seems, yet it is thick. It is the part of the servant to wait patiently for his master to return. The moment of waiting should therefore not be for us a weary moment, but the moment of righting our wrongs, when we refill our spiritual lamps and wisely prevent the costly oil from being exhausted for nothing sake. We must not like the five foolish virgins, allow ourselves to become victims of the eleventh hour. Rather, as wise disciples, we must remain vigilant for Jesus’ return. We must not allow anyone to cheat or distract us. The question someone might ask is: As a matter of charity why did the wise virgins not share their oil with their sisters? The answer is simple. That would have been an awful and most stupid thing to do because right in the middle of the party all the oil will finish, the lamps extinguished, and the entire place thrown into darkness. This would be the embarrassment of the highest order orchestrated by a misguided notion of charity. Second, there is no excuse for the foolish virgins not to have oil in their lamps because they had all the time in the whole world to get enough but due to their laziness they did not. Instead they began to look for the black sheep when darkness has fallen. Indeed, it will be practically impossible to find it.
Jesus is on the way! His delay in coming should not be an excuse for us to lose out. Rather, it should be a blessing for us to get ourselves ready because, “everything works for the good of those who love and trust God” (Rom 2, 28). Let us therefore ask God today to endow us with much wisdom with which to be able to wait patiently until Christ comes to darken the door of our lives and souls. So, like the psalmist today, let us say to God daily: “For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord, my God. My body pines for you like a dry weary land without water!”
Peace be with you all!!