Grace to you!
The past can be terrible. It can also bring a lovely nostalgia. Hate is mostly about some past events. The memory of pleasantness is fleshed out by the past also. Handle the past well; you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Blow it, you will feel somewhat helpless.
When Matthew, an apostle known in the Bible as the tax collector, encountered Jesus Christ, he had choices to make. He knew his past. Many people judged him by that past. His past was about unpatriotic, and many times, fraudulent business decisions as a tax collector. His past, in the eyes of many of his contemporaries, was that of a traitor. His past was society’s outcast.
Consider being in a community and having to deal with open rejection. You desire the friendship and companionship of others, but they feel your past is irreconcilable. Imagine being a victim, a brand of a past that became a public stigma. Rarely do you sleep without thinking about that past. Hardly is a day gone by without you worried about what people say or the rumors going around.
Matthew could fit that picture. Mathew, now known as the evangelist, was a perfect match for your situation. Let me tell you what he did.
He saw the light. The light would cast his past in the remotest zone of the behind, making it impossible for it to resurge in his face and blur his vision for tomorrow. The light was Christ. Before Christ, Matthew knew what was most important and he jumped unto the proposal, “Come follow me” (See Matthew 9:9).
The past must be left behind; but not all, because some of our past is our history, our culture and our identity. You wouldn’t be glorifying God if you destroyed your identity because you disliked your nature.
By way of analogy, bleaching your skin, surgical face lifting, disowning your heritage, isn’t the answer to your insecurities or troubling past. In every person’s past, there are seeds of blessing. Those seeds must be cultivated and used for God’s glory. It’s you being fully alive and joyful.
St. Matthew did just that. He left the past of fraud, the past of unpatriotism and lies. Such is the kind of past we have to leave behind: the past of sin and hate; the past of insecurities and despair; the past of wrong choices that try to define us, causing us think less of the power of God and the grace of restoration. The past of despairing narratives must be left behind.
There are some past that must never be forgotten or left behind. For Mathew, he carried over the past of his Jewish heritage, language and culture, so much so, that the gospel attributed to him (Matthew’s Gospel) could be rightly called the voice of a Jew speaking to Jews. The Language and the stories are beautifully Jewish.
Since he has been redeemed in Christ, his Jewish past couldn’t be a barrier to his future. Matthew saw how the door of salvation is open to even non-Jews and the grace of evangelization would continue to the end of the world. Hence, he concluded his gospel by saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20).
The past would become a blessing when it would introduce us to the opening of opportunities. Then our stories wouldn’t be anymore of wounded and defeated soldiers, but of wounded and victorious veterans, inspiring others to fight towards victory.
You know what? The victory has already been won in Christ. In the Church, we become beneficiaries and choristers on the choir stand of victory. You and your past are included.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, September 21]
Grace to you!
You had an inspiration. It was simple and calming. Yet its demand was not what you wanted to do after all. Deep within you, it seems right to do. The result would positively impact lives. It was the first voice within you, the voice of well-formed conscience.
Then comes another voice. It is loud. It aligns with your ego. It is built off of give and take. It seems fair to you. Though you weren’t sure if it springs from true love or charity. It gives you alternative reasons why you shouldn’t follow through with the first voice. It weighs this and weighs that…. It highlights complications that would arise if you followed the first voice. It instills fear and doubt. It shows you all the negatives; hardly, showing the positives. It is a one-sided loud story.
You were swayed. You listened to that second voice. Days or months or years later, you realize you made a terrible mistake. You didn’t listen to the simple invitation of God to follow the right line of action. You realize, “I blew it.” It would cost you a lot to do it over. Yet, be sure that when you realize you made a terrible choice, it is God’s grace inviting you for an incredible rebuilding and do-over. God can rebuild you. Trust God. Walk with God.
Many times, we blow an opportunity because we do not listen to that first voice of God inviting us to a direction that the Lord wants. We read that voice during our prayerful reflection on God’s Word in Scripture. It speaks to us during Public Worship. It ministers in our conscience when we are alone, or out and about in our daily lives.
