Grace to you!
A woman was uneasy reading Romans 6, where Saint Paul talks about believers being “slaves of righteousness” (vs. 18). Such a concept seems inappropriate she said, given the reality of the terrible memories of slavery and all sorts of slave labor in our world.
Honestly, I was uncomfortable with the concept myself. Years back, whenever we had bible study around such concepts, I felt unequipped to contribute. Nevertheless, God has a way of teaching us, to see in our unique ways what He is communicating to us through His Word.
My first insight into a different understanding came through the reading of True Devotion to Mary by Louis Marie De Montfort. I highly recommend this book for those who wish to develop the kind of Maria spirituality that is solidly built on Christ himself in the most intimate way of a mother-child relationship. It’s not a fluffy read though, and some of the content may sound shocking, and may challenge you even more.
I found that Saint Montfort took the idea of slavery of righteousness and called it holy slavery (slave of love) in which someone would be willing to offer oneself, one’s life and will to Jesus through Mary. The person does so, not out of compulsion, but willingly and intentionally, so that even when the person isn’t thinking about it, the merits of their good works, like sweet fragrances, are dispensed for many in need. There is much more to this idea than I can describe in this reflection.
The most shocking of the discovery I made was to realize that one could as well be completely detached from one’s virtuous acts in such a way the person asks Mother Mary to be the one who is to dispose of them for the intention of the Son. This made matters worse for me.
Then I started to read the lesser version of the same Marian spirituality, 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC. The book brings together four great examples of Marian spirituality, which are solidly Christ-centered, in dialogue with each other. They include the models of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Theresa of Calcutta and Pope Saint John Paul II. As I read this work, I started to gain more insight into the concept of “holy slavery.”
I went back again to read Romans 6. Then I began to feel a different way concerning the text. I saw what Saint Paul wrote as “slaves of righteousness” as an inspiring word to be what I'm made to be: Glorify God and love my neighbor as well as myself as I’m loved by God. None of which makes me less or subjugates me like a slave or makes me a prisoner of sin. Actually, justification makes us free to be free. Sounds like a tautology (repetition) or a play on words, but it isn't.
How free am I if I can’t live the ideal of my ultimate goal in life? How free am I if I can't live the life of one who has been set free? The grace of God gives me the inner strength to freely choose what is true, good and beautiful. I become so loyal to the cause of holiness like a bond-slave is loyal to his master. It is in the willful, unforced loyalty that this holy slavery lies.
So, what the Lord has done for us is liberating if we realize we are free to live to the fullest what is expected of our nature as humans. The opposite is slavery to what doesn't align with our calling. Such sinful behaviors, or unfreedom as St. Ignatius of Loyola calls it, actually lead to lack of fulfillment and salvation.
We may not need to travel too far to hear from addicts the pain it causes them not to become sober. If one is to be addicted, how about choose to be addicted to virtuous life. Such an addiction sounds liberating after all. Therefore, it isn’t an addiction but a chosen path of benediction.
I pray we live for why we are here. “For freedom, Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1), may we continue to celebrate it. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Week 29 A: Rom 6:19-23; Lk 12:49-53]
Grace to you!
A concerned Catholic emailed me. She was heartbroken because of the horrible news regarding the alleged homosexual predatory actions of a retired top-ranking US Cardinal. In addition, there is the horrifying Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. Her faith was shaken. Her tears were intense.
The woman isn’t in this alone. Over the past two months, many Catholics have been scandalized and horrified by the reports we read. Many clergy, bishops and priests, who are dedicated to their vows and the service of the Lord and God’s people, are in deep sorrow too.
Has there been a week another saddening news doesn’t break? The cases of abuse of minors by bad apples, Judases amidst numerous devout clergy—and their manipulations, seem more real than many of us thought. As a priest, when I walk down the street or in the shopping mall wearing my roman collar, the shadow over my head seems to suggest, “Are they thinking of me as one of them too?”
