Grace to you!
Did you observe that many times, your greatest critics are your people? Many times, the
most dismissive of your achievements or contributions are those who know your background pretty well. As the saying goes, "familiarity brings contempt."
A speaker joked that a consultant hired within 50 miles of the hiring organization is underrated. If the hire is from 50 miles or more away, everybody welcomes the person as a renowned expert. How true this is today and how true it was during the time of Jesus.
The Lord Jesus had preached and performed many miracles outside of his town. He had thousands of followers, including those who marveled at his words. Many confessed that no one matched his wisdom and eloquence. When he came to his hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6), people rejected him. Or at least many were dismissive of him. It wasn't because his words were less profound. They marveled at his words. Instead, they judged him based on his family lineage. His father and mother didn't go to Ivy League schools. His relatives didn't belong to any of the elitist class either. He didn't have any clout. Therefore, they weren't giving him the acknowledgment due to his groundbreaking impact.
In essence, in my opinion, their problem was envy and jealousy. It was also deep-seated prejudice and lack of openness, which prevented the people from looking beyond their biases. Often, people confuse wisdom with family or educational background, but the two aren't necessarily the same.
What I may call unreasonable appeal to authority could be a stumbling block to discovering the truth. It happens when we accept something simply because of the credentials of who said it as if to say wisdom lies in certificates alone. A professor friend of mine calls it academic demagoguery. Because so and so person from this top university or corporation said it, it must be true, is the death of real liberating knowledge.
The truth is the truth, irrespective of who said it. Just as what is false is false even if it came from the mouth of Albert Einstein.
To be sure, knowledge is power. It is also cumulative. It builds upon one another, depending on how many ideas with which one has dialogued. Those ideas may come from books, articles, one-on-one interactions, and other educational resources, such as going to school. Advanced degrees equip one for a deeper level of dialogue with these ideas, or more effective methods and methodology of enquiry. Indeed, a person of one hundred books is better than a person of one book. The Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas, once cautioned against the man of one book.
May we not be blind to the wisdom that comes from the humble, the pure, the simple-hearted. Wisdom comes from unexpected sources too. God "exalts the humble and humbles the arrogant
" (Mt 23:12).
Judging people based on what their words and actions are and not merely because of where they come from is a good practice. Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for the excellence of judging people on the content of their character too. By so doing, we will be enriched by the wisdom from the unexpected, from the pure. The Lord Jesus is the epitome of that wisdom. He grants it to anyone who notices that God goes on working even in the simplest things in life.
I pray for the grace of discernment. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Week 4: 2 Sm. 24:2,9-17; Mk 6:1-6]
Grace to you!
I read the beautiful stories in Mark 5: 21-43, and I'm thrilled by the healing grace, mercy, and compassion of the Lord. I'm also captivated by the faith of the two characters (Jarius and the woman suffering from hemorrhage) who were immediate beneficiaries of God’s healing grace. God’s Word in Scripture is refreshing.
The woman had suffered from profuse bleeding for over 12 years. She spent all her money seeking medical help without any success. She heard about the Lord Jesus. She may have heard he is the messiah or that he has performed signs and wonders from God. What she heard opened her to the gift of faith in the Lord. Her confidence grew as she came closer and closer to where Jesus was. "Faith comes by hearing" (Rm 10:17).
She saw the Lord as the crowd followed him. She wasn't part of the original crowd. Nor was she invited as the disciples were. Yet she knew that with God, everyone is invited. Whether she showed up in front or behind was irrelevant. Showing up from the back would do for what she wanted. Shame or insecurity because of her condition wouldn't stop her from meeting the Healing Lord. The teaming crowd following the Lord wouldn't be in her way or stop her either. She was focused and knew exactly what she wanted. She also knew the key to unlocking the favor she was seeking.
What she wanted was a touch. It was a touch on that cloth worn by the Savior. Precisely, to touch the tassel or fringes (tzitzit) attached to the Jewish prayer shawl (tallit), which Jesus, as a religious Jew, wore. A typical religious Jewish man at the time of the story wore the tassel, as many Jews do today. It’s a reminder of God's commandments and the call to holiness.
