Grace to you!
I met somebody whose perspective on the psychology of hatred was eye-opening. Having been a victim of hate and betrayal, he sought to investigate the nature of hate.
For him, hate is unbridled and misguided distaste for somebody. Hate causes a grave discomfort for someone who harbors it. It makes it practically impossible to tolerate others against whom one bears the hate. He said he had an opportunity to confront one of his haters.
“How do you feel when you see me, think about me or hear stories about me?” He asked.
The answer was honest: Unease, discomfort, abrasive and sad, in addition to upset stomach. The harm of hate isn’t just against somebody else, but against the hater. It takes a lot of energy, negative energy, to hate.
Love is different. It is positive energy. Love soothes the nerves and is healthy to the soul. To love doesn’t need additional effort. It flows like a stream of delight. But to hate squeezes the tissues and marrows the psyche. It’s the worst type of stressful feeling.
If hate were due to a cover-up, whenever the occasion arises that resembles the material facts of the cover-up, conscience would squeak loud in the eardrums of the mind. The discomfort is terrible. The voice of conscience is very powerful. Guilt from hate is unbearable, no matter how one tries to silence it.
Macbeth, in the epic novel of Shakespeare, couldn’t handle the guilt of the bloody soul and a bloodied hand. Herod the Tetrarch in the Gospel story of Luke 9:7-9 couldn’t silence it either. One common denominator between both, and many who ply the route of hateful injustice, is the unsettling reality that truth could survive the brutality of hate or violent ambition against the innocent.
A word for somebody dealing with unresolved guilt may be appropriate here. Lay it down before whom healing is possible. Confess it to the person whose hands are of solace, whose heart is of love and whose judgment is of mercy and peace—Jesus the Lord. God, who is generous, forgives and heals.
The question, therefore, is how could one deal with guilt? Meet a psychologist? Good idea, if the guilt is psychological. Much guilt, however, is spiritual and moral. Guilt is like a smoke indicating combustion inside the human heart due to spiritual or moral misconduct.
See it as an indirect gift so as to find spiritual wholeness. Worrying about it and doing nothing to restore the peace wouldn’t help. The good news is always here. God has provided in His Body, the Church, a powerful means of cleansing and restoration (see John 20:22-23). The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) heals from guilt.
As you think about why you feel guilt, start with some makeover. Do-over what can be done. Correct what should be remedied. Mend ways. Ultimately, if necessary as in many cases it is, confess to the victim; definitely confess to God, who heals.
By so doing, you won’t need to carry the guilt anymore. As many testimonies abound from those who go to confession, spiritual healing and grace of reconciliation received as they walk out hearing the word “Go is peace,” are indescribable.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[339 Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time: Eccl 1:2-11; Lk 9:7-9]
Grace to you,
In my reflection yesterday, I talked about the need to look around us, admire and share the good we see. There is much good around us. It takes a positive mindset, a virtuous heart to see the good and spread the good news.
May I advance that reflection further by suggesting that there are many bearers of the good news around us. News is about people, places and events. Bearers of good news are people. It’s people who shine the light for everyone to see. It’s people who announce or live the story.
When the poor in India saw the unequalled care, love and attention of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, they found, after all, Christ in that woman of incredible virtue. She was indeed a sister of Jesus. You wouldn’t need to second-guess the qualification of being a brother or sister of the Christ. The answer is straight from the horse’s mouth.
The Lord said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21). The Blessed Virgin Mary heard God’s word and acted on it. She is the archetype of true faith and true charity. Her role as a model is unique.
Christians are so called because they emulate Christ. They also spread the good news of Christ. They live the Word of God.
Several times, you may have seen people in your circles who have been Christ to you; offering hope and inspiration by their words and lifestyle. Christ in us is the seed of that goodness.
The Church is rich, providing us with great models of faith to emulate. From the contemplatives to the extroverts, advocates to monastics, from the religious to the laity, the military to politicians; from every nation and people and language, name it. The Church has models relatable to all and for any. The Church is truly Catholic—universal; and has an appeal across the centuries and across the world, in the sense that whatever spiritual model you desire, and no matter where you are located, you would find it in the Church.
In the spiritual life, it’s always inspiring to know many have gone the route of holiness in Christ in his Church before us; and that we would, by the grace of God, be part of the story. Someday.
It will be the most beautiful thing that our hearts’ desire will be to hear God’s word and follow it every step of the way. May praising God and shinning the light for everyone to see be our passion. How I wish we desire and love to be saints.
