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July 16, 2018

WE ARE LEPERS

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) was one of the most dreaded (and most rampant) diseases in Ancient Israel. It rendered the sufferers unclean – unfit to participate in the social and liturgical life of the nation. For fear of contagion, the victims were isolated from the rest of the community. They carried a stigma, with little love or acceptance, and no enjoyment of ordinary human companionship. They were completely stripped of their human dignity, like persons living with HIV/AIDS are still discriminated against in many parts of the world today. Leprosy would usually rot one’s extremities – nose, lips, fingers, toes, etc.,…

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CALLED TO PREACH

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

In our Gospel today the disciples come to Jesus the morning after a spectacularly successful day in their ministry. Jesus’s fame was at an all-time high. His preaching was a huge success. He dramatically expelled a demon right in the middle of the synagogue. Then he spent the entire evening of the Sabbath working miraculous cures and amazing exorcisms. The next morning, his disciples must have been wild with excitement – looking forward to another day of splendid performances. And so, when they awoke to find him gone from the house, with a growing crowd of town people clamoring to…

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THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

Every great leader or visionary makes use of slogans to great effect. Usually concise, direct and poignant, such slogans go straight to the heart of the matter. They encapsulate the whole message and characterize the entirety of the speaker or writer’s persona or legacy. We see this a lot in politics and in movies. When, for example, we hear the expression: “I have a dream”, we think of Martin Luther King Jnr. Similarly, the phrase: “I’ll be back”, usually reminds movie lovers of Arnold Schwarzenegger. In today’s Gospel we hear the greatest slogan ever deployed, the greatest challenge ever given…

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OUR BODIES ARE SACRED

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

Today St Paul tells us emphatically in the Second Reading: “Glorify God in your body.” He was writing to the people of Corinth in Ancient Greece. In the Greek culture of those days, there was a tendency towards a flawed anthropology, which made a huge separation between the body and the soul. The body was considered unimportant and treated as just a thing, whereas the soul was considered very important. Even the Greek philosophers expressed this with a vivid image. They considered the body to be a prison containing and limiting the soul; the soul was trapped in the body…

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ALL ABOUT AUTHORITY

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

In the Gospel passage today we are told: “Unlike the Scribes, he taught them with authority” (Mk 1:22). How strange it seems to suggest that the Scribes (and the Pharisees) did not teach with authority. If anything, they seemed to speak with too much authority, but their teaching lacked compassion, and was programmed for selfish gain. Moreover, they did not practice what they taught. Conversely, Jesus was forthright and used his teaching to edify rather than put people down; he challenged the people to raise their game, he showed empathy, and he lived what he taught. That is authority! So…

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GOD HAS DELIVERED!

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

What is it about Christmas that makes the whole world stand still irrespective of religious persuasions? Why is this Church bursting at the seams this night with families of the people of God? What was it that brought British and German soldiers together on Christmas eve, 1914, on the Western Front, to sing carols together, bury the dead together, and even to share a game of soccer, right in the heat of World War I? Is it the decorations, the gifts or the family gatherings? Surely not! These things are only but expressions of the reason for the season but…

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THE LORD WILL MAKE YOU GREAT

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

“The Lord will make you great!”(2 Sam. 7:11b). On this fourth and last Sunday of Advent we are invited to stand on the promises of God, our Most Beneficent Father, and the Promise Keeper par excellence. A few more days and the greatest promise ever made will be delivered. It will be Christmas – the day God became man; the day that changed the course of history forever. Jesus Christ is the perfect embodiment of divine love and the perfect fulfilment of the promises of God. In our First Reading today,the Lord makes King David and us a solemn promise…

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REJOICE AND BE GLAD!

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

On this Third Sunday of Advent we celebrate the Gaudete Sunday. It’s the reason for the rose vestments and candles used in many churches around the world today. The word “gaudete” is Latin for “rejoice,” and it comes from the first word of the introit (Entrance Antiphon) for today’s Mass: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice” (Gaudete in Domino semper: iterumdico, gaudete). We rejoice because our commemoration of the Lord’s coming in history draws closer, and so does his final coming in glory. So let us rejoice and be glad!This is the message of the First Reading…

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GOD HAS NOT FORGOTTEN US!

We have all experienced moments of gloom. Sometimes this is because no matter what we do, painful things just keep happening to us and those we love. Sometimes we experience discouragement because we keep falling into the same habits of sin – greed, lust, impatience, and laziness. Sometimes we experience cynicism when we see how much wrong is going on in society, so much injustice, corruption, and violence. This Second week of Advent, God has something to say about our worries: Pessimism, discouragement, cynicism will all come knocking but we must not let them in! We should not be afraid…

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Why Advent?