Because that first voice is gentle and simple, we tend to ignore it. We, like Prophet Elijah, think that God would have to be in the thundering wind and speak in a loud and magical voice. Yet God was found in the quiet (1 Kings 19:11-13); the quiet of our soul where God speaks with that gentle voice, “My child follow this way. Follow me.” Great are those who pay attention and follow that first voice. They do incredibly great. That is one of the secrets of greatness—Listen to the first voice.
Today, we celebrate the life and witness of the Apostle, Saint Andrew. He was the brother of Saint Peter and always mentioned fourth on the list of the apostles. Not much was written in Scripture about him except his call (Mt 4:18-20; Lk 5:11; Mk 1:17-18); his name as one of the twelve apostles (Mt 10:2-4); the role he played during the feeding of the five thousand when he pointed to Jesus that there is a boy who has five loaves and two fish (Jn 6:8-9); and the fact that he was a disciple of John the Baptist and followed Jesus at the Baptist’s testimony (Jn 1:35-40).
Yet from the scanty story, one could infer how he was a person who listened to that first voice of God calling. When the Lord walked by the sea of Galilea and invited him and Peter to follow him, Scripture says, they left everything and followed the Lord (Mt 4:18-20).
How refreshing it is to read such a story of unreserved faith and discipleship. Saint Andrew listened to the first voice of God calling him. He is a man of faith.
Leaving everything and following the Lord isn’t an easy thing to do. It’s like giving the Lord all you are and all you have. It is total surrender to the will of God in your life. It is a true testimony of spiritual greatness.
In our life, how do we leave what we must in order for the Lord to lead us? Most of all, could we leave our comfort zone and step into the deep, of faith life?
Remember that first voice in your life, each day, each week, each month, etc. Follow that voice of conscience that springs from the Lord’s inspiration to do good and to be a blessing unto others and a source of inspiration. The more you follow that voice, the greater you grow in your spiritual life, and in blessings too.
Praying that we open our eyes to see God’s plan and purposes in our everyday life. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
[November 30, Feast of Saint Andrew: Rm 10:9-18; Mt 4:18-22]
Grace to you!
As I do my morning walk through the streets of Sarasota, Florida—where I will preach a mission on the Healing Power of Forgiveness this weekend, and enjoy the gentle breeze and the fresh air of the clean city, I reflect on the beautiful story of the mission of the twelve apostles.
The twelve apostles were sent by the Lord to spread the Good News of the kingdom. They were to greet any place or people with peace. They walked the streets, preaching repentance and casting out demons. They also healed the sick (Mk 6:7-13). There was authority and power behind their words and actions.
The authority and power of their ministry sprung from the authority and power of the one who sent them. They were sent. They did the bidding of the sender.
When someone is sent on a mission, the person is simply a messenger and not the owner of the mission. When God calls us for His unique work, whether as ordained ministers or as men and women in our everyday life, we are mere messengers sent for His purpose. The effectiveness of the mission will lie on our connection with the owner of the mission. This entails following the parameters He has set forth for the mission, including the leadership structure flowing from the apostles.
Some would say: of what use is ecclesiastical bureaucracy which stifles the mission by setting forth many rules and regulations for the mission? Why won’t an ordained minister be free to minister whenever, wherever and however he pleases; after all, the field is the Lord’s? Why must there be parameters at all, though the Spirit blows wherever he wills?
Thoughts like these seem to forget that one who is sent does not send oneself. Many times, God speaks to us through a chain of command. This is necessary to guide the faith of His people and guarantee the continuity of the mission.
A missionary Armageddon where anyone does anything and preaches anything would be a safe haven for the spirit of confusion and disorder. Such a spirit is far from the spirit of peace, the spirit of order, which is at the center of the mission.
Tradition is a beautiful thing. The office of the episcopacy is an excellent gift through which the grace and gifts of the mission are nourished and granted to God’s children.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch, one of the earliest fathers of the Church, was prophetic when he said: “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church" (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ch 8). The office of the bishop speaks to us about this missionary spirit, as one who is sent to oversee, nourish and guide the Body of Christ.
I pray for the grace of constant awareness of the missionary zeal and authority as one sent. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Week 4 B: 1 Kgs 2:1-4, 10-12; Mk 6:7-13]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.