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Reflections for the VI Sunday of Easter

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Fr. Antony Kadavil reflects and comments on the readings at Mass for the sixth Sunday of Easter. He says that the readings show us the effects of the abiding presence of God in His Church and of His indwelling in each one of us.

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Rev 21:10-14, 22-23; Jn 14:23-29 

Homily starter anecdote: # 1: Temples of the Triune God: St. Francis of Assisi was an ardent advocate of the doctrine of the indwelling of God in man. It enabled him to love everyone equally whatever his status in life. One day he met a fellow who had no love for God. As they walked along, they met a man who was blind and paralyzed. St. Francis asked the sightless cripple: “Tell me if I were to restore your eyesight and the use of your limbs, would you love me?” “Ah,” replied the beggar, “I would not only love you, but I would be your slave for the rest of my life.” “See,” said Francis to the man who maintained that he could not love God, “this man would love me if I gave him his sight and his health. Why don’t you love God who created you with eyesight and strong limbs?” That is what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel. If we love Jesus because of the countless blessings he has given us, and so keep his word as the center of our life, he will start dwelling within us in the company of his Father and the Holy Spirit, making us the temples of the Triune God. (Msgr. Arthur Tonne). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/ )

Scripture readings summarized: The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us how the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Church, helped the apostles to solve a major doctrinal problem, which shook the very foundation of the early Church. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) prays that all the nations on the earth, not just Israel, may recognize their God and praise Him. The second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation describes the Church as the Heavenly Jerusalem, a city united in love, with the victorious Jesus residing in it and in each of its members replacing the holy presence of God in the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel passage reminds us that the Holy Spirit abiding within us is our teacher and the Source of all peace.  The passage offers a vision of hope.  Jesus promises his followers that the Holy Spirit will come and instruct them in everything they need to know.

The first reading: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29, explained:  The first major controversy in the infant Church was about “what one should do to be saved.”  For the first 15 to 20 years of the Christian era, all Jesus’ followers were Jewish.  During that period, any Gentiles who wanted to become Jesus’ disciples were expected first to become Jews. They had to attend Sabbath synagogue services and keep the 613 Torah laws.  This situation began to change when a few “liberal” Christian communities like the newly founded Church of the Gentiles in Antioch, began to admit Gentiles into their number without demanding that they first be converted to Judaism.  Some of the Judeo-Christians from Judea and Jerusalem argued that the new Gentile converts must observe the Mosaic Law of circumcision, dietary regulations, purification rituals, etc.  The issue couldn’t be settled on a local level, although Paul and Barnabas tried that at first.  Hence, they had to go to Jerusalem to consult the apostles.  The apostles convened the first synod at Jerusalem and, with the clear leading of the Holy Spirit, decided that the Gentiles need not become Jews first, to be saved as Christians.  The decision was momentous for two reasons.  First, it marked a significant break of Christianity with Judaism. Second, it put the burden of salvation on God rather than on man.  In other words, it is God’s love and His gift to us of Faith in Jesus that save us when we receive it and live it out. Our prayers, sacrifices or keeping of the Law, are only expressions of our gratitude to God, which foster our Faith.  We see Saint Paul wrestling with this question, first in Galatians, then, in a more polished way, in Romans.

The second reading, Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23, explained: The Book of Revelation was written to bolster the Faith of the persecuted early Christians. Everything John described via symbols, signs, numbers, etc. has already happened except, of course for the second advent of Jesus in glory John’s vision of a new Jerusalem should be understood as a description of the Church, rooted initially in time and space, but growing and evolving toward an eschatological future. It describes the Church as the Heavenly Jerusalem, a city united in love, with the victorious Jesus residing in it. While the earthly Temple was often thought of as a reflection of the Heavenly Temple, there will be no Temple in the New Jerusalem because the Almighty and the Lamb will be the Temple.  They will provide all the light that is necessary, so there will be no need for the sun or the moon. Ancient 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 the Temple there, and in returning to it after their exile in Babylon. Within the holiest chamber of the Jerusalem Temple, they kept the stone tablets of the Law, given by God, in an enthroned chest known as the Ark of the Covenant.  God dwelt in a particular way in the space above the ark. This is, in the end, a metaphor for the Church, which is called to reveal to the human race God’s presence among us.  

Gospel exegesis: John (Chapter 14) continues to recount Jesus’ farewell discourse after the Last Supper.  Today’s Gospel passage explains the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity in the human soul, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

1) The abiding presence of God in the human soul: The promise of God’s abiding presence must have been of great comfort to John’s community who knew that the Temple in Jerusalem — the symbol of God’s presence with His people — had been destroyed by the Roman army.  In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus tells us 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.

2) Condition for the indwelling of the Holy Trinity: Jesus teaches us 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.

3) The role of the Holy Spirit is twofold: a) to “teach” the disciples and b) to “remind” them of what Jesus has already taught them” (v. 26). “At work since creation, having previously ‘spoken through the prophets,’ the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them ‘into all the truth’” (CCC  #243).  Jesus affirms that even though He will no longer be visibly with them, he will continue to be present among them through the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of truth will continue teaching them and helping them to understand and to build on what Jesus has already taught them.  The Advocate will bring no new revelation because God has already revealed Himself in Jesus.  But the Advocate will deepen their understanding of the revelation given by Jesus.

4) Jesus gives his followers four gifts:  First, he gives them his love, which will enable them to keep his word. Next, he gives them the Holy Spirit, who will teach them everything they need to know. The Holy Spirit is the abiding love of God available to us, enabling us to accept the friendship of Jesus, while imitating Him, the Master.   Third, he gives them His peace to strengthen them against fear in the face of trouble. Here “peace” is not just the absence of conflict, but also the far wider concept of shalom, the total well-being of the person and community.  The promise of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will bring a peace that will quell their fears of the unfolding darkness ahead. “In Johannine language, peace, truth, light, life and joy are figurative terms reflecting different facets of the great gift that Jesus has brought from God to the world. ‘Peace is my gift to you,’ is another way of saying, ‘I give them eternal life’ (Jn 10:28) (Raymond E. Brown). The Holy Spirit is available as Comforter and Guide to those who believe in Jesus and follow in his way. The One God — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – is pure Love. This Love, the Triune God, comes and lives in us, takes up residence in us and lives in our body. When God’s love lives in us, and we live in Him, there is much more peace in our families, our Churches, our offices.  Fourth, Jesus rewards them with the assurance of his second coming.

Life messages: 1) Let us be aware of the abiding presence of God within us: We live in the New Covenant of Jesus, daily facing uncertainty, conflict, and temptations.  It is the abiding presence of God within us that enables us to face the future with undying hope and true Christian courage.  The Holy Spirit, sent upon the Church by the Father at the request of the risen Lord, 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 for 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 as well as in our prayer and our private reading of Scripture. 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.

2) Let us always remember that we are not alone:  One of the great social and ethical problems of our time is isolation.   Today approximately 25% of all adults live alone.   Spouses, parents and children often live as virtual strangers to one another.   This is unfortunate because we never need to be alone.  Jesus can always be present to us.   He shares with us his joy and replaces the burden of our guilt with the freedom of forgiveness.  He takes our grief and turns it into joy.  We need only allow Jesus into our lives to be rid of this 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 to 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 in the Spirit. (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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