This wish is a prayer with a hope-filled divine blessing. Amen.
God love you. God bless you!
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday Ordinary Time: Prov 21:1-6, 10-13; LK 8:19-21]
Grace to you!
A had an enriching discussion with one of the most highly gifted individuals I’ve known. Our conversation went from general issues of life and society to the specific issue of the wisdom in diversity.
We walked through some key figures who are highly gifted. From the highly lyrical such as William Shakespeare to the most poetic such as Dante Alighieri and Robert Frost; the pearl of loving kindness such as Saint Theresa of Lisieux, to the incredible power of miracles and mysticism such as Saints Padre Pio and Catherine of Siena, or outstanding preachers such as Saints John Chrysostom and Anthony of Padua (or better Lisbon), or orators such as Martin Luther King Jr. The list is endless, and you have yours. We see that what one has complements what the other doesn’t have.
From the Christian tradition to other traditions, you will noticehow each one has something unique about them and how each has what another doesn’t have. One thing is clear, no individual has all the gifts in the world. No one is a singularity of gifts.
None of us has all the gifts needed to build our family, community, church or society. God, the master planner and excellent creator, has made all things so much so that one necessarily depends on the other to reach the zenith.
In the Catholic social thoughts, we see this expressed in ideas of solidarityin which we unite with one another, as well as subsidiarityin which we complement—not suppress—one another. No one has all it takes to be the best if not in relation to the other. This reality was well articulated in the Pauline writing to the Corinthians chapter twelve.
It was a common analogy among the Greeks, Ancient Near East peoples and Romans of the time of Paul to use the analogy of the body to describe how each one is networked to the other. Saint Paul adds a deeper meaning to that analogy by describing the relationship of believers to one another and to Christ as that of the body and the head.
We are members of Christ’s body, the Church (1 Cor 12:27). Each member is networked in the most mysterious way to another through baptism, in one Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). We are born again in Christ in the Spirit as one family. Pope Pius XII in his 1943 encyclical, Mystici Corporis Christi (The Mystical Body of Christ), wrote extensively about the deeper theology of the body of Christ, as the mystical body. It is a pastoral letter worth reading.
Saint Paul teaches us that as members of one body, each and every one of us, plays a unique role in this body. We are gifted according to who we are, and our gifts help to build one another in this body.
No one should see themselves as the most important. Also, no one should be envious of what another has as to lead to bitter jealousy and division in the community. Nor should anyone see themselves as possessing all the gifts. Everyone has been gifted. What everyone has is equally important.
After all is said and done, in the grand scheme of things, you (and me) are a piece of the puzzle. Your piece is as important as another’s. Get to work with your piece. We need one another for the mosaic of beauty. We need one another to serve Christ’s ways.
Praying for the discerning to identify our gifts, see how they fit in relation to others and use them without envy. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday Week 24, Ordinary Time: 1 Cor 12:12-14, 24-31; Lk 7:11-17]
Grace to you
Today’s reflection is an inspiration on the connection between faith, listening, obedience and action.
People spend years learning and training in view of practice. Be it in the medical field, engineering, information technology, education and technical works, etc., months are spent to learn the skills. Theories are built and studied. Test practices are carried out. These are all efforts made so learners, “followers,” will be equipped for the real world, where they practice and continue to build on what they have learned.
It would be as good as dead to learn something or to acquire some knowledge, and not be able to implement what one has learned. In fact, the proof of ones’ learning is in the practice of it. It is in implementation. Implementation is measurable. It’s what demonstrates that the person learned the principles. No one knows our mind and what is going on in our mind. No one knows to what extent we know what we should regarding our profession. People could measure it from what we say, write, and/or do.
In our spiritual life, similar reality is the case. From the prophesy of Isaiah, we hear the prophet describe of his experience as one called and chosen by God. He goes through a period of learning. “The Lord Godhas given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord Godhas opened my ear, and I was not rebellious” (Is 50:4-5).
The context of this prophetic writing shows us that what God was teaching and asking the prophet to do was not an easy task. It would result in a lot of inconveniences, persecution and trials. Yet the prophet says, “I turned not my back” (Is 50:5). Meaning, that the prophet’s determination to follow the directives of the Lord was not to evade the crosses that discipleship brings.
Though, as we learn from the synoptic gospels (Mt 26:67; 27:30; cf. also Mk 15:19; Jn 19:3), and from St. Paul (Rm 8:33) that this prophesy was referring to the Christ, and that the early Fathers of the Church applied it to the Lord Jesus Christ, we could learn from it some lessons worth emulating as believers. The disciple of Jesus Christ is the follower in the footsteps of Christ.
