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Reflections for the V Sunday of Easter

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Fr. Antony Kadavil reflects and comments on the readings at Mass for the fifth Sunday of Easter. He says that the readings are about new things: the New Jerusalem, a new Heaven and a new earth, and a new commandment.

Acts 14:21-27; Rv 21:1-5a; Jn 13:31-35   

Introduction: Today’s readings are about new things: the New Jerusalem, a new Heaven and a new earth, and a new commandment. In the reading taken from the Book of Revelation, God tells us that His saving and healing work in the world is ongoing: “See, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5a).  

Homily starter anecdote: Little children love one another:” St. Jerome relates of the apostle John that when he became old, he used to be carried to the assembled Churches, everywhere repeating the words, “Little children, love one another.” His disciples, wearied by the constant repetition, asked him why he always said this. “Because,” he replied, “it is the Lord’s commandment, and if it only be fulfilled, it is enough.” John knew that the greatest truth was most apt to be forgotten because it was taken for granted. This is one of the greatest calamities in the Christian Church and the one that causes divisions. http://frtonyshomilies.com/   

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, describes how the small Christian communities helped the work of renewal in their members by their agápe love, imitating the agápe love of Paul and Barnabas. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 145) prays that “Your faithful ones” may “make known Your might to the children of Adam,” not just to Israel. The second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, explains how God renews His Church by being present in her members and in their parish communities and liturgical celebrations. Today’s Gospel passage gives us the secret of Christian renewal as the faithful practice of Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:35). Jesus has added a new element to the Old Testament command of love by telling us that the true test of discipleship is to love other people in the same way that He has loved us. Hence, the renewal of Christian life 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. For most of us, “renewal” is something that comes at different stages in our lives, each time bringing us to a deeper understanding, insight and commitment.

First reading: Acts 14:21-27, explained: Each Jewish synagogue served the Faith community year-round as a) a House of Prayer (b) a House of Study and (c) a House of Assembly or Socialization. When Jesus came, acting as a Teacher, a rabbi, he gathered around him a talmudim — a small group of twelve men to travel with him, to share prayer, ministry, Faith and values. Jesus promised his followers that wherever two or three would gather in his name, he would be present among them. After his death and Resurrection, Jesus’ disciples tried to establish small Christian communities wherever they found a welcome. Paul and Barnabas knew that evangelization and Baptism were but the first steps in a lifelong process of turning to, and being transformed by, Christ. Hence, in their subsequent visits to Christian communities, they continued to instruct their converts. Already in the first Christian century, believers understood that catechesis is a cradle-to-grave endeavor. Paul and Barnabas also considered their mission an extension of the small community’s outreach to the world. Because of this they were accountable to the Christian community that had sent them. Therefore, they returned to relate all that they had done, careful to credit their success and the increasingly universal character of the Church to God, who had “opened the door of the Faith to the Gentiles” (v. 27). It is a welcome sight to see modern Christian communities, which are criticized for too much structural set-up, returning to their first century roots by establishing congregations that are a network of individual Christians, bound together in prayer, Faith, mutual support, service, missionary outreach and accountability. We may not be called to the same kind of missionary activity as were Paul and Barnabas, but we must be as unselfish in our service of others as were these early Christians.

Second Reading, Revelation 21:1-5, explained: The Book of Revelation was written to bolster the Faith of persecuted early Christians. Today’s passage begins the final section of the book. The scene is really a vision of the new age of eschatological fulfillment inaugurated by the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The ancient city of Jerusalem had long been for the Jews a token of God’s presence with them. God had aided them in capturing and holding it, in making it their capital, in building His Temple there, and in returning to it to rebuild it after its destruction by their captors and their consequent exile in Babylon. Within the holiest chamber of the Jerusalem Temple, they kept the stone tablets of the Law given to Moses in a chest known as the Ark of the Covenant. God dwelt in a particular way above this chamber. These details give richness to the image of the “New Jerusalem” spoken of in Revelation.   The image is also a metaphor for the Church, which is always called to reveal God’s presence among us. Today’s passage from the Book of Revelation (21:3) gives us the assurance that “God’s dwelling is with the human race.” It affirms the fact that God is present at every moment of human history, even those most desperate and threatening. Jesus’ death and Resurrection have created a state in which a once-distant God is now present to every person and in every situation.   Moreover, Jesus has given us the insight and power to transform everything in our lives by practicing agápe love in our interactions with people. It is through this constant love-centered interaction among us that the “new earth, the new Heaven and the new Jerusalem” can begin to come into existence – not at some unknown future time and in some other place, but here and now. In this second reading, taken from Revelation, John shares a vision of nuptial love. When all the former things have passed away and sin and evil are completely overcome, God will welcome the redeemed as a husband welcomes a bride. The love and life that they will share will preclude tears, pain, crying out, mourning and death.