The woman saw the connection between a "relic" and a person. In this case, it was the connection between Jesus, the Lord, and what he wore. Whatever the Lord wears is already a source of blessings. This woman's faith is incredible. It's inspiring. Love it. I call it faith in the little things that matter because they come from the Lord.
The woman had a target, a goal. She was a believer, not a fan. Many in the crowd were mere fans, following the crowd of the celebrity. Not for this woman. Her faith paid off because the Lord doesn't refuse genuine faith. She was healed. Power went out of Jesus as she touched him.
The second case in this Biblical story of Mark 5: 21-43, concerns Jarius, a synagogue official. He approaches Jesus, interceding for the healing of his daughter, who was sick. Scripture says Jarius' daughter was twelve years old (Mk 5:42). What a coincidence that the woman is suffering from hemorrhage had been bleeding for twelve years, and Jarius’ sick daughter was also twelve years.
Biblical stories are full of symbols—twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, etc. The number twelve appears at least 187 times in the Bible. It speaks of authority and perfection. In some ways, it could relate to those men and women across the world, who the Lord, the Son of David, offers grace of redemption. We all are spiritually networked to the excellencies of the symbolic number twelve in the apostolic rootedness.
News came that Jarius' daughter was already dead. The messenger suggested he wouldn't need to bother Jesus any longer since the daughter was already dead. The Lord jumped in to reassure Jarius of his providence and confirm his faith. The Lord knows the critical time we need him the most, and he saves the day. "Do not be afraid," the Lord said to him, "just have faith."
The Lord accompanied Jarius to his home and raised his daughter from the dead, asking them to give her food to eat.
There are many lessons from these two stories. One is that faith is the key to unlocking the blessings of God. Have faith. Keep faith and see that your salvation is near.
Also, Jarius and the woman who was suffering from bleeding wouldn’t be stopped by the negative news or obstacle. The crowd could have prevented the woman from touching Jesus. She didn’t allow it to happen. Messengers of the bad news about the death of Jarius’ daughter had already suggested he quit, but the Lord reassured him.
Sometimes, the greatest discouragement you get regarding your faith comes from the voice of the crowd or those who do not see the way the Lord sees. Naysayers are all around us. Please do not listen to them. To the unwise, the audacity of faith is senseless. For the person of faith, there are limitless opportunities.
So, what do you do? How do you keep your faith alive and secure? How do you not miss an opportunity of grace or miracle?
Keep an eye on Christ, the Lord. "Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12:2). Focus on God. Such a spiritual attitude keeps you on target to your blessings.
I pray the Lord confirms your faith as he did for Jarius and the woman suffering from hemorrhage. Amen.
God Love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday Week 4 Ordinary Time B:2 Sm 18:9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30; 19:3; Mk 5:21-43]
Grace to you!
A certain man landed his dream job. His salary was in the high six figures. He could afford to send his children to his desired private, prestigious schools. His relationship with his wife was like an endless honeymoon too. No one ever raised his or her voice in his family. One day, news broke that financial crisis due to market changes hit the company where he was working. Layoff of staff was inevitable. Unfortunately, he was one of the victims.
No sooner had this happened than the dynamics of the family changed. The man and his family couldn't manage the crisis. He became depressed and wished to end his life. Thank God, a Catholic priest visited him and ministered to his spiritual needs. The prayer and encouraging words from the priest inspired him to look to the future with hope.
Are there storms in your life? The storm could be anything that tests your faith and makes you anxious. It could be the death of a loved one, declining health condition, loss of job, hopelessness due to poverty, betrayal, shocking family hostility, etc.
Have you been living through this storm terrified and worried about your life situation? Do you suppose your life has no value anymore?
Here is the good news. The Lord Jesus is here to calm the storm. He did it over two thousand years ago by the Sea of Galilee, and he still does it. The event of the calming of the storm (Mark 4) is a great inspiration. Its relevance isn't only about the Lord's power over the wind. It equally points to the Lord's control over the storms of your life also. Draw from it.
The Lord was in the boat with his apostles crossing over the sea. He was asleep. A heavy stormy wind and the waves started to beat their boat. The boat was about to sink. The apostles woke him and said, "Do you not care if we perish?" (Mk 4:38)
Many ask the Lord similar questions. Do you not care what is happening to my children and me? Do you not care that I've lost my job? Do you not care I can't pay my bills? Do you not care I'm about to lose my home? Do you not care I have no immigration papers to live freely in a foreign land? Do you not care I am drowning in depression? There could be many "Do you not care" in your life. However, you have to know and believe that the Lord cares. He speaks peace to the stormy condition.