The Lord himself would teach the disciples at Caesarea Philippi what following him would entail and what it should be like. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk 8:34-35).
Listening has the same Latin etymological root as obedience. It is ob-audirewhich means to hear, to listen or to obey. God calls the prophet to listen, to obey. Whenever the Lord calls us in ways only the Lord knows, some in simple ways, others through dramatic changes in life, it is an invitation to learn, to listen, to obey the Lord. Faith is a call to listen to the Lord, and to obey. It is a call to discipleship.
Following the Lord is not a cherry-picking exercise where I pull from the basket what is only pleasant and leave what is unpleasant. Following the Lord actually often demands embracing the unpleasant, the painful, sacrifices, which otherwise we may not have accepted.
It is, for instance, saying no to sinful desires. It is rooting out evil and injustice where I find it, even if my friend or family is the culprit and it would cost me my popularity or positional power. It is accepting to be called laidback in order to honor the integrity of my marriage, even if my business associates take the alternative as the norm.
It is getting up from the comfort of my bed on a wintery Sunday morning, and going to church to worship. It is never convenient, yet it is the will of the Lord.
It is stopping by the homeless shelter and getting my hands and blazer suit dirty in serving the poor in obedience to the Lord’s voice which whispered I do so as I drove by that neighborhood.
It entails returning love for hate even when this makes me look like a coward. It means holding my tongue from gossip even if my friends would avoid me for doing so.
It means not texting or sharing that online message that promotes hate or falsehood; or not being part of a circle of fake news by sharing everything and blogging everything when I’m not sure of how true it may be.
We know the quality of one’s faith, one’s disciple of the Lord through what one does. As Saint James says, “So also faith of itself,if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2:17).
Praying for the grace to live our faith in word and deeds. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[24thSunday Ordinary Time B: Is 50:5-9; Jas 2:14-18; Mk 8:27-35]
Grace to you!
In many ways, hospitals reveal human needs. In the hospitals, we witness firsthand our weaknesses. The strong and the weak, the wealthy and the poor share the same fate. They lie on that uncomfortable bed and are pushed around in ways they may not have tolerated. In the hospitals, we surrender to the limitations of our nature as humans.
As we go through the emergency rooms, or the ICUs, sometimes we have that moment to reflect on our needs and inadequacies. In the hospitals too, we come close to the desire of many hearts to find answers. We want a miracle. We desire a savior. No one, not even the most stoic, wants to make the hospital a home. We want to be healed fast and get out of there.
The hospital situation could be seen as a metaphor to humanity’s condition. Sickness that leads people to the hospital is comparable to sin that leads people to unfreedom. Sin and sinful conditions call for healing from our heavenly physician, Christ. As a priest, it’s incredible to witness firsthand the joy of freedom as people walk out of the Confessional, having been freed from sin and the state of spiritual unfreedom. For me, it’s far more exciting than someone walking out of the hospital healed of their sickness.
Some of our brokenness as humans is social and structural. The people of Israel, for instance, witnessed firsthand the social dimension, and its implications for the group and for the individual during their exile in Babylon. They were taken to where they didn’t want to go. They were forced into the condition that was painful and humbling. The compassionate Lord responded to their call for healing: “Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you” (Is 35:4).
We read from the teachings of the Church that the story of the exile is a pointer to the story of the human condition in need of a Savior, Christ. This relates not simply to a group but also to individuals, such as the case in the New Testament miracle reported by Mark (7:31-35).
The man who was healed by the Lord in Mark 7:31-35 was described as deaf and with speech impediment. He needed a Savior. Though his situation was biological, and not his fault, by way of spiritual application, we could use it as relating to our spiritual needs too. The man is like anyone who lives in situations of spiritual needs, such as where they neither hear the good news nor proclaim the saving grace of God. He is like anyone bereft of grace by sin or sinful conditions. Conditions that prevent us from hearing or listening to God’s Word are terrible.
The Lord would use different sensory gestures of touching, seeing, spitting, eye lifting to heaven, and groaning to identify with the person in need. He demonstrates his connection with the individual and as well as his power to heal and save. “He himself bore our sins in his body .... By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24, see also Is 53:4-5). The Lord fulfills the promise of the messianic era for which the reference of Mark 7:35 is tied to Isaiah 35:5-6. “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak” (Mk 7:37).