Gospel exegesis:  Today’s Gospel reading comes from Chapters 13:1–17:26 of St. John’s Gospel, known as “The Last Discourse,” which took place at the Last Supper, on the night before Jesus went to the Cross. In these chapters, Jesus has left urgent messages for his Apostles and for us – things that he wanted to tell us before he went away. This farewell discourse is a powerful and intimate part of Jesus’ teaching on the Christian concepts of glory and love.

The Christian concept of glory: The glorification mentioned in today’s passage refers, above all, “to the glory which Christ will receive once he is raised up on the cross (John 3:14; 12:32). St. John stresses that Christ’s death is the beginning of his victory: his very crucifixion can be considered the first step in his Ascension to his Father. At the same time, it is glorification of the Father, because Christ, by voluntarily accepting death out of love, as a supreme act of obedience to the Will of God, performs the greatest sacrifice man can offer for the glorification of God. The Father will respond to this glorification which Christ offers Him by glorifying Christ as Son of Man, that is, in his holy human nature, through his Resurrection and Ascension to God’s right hand. Thus, the glory which the Son gives the Father is at the same time glory for the Son.” (The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries). As Christ’s disciples, we also will find our highest motivation and glory by identifying ourselves with Christ’s obedience in our daily lives, especially by keeping his new commandment of sacrificial, unconditional and forgiving agápe love.

 The new commandment: In the second part of the farewell discourse, Jesus gives his followers a new commandment:  they must love one another as he has loved them.  They would be known, not by the sign of the fish or even of the cross, but by their mutual love, the fruit of their conversion. Just as Solomon, in the story of the disputed child, was able to discern the identity   of the true mother by her love, so will the world be able to identify the true disciples of Jesus by their love for one another. The command of Jesus is both new and old. It repeats the precept of Lv 19:18 to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. What is new is that this love characterizes the new life inaugurated by Jesus and is proof of one’s love for God (1 Jn. 4:7). Jesus’ new commandment calls for love without limits, conditions, or prerequisites. This love opens our eyes to facts that we might otherwise overlook that the poor in the world belong to our family; that those who live in despair may be saved by our care of them; that peace can come to the world through our efforts

The nature of Christian love: Jesus speaks of agápe, a love that requires total commitment and trust. It is the kind of love with which God loves us, a love that should be the model of the love we have for others.  This love should be more than just a warm feeling toward others; it should be a compassionate gift of ourselves to meet the spiritual and bodily needs of our brothers and sisters. Agápe implies a reaching out to others in a caring attitude for their wellbeing without expecting any favor in return.  It is strong, positive, difficult, determined action.  Jesus repeats the command to love one another three times, first explaining what it is (“a new commandment”), how it is to be applied (“as I have loved you“), and finally noting that this love would stand as the trademark of his disciples. Not only is this a new commandment, but also, Jesus teaches, it is the greatest.  To love, in fact, is to know God—”Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). The early Christians practiced this love literally. That is why Tertullian stated that the heathens held the Christian congregations in high regard: “See, how these Christians love one another!”  The fact is that Jesus’ death and Resurrection served, not just as an example of how to love, but as the agent that actually freed us from our selfish love through His indwelling presence.  It was this new kind of love which was manifested by the first disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45), and in the Churches in Macedonia (2 Cor 8:1-5).  It was a love that was attentive to the poor and the needy. During his life on earth, Jesus Himself was lovingly present to those who were not at all lovable.  He allowed himself to be moved with pity and compassion when he encountered those in need, and he was moved to tears in the midst of sadness.  He openly shed tears at the tomb of Lazarus.  He shed tears also over the city of Jerusalem.  Even the anger that Jesus displayed in the Temple was rooted in love — the love for His Father and for His Father’s house.  Jesus loved by serving others, by helping them and by healing others.  His was a love that healed and built up, that challenged and inspired people.  It was a deeply forgiving and sacrificial love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (15: 13).

Life messages: 1) Let us learn to love ourselves so that we may learn to love each other.   The old commandment (Lv 19:1-2, 9-18), says: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  How do we learn to cherish others and care for them if we have never learned to do the same for ourselves?  We live in a culture that devalues life and worships death—a culture in which people drug themselves into oblivion. Women and girls are willing to starve themselves to fit some unrealistic media image of beauty and worth.  People and relationships are sacrificed on the altar of “workaholism.”  How are we to love ourselves when we are told over and over again that we are unlovable?  How do we reclaim our basic worth?   We can become whole and holy only when we learn to love ourselves properly, acknowledging the presence of the Triune God in our souls, making our bodies the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Only those persons who are fully convinced that they are themselves lovable because God has loved them and so brought them into being can reach out comfortably and unconditionally to love those who themselves cannot love but can only hurt and hate and destroy. It is through constant love-centered interaction with God and each other that the “new earth, the new Heaven and the new Jerusalem” can begin to come into existence.