When Jesus is asleep in our lives, that is, when we allow the storm of our lives to dwarf the reassuring presence, providence, and protection of God, things become overwhelming. When we get engrossed in bad situations, we wouldn't be able to see the silver lining on the horizon. We have to trust that God will not let us down. Look up and not down. Faith and trust in the Lord keep us going through the stormy conditions.
Similarly, let us be open to the support systems God brings our way when worries engross us. You will find such, for instance, in the community of believers, in the Church, and during fellowship. The warmth of worship at the Eucharistic Celebration heals the crunching pains of our worries. You will find that, too, through the reading of God's Word in Scripture. You may find that as well by reaching out to a believing friend, a pastor, or a minister who could encourage you.
Do not allow your worries to silence you. Tell the Lord about it. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to share with a trusted friend too. Sorrows shared are sorrows reduced.
I pray for God to intervene in the storms of your life. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday, Week 3 of Ordinary Time: 2 Sm 12:1-7a, 10-17; Mk 4:35-41]
Grace to you!
Stories are powerful tools in communication. For one to be an effective speaker, developing storytelling skills are crucial. Storytelling grabs the attention of the audience. It keeps them engaged.
The Lord Jesus was an incredible storyteller. Many of his teachings were developed through stories. Some were stories of current events. Others were stories through comparisons, what we call parables. No one reads the Lord's teachings in the Gospel and not marvel at the profundity of his storytelling skills. The Lord's way of communicating the things of the heavenly kingdom is the hymn of divine story. They strike in people's hearts as would holy rhythm.
Take, for instance, the parables of the kingdom (Mark chapter 4). The Lord told four parables of the kingdom. They include the parables of the sower, the lamp, about seeds, and the mustard. You may want to read those parables at your leisure because they are powerful, beautifully developed stories.
Let me reflect briefly on the parable about seeds recorded in Mk 4:26-29. It's a continuation of the parable of the sower. In the parable, the Lord describes how a sower (a person, a preacher) sows the Word of God. Some seeds fell on rocky ground, some fell on the wayside, on thorns, and the last on good soil. Those which fell on the wayside, rocky ground, and thorns died off. Whereas, those sowed on good soil germinated and grew and produced numerous seeds. In the parable, the Lord describes how the real growth of these seeds that fell on good soil occur.
This parable assures us of some points about how the growth of the seed takes place. First, there must be the planting, the sowing of the seed of the Word of God for it to germinate. As St. Paul said, there must be a preacher, a witness (Rom 10:14). So, do not cease from bearing witness to the Gospel. How your witness grows isn't within your power, insofar as you have sown the word, and it fell on good soil. The good soil is any heart that is open to God. It is by the power of God's grace that growth takes place in such hearts. It may take months and years, but it must grow gradually, not necessarily dramatically. It's only on a few occasions, like in the case of the Conversion of St. Paul, as recorded in Acts of the Apostles 9, that God uses a dramatic power of conversion.
The growth will lead to the production of seed. Therefore, growth leads to further fruit for the kingdom. The convert becomes the converter. The evangelized becomes the evangelizer. Growth is a testimony of an evangelizing community.
Thus, in dealing with your loved ones who left the faith and it seems your message is falling on deaf ears, do not throw in the towel. Keep on sowing the seed, positively, lovingly by your life example, and when possible, by words. It is God who touches the heart. He will touch their hearts at his time.
I pray for faithful commitments to the work of evangelization. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[2 Sm 11:1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17; Mk 4:26-34]
Grace to you!
Do you want the word of God you have received to grow and bear much fruit? I have a few suggestions, inspired by the parable of the sower (Mk 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15).
1. Allow the word to be sown. The word of God has to be planted in our hearts first before it can germinate, grow, and produce fruit. Scripture says, "faith comes by hearing" (Rm 10:17).
