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June 20, 2018

The Unhappy Brother

In the Second Reading, St. Paul highlights the truth that, “It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation”(2 Cor. 5:19).This message comes alive in the Gospel passage where we see a father welcoming his long-lost, wasteful son with great joy. The Father throws a party to celebrate his return, not counting all the wrong things he had done. This is how God the Father desires to reconcile every one of us to himself in Christ. At the mention of the parable of the Prodigal Son, we normally think…

WHO WANTS TO BE GREAT?

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

  Today the disciples find themselves at cross-purposes with Jesus, mainly because they did not understand of the Lord’s prediction of his imminent passion, especially regarding his rising from the dead. But they were too afraid to ask questions of Jesus on the issue. This is the second time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus is talking about his passion and, like the first time (Mk 8:31-33), it is a very frightening and confusing prospect for the disciples to think that the one they had come to work with and believe in as the Messiah was going to be killed, just…

JESUS AS REAL FOOD

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

  In our First Reading today the Lord extends an invitation to the unwise: “Come and eat my bread, drink the wine I have prepared! Leave your folly and you will live, walk in the ways of perception”. This is a call to repentance, to flee from the glamour of evil, and to substitute the healthy bread of life (righteousness) for the “junk” food of unrighteousness. The “fool” here is not just a simpleton or one lacking in intellect and discernment – such a one is incapable of mortal sin. Rather, it refers to a person who deliberately chooses to…

Shooting The Messenger

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

  Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard once said: “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we ….pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.” The problem of our times is not so much that of unknowing as it is of culpable ignorance, which is when we pretend not to grasp what is obvious, or turn a blind eye to an objective principle. The aim is usually to avoid the moral imperatives implied by such realities. The experience of Jesus with his townsfolk in today’s Gospel…

Mercy Overflowing

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

  The feast of Divine Mercy was established on April 30, 2000 by Pope John Paul II,on the occasion of the canonization Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun and visionary through whom the Lord Jesus requested that the Second Sunday of Easter be reserved to honour and commemorate God’s infinite mercy. How fitting that the Pope himself, a great apostle of mercy, was canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2014! Christianity is a story of the infinite mercy of God, without which we are lost and hopeless. Notwithstanding our unfaithfulness, the Lord has remained faithful through the ages and his…

LOVE INIMITABLE

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life” (Jn.3:16). With these words Jesus clarifies for us the extent of his Father’s love for us. There are so many adjectives to qualify the love of God – copious, ineffable, unfathomable, steadfast, interminable, etc., but it surely transcends them all. Today Jesus offers himself as the perfect expression of that love and only through him can we fully appropriate it. The Catechism explains that the only reason God revealed himself to Israel, and…

THE SEASON OF LENT

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

Fresh from his baptism Jesus set out on a mission of fasting and prayer in the desert, and there he was tempted by the Devil. By overcoming the temptations the Lord set a model for us to deal with sin and evil. And by launching his public ministry straight after the desert encounter, Jesus seeks to rescue humanity from the desert of sin and alienation, and to restore us to the fullness of grace and divine life, which was lost through Adam’s rebellion. The Lord spends forty days in the desert – a period symbolic of great physical and spiritual…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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:…

LIVING SACRIFICE

Today Jesus informs the disciples that he was going to suffer and be killed, but that he would rise again after three days. This warning does not go down well with Peter whose notion about the Messiah was that of power and glory – the one who was to deliver his people from bondage, and to give them life. How could the Saviour die in the hands of those he came to save? Therefore, Peter’s exclaims: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” But Christ came in order to suffer – more than anyone else. That…

ON BOATS AND GHOSTS

We may have our notions about the manifestations of God, but he surely transcends all human perceptions and philosophical categories.Elijah was used to associating God with tremendous phenomena: “The Lord that answers by fire, let him be my God” (1Kings 18:24).In the First Reading he went to Mount Horeb to meet God. He was expecting some dramatic manifestation but was shocked to experience none of the usual hallmarks of God’s presence – the burning bush of Mount Horeb; the thunders and earthquakes of Isaiah (Isaiah 29:6); or even the powerful storm encountered by the disciples on the lake. Only when…

SOIL FOR HARVEST

Today’s readings teach us about fertility, planting, harvesting and fruitfulness. The sacred authors make use of everyday material elements to convey the not-so-easy-to-understand truths of the Kingdom of God. In the First Reading God uses rainfall as a metaphor to emphasize the certainty of his words coming to fulfillment. Every word of the Lord must, without fail, come to pass. Therefore, it is in our best interest to listen so as not to be found wanting. The Responsorial Psalm is a reminder of the provisions that the Lord has made for us to enjoy the beauties of creation – with…

THE RECIPE OF YOKE

  Today Jesus gives us the recipe for an enduring rest. He invites us to emulate his example of perfect obedience to the Father: “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart”. Meekness is one of the keys to unlock the peace of Christ. Meekness is not weakness, though we tend to confuse the two because they sound alike. Meekness is the unusual drive that enables us to treat others with patience, respect, and kindness, even when it is extremely hard to do so, like when they don’t deserve it, or when we don’t feel like it….

IT’S OUR CHURCH

“Pentecost” comes from the Greek word for “fiftieth.” Fifty days from the day after Passover, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), commemorating the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. Originally, the feast marked the conclusion of the grain harvest (Ex. 23:16). On that day, the first fruits of the spring grain harvest were offered to God at the Temple. While Passover signified the people’s freedom from bondage, Shavuot signified their becoming God’s people by accepting the Law. Being a pilgrim festival, Pentecost was a most fitting time for the Holy Spirit to come and inflame the hearts…

IT’S A LOVE AFFAIR

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us the meaning of eternal life. It’s the eve of his passion and while at table with his Apostles, he prays what is known as the priestly prayer of Christ. It’s a priestly prayer because he pleads with the Father for his people. Likewise, it is a Eucharistic Prayer as it expresses his thankfulness to the Father for the power given him over all mankind, and also for the gift of his disciples: “They were yours and you gave them to me” (John 17:6).Then the Lord goes on to spell out what eternal life means:…

When Suffering Makes Sense

Today we are invited to ponder the salvific meaning of suffering and to unite our sufferings with the passion of Christ, as a spiritual sacrifice for the remission of sin. This proposition may not resonate with a modern culture so much obsessed with pleasure, comfort, and appearance. There are many who believe that life is meaningful only when it is painless. But the reality is that a painless life is not possible in this present life, no matter how hard we try. Suffering is an inseparable accident of fallen humanity, but through it we are saved. Why do we suffer?…

THE BIG DRAMA

It is a feast of contradictions today. We celebrate the triumphal entry of a king who ends up dying like a criminal. It’s Palm Sunday and also Passion Sunday! The day of “Hosanna”,and the day of “Crucify him!” A day of acclamation – “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, and a day of denials – “I do not know him!” It’s a day of paying homage – people throwing their cloaks on the road, and also a day of mockery: “Play the prophet…who hit you then?” It is a huge drama and each one of…