2) Let us love others in our daily lives:  We are asked to love as Jesus loved, 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 the Disciples of Christ.

3) Let us demonstrate our love for others: When we are assembled and have guests, we have an opportunity to demonstrate our love for one another.  They must see Christians as people who are glad to see one another, who are willing to take the time to visit with each other and who know each other’s names.  Our assemblies may be the only time some guests have the opportunity to see Christians interact with love and concern for one another, an interaction that reveals the strong love and appreciation for one another which the members have.  Christians will often sin against one another and offend one another.  But others should see in us a quickness to forgive, even as Christ has forgiven us. (Fr. Antony Kadavil).

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CATHOLIC WORLD

Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes

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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

The Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has urged the clergy, religious and lay faithful to be trustworthy, transparent, selfless and generous stewards in the discharge of their duties in the Church, following the way of Jesus.

Archbishop Filipazzi made the call during the opening ceremony of the maiden General Assembly of the Abuja Archdiocese, which was held on at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Friday September 4.

The General Assembly, with the theme “Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja: Together in Evangelization,” saw Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and the laity gathered together to discuss means of strengthening the faith of God’s people amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.

Addressing participants, Archbishop Filipazzi said that “an administrator is neither a master nor a slave who cannot decide anything, but one who is given a responsibility by the Master.” In this light, the faithful are called to be “true administrators of divine mystery” entrusted to them by Our Lord, according to their varying roles in the Church.

The Apostolic Nuncio also said “differences must not lead to division,” as everyone, though different, must strive for unity since there is no room for divisions in the body of Christ.

Archbishop Filipazzi, speaking on the upsurge in violence in northern Nigeria in a Vatican News interview on 29 August, had also called for shunning divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

Rather, he appealed for “general respect of the law and general intervention of the government” in the violent attacks which have claimed many lives and caused massive material damage.

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St Joseph’s Hall of Faith”

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St. Joseph's Hall of Faith”

The Catholic Men Organization, CMO, Maria Assumpta Cathedral Parish Owerri, joined their counterparts in the Archdiocese to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, August 30.

The celebration earlier scheduled for May 10 this year was differed because of Covid-19 pandemic.

The occasion began with a Pontifical Mass presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri cum Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish.

In his homily, Archbishop Obinna called on Christians to live a life of witnessing to Christ at all times. He said that the zeal to preach the word of God is like a fire that burns inside the heart of a Christian and will not abate until one bears witness to Christ. This, he said, must be done in the course of our daily lives, in our places of work, in our families, among our friends, through living life that is Christ-like.

He congratulated the Christian fathers on the occasion and appealed for support to enable them complete their building project in no distant time. His Grace also appreciated the performance of the CMO choir during the Mass.

The theme for the parish celebration is: “Catholic Men As Spiritual Heads of the Domestic Church: Implications in the Family.”

The parish CMO used the celebration to raise fund for the roofing of their building project named: “St. Joseph’s Hall of Faith.”

In his brief remark at the occasion, the Parish CMO President, Arc. Anthony Emeka Ozoude said, “We have been able to complete the block work,” adding that, “the task before us now is to put a roof on the building.”

He therefore made a passionate appeal for generous donations from members and well wishers, assuring donors that every kobo donated will be prudently applied for the purpose.

Arc. Ozoude recalled that early this year, the parish CMO executive identified a three-prong programme of focus, namely: Membership revalidation, Debt recovery and Fund raising for the roofing.

He advised members not to sit on the fence anymore as there is so much to gain spiritually, morally and even intellectually from participating in the CMO activities both at the parish, stations and prayer groups levels.

“The committed members who attend our programmes regularly have discovered this and have remained resolute in their participation,” he said.

Activities marking this year’s celebration included Retreat, visit to ailing members in their homes, thanksgiving Mass blessing of the mini altars for the 5 prayer groups of CMO etc.

Arc. Ozoude thanked in a special way, Archbishop Obinna, the Cathedral Administrator and priests working in the Cathedral for their support. He also commended the various stations and prayer groups for their cooperation.

The CMO president acknowledged the good work and sacrifice of the Planning Committee, headed by Dr. Uche Ukozor and thanked them for a job well done.

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