The word of God is sown in many ways. They include reading God’s word in Scripture and listening to it during liturgical celebrations and faith-sharing discussions. Sometimes casual Godly interactions with people or reading of spiritual literature could be a channel of receiving the word. With modern means of communication, many media provide faith-based resources too. Reading or listening to them could feed us with God's word and make us disposed to grow and mature in faith, thereby producing fruit. Therefore, first, reach out to occasions of God's word. I call this "being in the zone of God's word."
2. Guard and Protect the Word. God's word, which you have received, is a treasure. You have to guard it as you protect your wealth. Borrowing Saint Paul's line: "It is treasure in clay" (2 Cor 4:7). Though the word is powerful, it would not force itself to make a home in our hearts. It demands our freedom to guard it.
You guard the word from the deceiver, whose goal is to mislead and make you ignore the relevance of the word. The devil's deceptions come through subtle but powerful ways. They include sowing the seed of doubt, those “it doesn’t matter” attitudes. Worldliness is another. Guard against deceit. The Lord says: “Satan comes at once and takes the word sown in them…” (Mk 4:15; Lk 8:12)
3. Have Roots. Just like the tree, the roots are the networks to nutrition. Without roots, there will be no nutrients for the tree. The roots here means the network with believers, and our network with the means of spiritual nutrition and strength, namely the sacraments.
Similarly, because the word of God isn't merely a private affair, and isn't a mere intellectual process, it has to be incarnated. That is, it has to take flesh in us. It has to be born in our hearts and live in us. For us Christians, the Word of God is the Lord Jesus. He is the Divine Logos, the Eternal and Incarnate Word. This Word took flesh in the womb of a woman (Blessed Virgin Mary) and dwelt among us, not merely as individuals, but ultimately as his body, the Church. God's Word is rooted in his body, the Church. So, for the word you receive to be planted on fertile, not rocky ground where it has no root, you have to cultivate it in the community of faith, the Church.
In the Church, through the Liturgy, God's word takes root in the hearts of believers in the most profound way. Be part of the Church where the word is well-rooted, especially during the Eucharist. The faith of the Christian community enriches your faith too.
4. Think God. As God's word takes root and matures in your life, and as you nourish it in the Church, never lose sight of where your mind should always be—focused on God. Be engaged in the things of God and the spiritual life. Worldliness is a serious parasite to the fruitfulness of God's word in our lives. The Lord reminds us that "the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life" could choke God's word and cause them not to produce mature fruit (Lk 8:14). Hence, we should always be aware of the sources of worldliness and block them off our spiritual radar.
5. Live Godly. Just like any human realities, for the word of God to mature and produce fruit in our lives, we have to live it day in and day out. Fruitfulness of God's word occurs not at a time or a specific moment but through the course of our living the life of the gospel. For those in Christ and who live the life of Christ, every day is a fruit of joy. It radiates like a full moon and exudes like a pleasant fragrance for all to perceive.
You know God's word is rooted in you when you wouldn't need to dichotomize your life in Church and your life elsewhere. It has to be the same person all through. The heart is the same, and the mind is the same. Such a life bears much fruit—namely, the fruit of righteousness like joy, peace, love, kindness, etc., and the fruit of evangelization such as inspiring other people's faith-journey.
Allow God's word in your heart. Guard it jealously, and be rooted. Always thinking virtuous thoughts and living the life of Christ, you will see how your spiritual life would mature and produce abundant fruits, thanks to God's grace.
I pray you mature and bear fruits, fruits of the gospel. Amen.
God loves you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Week 3 Ordinary Time B: 2 Sm 7:4-17; Mk 4:1-20]
Grace to you!
It is common knowledge that the doctor-patient relationship is, for the most part, dependent on the level of trust the patient has for the doctor. Suppose the doctor is one of the best internists in the world, the patient who has no confidence in that doctor hardly would seek his or her help.
If a patient rejects the doctor's authority and proven track record, how could the doctor help that patient? It will be impossible for a doctor to do much for a patient who has no faith in their medical expertise. It's worse if the patient sees the doctor's practice as dangerous to their health.
The above analogy could be used to explain what the Lord Jesus Christ says in the Gospel of Mark 3: 28. It concerns the sin against the Holy Spirit. The Lord had done many miracles. However, some who saw the wonders rejected the evidence. They said that it was through Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that Jesus cast out devils. By so doing, they willfully dismissed the testimony of God and the work of God. I believe it was this willful rejection and attitude the Lord calls "the sin against the Holy Spirit."