What is your need? What is it that has tied us down that we live in a condition of unfreedom, unable to hear the whisper of God’s voice around us and unable to tell forth the beauty, goodness and truth of God’s saving grace? What is it that has taken our joy away and made us live in conditions that could be described like an exile, a desert or a wasteland? What is that need that calls for Christ’s redeeming grace? What is that sinful condition or painful past that has dulled our spiritual senses and made us lose sight of the holy, the pure and the love of God in us and in our neighbor?
What is that situation that has made us insensitive to the poor and the vulnerable in our midst and, therefore, unable to respond to them not with sympathy but with compassion and equal respect? What is that situation that has made us place values only in what people have and not who they are? Just like the story in the Letter of James (2:1-5), what is that condition that has made us close our eyes to see in the poor in our church or community the same dignity as the big donor who enjoys our respect?
Those situations call for the healing touch of Christ. In those situations, we need God’s saving grace to hear God speak and to respond accordingly.
Praying that God will grant us the grace of spiritual awareness and freedom from sinful conditions. Amen.
[Sunday Week 23 Ordinary Time B: Is 35:4-7; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-35]
Grace to you!
I came into the chapel for my daily adoration and scriptural reading. The church has perpetual Eucharistic adoration. Parishioners alternate between the hours to adore the Lord. It was very early, around 3:00am, the hour of mercy.
As I opened the sacristy door into the chapel, I noticed that someone was already sitting at my favorite spot. The chapel has many pews that could seat at least a hundred people. Only the man and I were in the chapel.
The sight of the man occupying “my spot” became a distraction. For the next hour until he left, I was not completely focused on the Lord. Every now and then, thoughts of my favorite spot and its convenience got in the way of my prayer. Doesn’t he know that’s my spot? Didn’t he see other empty pews to seat in? I went on and on.
The Lord used the event to make me more aware of how routine—no matter how good it may be—, could be a stumbling block in our spiritual life. I felt firsthand how “human tradition” could be a barrier to the Spirit.
Perhaps, similar things happen in our parishes too. Some people are uncomfortable or distracted when other families occupy their favorite spot during the Sunday Eucharistic celebration. Parking or seating in a particular spot in the church has become a sort of family tradition. It’s our territory. It’s our place. It’s our thing.
There are certain rituals we may have imbibed over the years as individuals, as a family or as a community which become our tradition. If we are not self-reflective, and do not listen to God, they elbow out the Spirit of God.
Human tradition in this context could be described as those ways of living that have developed over the years and become our collective, default life-pattern. Many of our human traditions are good. Many are also not in line with God’s ways.
We tend to be married to our ways of doing things. We hold on to them as our core value. They become for us a more compelling norm for action. Before long, we see them as universal principles. We tend to judge others by those traditions and subject God’s commandment to them. Or rather, we make them God’s Law though they are our own making. Instead of allowing God’s commandment to shape our actions, we want our actions to determine what is God’s commandment.
We could overcome the temptation of relying on our traditions by measuring our lives and attitudes based on the revealed Word of God, Jesus Christ. We learn from the Lord how to live life. We learn from the Lord the way to true purity. God renews the human condition. The Lord renews any tradition if it is open to his Spirit.
In the Old Testament, Moses reminded the people of the need to follow the commandments of the Lord. They were not to cherry pick, or replace them with their own ways of life (Deut. 4:1-8) The Lord’s commandment should guide their way and their step.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, brings the same truth closer to our hearts. He denounces the externalism of the religionists of his time, their hypocrisy, and pointed the disciples to the true renewal of the heart in the Spirit. He points us to the transformation that must begin from within the heart and not be based on mere external practices. Quoting the prophesy of Isaiah, the Lord says: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ (Mk 7:6-7).
Rituals not tied to the Spirit are empty rituals. They are mere human tradition and do not give life. In fact, the Lord sees following rituals without inner conversion as hypocrisy (Mk 7:6).
Saint James tells us that pure religion isn’t in the external practices and observances that are not rooted in the purity of heart, and the Spirit of Christ. Pure and unspoiled religion begins from within, inner transformation, and is lived out in action. It is a heart renewed from within that carries out life-saving actions of charity. It is the practice of charity and living lives uncontaminated by wordiness (Jas 1:27).
This week, we ask the Good Lord to renew us from within so that our actions would be inspired by the purity that flows from his Spirit. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[22ndSunday Ordinary Time B: Deut. 4:1-2, 6-8; Jas 1:17-18, 21-22, 27; Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.