Why Advent? Why does the Church take us through this same ritual every year? Advent is the time when we contemplate the three comings of Christ: a) In history, 2000 years ago, when God took on human flesh; b) In mystery – in the abiding presence of Christ in our lives through his Word and sacraments, grace and communion; c) In Majesty, at the end of time, when Christ comes in glory at the Parousia.  We live in the final phase of human history, the age which will culminate in Christ’s glorious return, the destruction of the world as we…

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CHRIST OUR UNIVERSAL KING

How do the kings of the earth treat their subjects compared to the King of heaven? How do we treat those under our authority and those who depend on us? Today we celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ as the Universal King. This feast was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, who called on humanity to submit once more to the authority of Christ. He noted that the multiple evils in the world were due to humankind’s rejection of Jesus Christ, and that so long this remained the case, there was no prospect of a lasting peace on earth. The…

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ARE YOU TALENTED?

In our way of thinking, a ‘talented’ person is one endowed with some special skill or ability. That way we have our talented footballers, actors or musicians. Does that mean the rest of us have no talents? Not at all!  We all surely do have talents though not all are meant for popular acclaim or global success. The Scripture is very clear on this point: “Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these varied graces of God, put it at the service of others” (1 Peter 4:10).So the issue is not…

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YOU ARE THE TEMPLE

The Temple in Jerusalem was an awe-inspiring architectural masterpiece – the pride of the Jewish nation. It was one of the busiest, most lavish, immense, and remarkable buildings in the entire Ancient Middle East. This was a building like no other then, so the question of its destruction was simply inconceivable to the people but Jesus knew otherwise, and said so. Some thirty-seven years after the Lord’s departure, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, leaving only the famous Western Wall (The Wailing Wall). By destroying the Temple, the Romans sought to permanently weaken the Jewish nation and their religion…

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DEATH IS NOT THE END

What is the Christian meaning of death? Is death the definitive end of human existence? What happens to us when we die? These are some of the questions worth pondering today as Catholics all over the world mark the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day). Yesterday was the Feast of All Saints, celebrating all those already in heaven, enjoying the beatific vision of God in everlasting glory. But today’s memorial is for those who died believing in Christ, but were not perfectly cleansed from the effects of sin. Being temporarily deprived of the joys of heaven until…

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LOVE AS A TOUGH BUSINESS

Today Jesus encapsulates the entire Old Testament into two main commandments – love of God (Deut.6:5), and love of neighbour (Lev.19:18).In the Gospel passage, he had just silenced the Sadducees, and the Pharisees decided to make their own effort to ensnare him. So one of them (who, like all Pharisees, was an expert in “the law and the prophets”) asks the Lord to identify the greatest among the 613 commandments of the Old Testament, but Jesus cites two. By so doing he makes the point that loving God is inseparable from loving our neighbour. St Paul teaches us that love…

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ROBBING GOD TO PAY CAESAR

In the last few weeks the Lord Jesus has used different parables to highlight the sins of the religious and political elite of his time. Today,these opponents conspire to undermine him and ultimately destroy him. The Pharisees and the Herodians unite in a marriage of convenience to question Jesus on the propriety of paying taxes to Caesar. Taxation, in every age, has always been a hot button subject. Over the millennia, countless lives have been lost, so many have gone to jail, governments have been toppled, and wars have been fought on the issue. In Nigeria, for instance, the very…

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DRESSING FOR THE PARTY

Are you washed in the blood? In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Many of us would be familiar with these words from a very popular hymn. The hymn poses a rhetorical question challenging everyone to feel the pulse of their own discipleship, to see how well they are travelling and how ready they are for the final bus stop. Today Jesus uses a wedding metaphor to describe the kingdom of heaven.God the Father is the king in the story while…

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SOUR GRAPES WE MAKE

Today’s parable of the wicked tenants mirrors God’s covenant relationship with his chosen people. Israel is God’s vineyard to which a lot of resources has been committed. In the Jewish mindset vineyards symbolized prosperity, and also the future reward of the righteous. This is portrayed by the golden vines that decorated the entrance to the Temple in Jerusalem. The prophet Micah (4: 4) has it that in those days: “…they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees.”And before that the Scripture paints a picture of peace and prosperity under the reign of King Solomon:…

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WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH

In his autobiography, UP From Slavery, Booker T Washington – the first African-American to establish a University – recalls the case of an ex-slave from Virginia (U.S.A) whom he met in the state of Ohio. A few years before the Emancipation Proclamation, this man had an agreement with his master to buy his freedom by paying a certain amount yearly, in exchange for going wherever he pleased to work and raise the money. Realizing he had better prospects in Ohio, the slave-man went there to work. At the time the Emancipation happened he still owed his master some three hundred…

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WHY ALL THE ENVY?

Today’s message is a warning on the dangers of envy. We should learn to always appreciate whatever good the Lord is doing in and through others, even when we do not like them. It is very easy to see ourselves as better and more deserving of God’s favours, while undermining others. Jesus issues a warning to us: “The last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).Those of us already living a life of grace represent the first group of labourers hired.  But we are warned that at judgment time we may be shocked to see some…

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