It is a sin that arises from willful and, often, malicious refusal to accept what God has done. Or to willfully attribute to Satan the signs and wonders, good works, of Christ. The Lord condemns it. "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mk 3:28-29).
These are strong words from the compassionate Lord. Consider this: If a patient doesn't believe in the proven track record and evidence of a doctor, how could that doctor facilitate the patient's healing? Experience tells us that the patient won't even seek help from that doctor.
If someone rejects the work of Christ, how would the work of Christ affect his or her life? The impossibility of forgiving such a person isn't because God is mean and not merciful. We know that as 1 Tim 2:4 says, "God wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." God's loving-kindness endures forever (Ps 136:1). The Lord doesn't reject a repentant heart (Ps 51:17).
Nevertheless, we have to seek the face of God. We have to accept what he does for us to receive the graces from that work of God. As Saint Augustine said, "The God who created you without you cannot save you without you."
Hence, what makes the sin against the Holy Spirit impossible to forgive is the person, the heart who has locked God out for that forgiveness to take place. It is the subjective state of an individual who has stubbornly rejected the Work of God, labeling it evil. It is also the refusal to see and acknowledge that God is working and is ready to save.
God isn't shutting anyone out. People shut themselves out of Divine Mercy. As the saying goes, you can take a horse to the stream, but you cannot force the horse to drink. Willful rejection of healing and forgiveness is never God's fault. It is the choice of the individual.
I pray we see the work of God and acknowledge it when we see it. Amen. It saves to do so.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday Week 3 Ordinary Time: 2 Sam 5:1-7, 10; Mk 3:22-30]
Grace to you!
I read God's Word this morning. I'm captivated by the line that says, "Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted [desired], and they came to him" (Mk 3:13).
The above describes the call of the twelve apostles. The Lord called them. Scripture lists the names of each of them, showing us, I suggest, how each invitation is personal. God knows you by name. He relates to you as a person.
Scripture says, “They are those whom he wanted,” or “desired” (Revised Standard Version). Twelve is a symbolic number to represent the foundation of the Church built on twelve pillars of the apostles, connecting the Promise in the Old Testament, with the Fulfillment in the New Testament.
In this call of the twelve, the Lord takes the initiative. He calls those he desires. His choice sometimes surprises many people. It did then as it does now. For instance, many times, those chosen as bishops catch people by surprise. Some even say, “how could that guy be named a bishop.” God works in strange ways.
Among the apostles were a bunch of "unqualified" by human standards. It is in such surprising choices that our standards often get it wrong. God doesn't judge by appearance. God doesn't choose the perfect either. He knows who is the right person for whatever tasks he desires.
Yes, no one is qualified for the great work of God. Indeed, no one merits the grace of being called God's special one, God's child. Neither me nor you.
It is like God gives the called benefit of the doubt. He calls anyway despite the person. He sends as he sent the apostles. Apostle means "those sent out, or sent forth." No one sends oneself to a mission. In the Lord's mission, it is God who sends.
The Lord, who is the sender, desires who to send, and sends who he wills. He knows who fits for each mission, and he gifts each for that mission. Once the Lord sends, he gives adequate power to carry out the task. Such an authority comes with required grace too.
For the apostles, they were to be the pillars of the Church and lead the Body of Christ. Their successors, the bishops, carry on the same role for the Body of Christ. Other ordained ministers and professed religious serve in different degrees in the same mission.
Every baptized believer has a unique role in the Body of Christ too, and in the world.
When you received the gift of faith, it is because God so loved you and desired you for a unique mission. He sends you in your state in life with the necessary gifts, power, and authority to carry out that mission.
Do not wait and stand by when you have so much to offer. In the case of the twelve apostles, when the Lord summoned them, Scripture says, “they came to him.” Say yes to God’s invitation every step of the way. By saying yes, you are equipped with all you need, the power and authority to carry it out.
In Christ, you've been called and chosen. In Christ, you've been anointed to do good and spread the good news wherever you are. In Christ, you have the authority to outsmart and destroy evil. In Christ, you're a victor.
Praying, you keep an eye on the call and embrace every grace of your vocation. Amen.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday Week 2 Ordinary Time: 1 Sam 24:3-21; Mk 3:13-19]
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.