As I prepare this reflection before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, I’m deeply saddened. The pain is unbearable. I’m agonized by thoughts of many victims of the obnoxious practices, and the victims of other perpetrators in the priesthood, and in the wider society.
As a priest, charged with the spiritual care of people like the woman who wrote me, I don’t know the right words to say to the faithful who have been scandalized by our bad example. Forgiveness isn’t enough. Zero tolerance plus holding the culprits accountable, no matter their place in the hierarchy, is necessary. I pray for the victims, their family and friends, for justice, healing and grace of restoration. I pray for all of us, the faithful, also.
I pray for the conversion of sinners too. Reparation for the sins against the vulnerable in our midst. Reparation for the sins against the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as mother Mary consistently asked during the Fatima Apparition.
My heart is bleeding. I feel now more than ever, since my priesthood, the pains of betrayal. My religious, pious sensitivities and love for the Lord and His Church, make me mourn to see how we cause grave wounds to the Body of Christ.
I believe this is a moment of decision. In the past, during the exilic experience of the people of Israel through the desert (Jos 24), they were faced with many difficulties—social, cultural, religious, moral, economic and political. They were torn between affirming faith in God who had saved them from slavery in Egypt and choosing an alternate religious cult.
The leader, Joshua, sensed their religious dilemma. He didn’t keep silent and allow it to simmer. Rather he confronted it head-on. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Jos 24:15). When the faith is challenged by new evidence that seems to make us to question, “Why am I a Catholic?” “Why am I a believer?” “Why am I a priest?” “Why choose to enter the seminary?” It is the right time to reaffirm one’s faith.
There is incredible wisdom in the Church’s Liturgy. There is wisdom in every line of the liturgical prayers. So it is in the Eucharistic celebration. Every Sunday, we are called after the homily to reaffirm our faith--The Profession of Faith.
We need to profess our faith as many times as possible. The profession of faith, the Creed, is a prayer and a constant reminder of why we believe what we believe. The profession is a testimony against the challenges to our faith also. Did you notice that there is no place in the Creed, where Catholics profess “I believe in the Clergy…bishops, priests, deacons?”
During one of my teaching series on EWTN on “The Faith with Fr. Maurice”, also in my book,Our Journey to God, I had emphasized that a faith centered on people is an idolatrous faith. Scripture says, trust in God not in people (Ps 118:8). We are humans and capable of doing terrible things if God's grace isn't with us. Give the devil a little chance, and the consequences are disastrous. By the way, this should not be a reason for the clergy not to lead examples consistent with their holy vocation.
If you are a believer, when you face temptations to the faith, reaffirm your faith in the Lord and in His body, the Church. We can’t separate the head of the Church, Christ, from His body, the Church (Col 1:18; 24; Col 2:19; 1 Cor 12:21; Eph 5:29-30).
The Lord Jesus showed us a similar example in the Gospel of John chapter six. After the long and astonishing teaching on the subject of the Eucharist, the “source and summit of the Christian life,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1324), the Lord saw that many left him. They couldn’t accept the teaching.
He was left alone with the twelve. He, as God, knew their hearts. He knew he had given a teaching which only faith and professed faith can stand. He didn’t wait for them to battle with it and suppress it. Psychologists tell us that there are times suppressing a problem makes it worse.
So, the Lord confronted it. He asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” (Jn 6:67).
I believe this question is appropriate this day, this week and the coming weeks. Concerning the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandals, many faithful (laity and clergy) will have to deal with similar questions regarding their faith in the Lord and, more importantly, their faith in the Church, the Body of Christ and in the Eucharist. I sense that other facts may come out in the open in the coming weeks, many of which will be more troubling to the faithful. I believe the Lord is purging His Church. The question will continue to reoccur until the moment of purging is over. “Do you also wish to go.”
Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69.
I pray that Peter’s response is ours also. We profess this faith. We reaffirm it. We can’t go from the Lord. We embrace the Eucharist. We hang in there with the Lord and His Body, the Church, while we work together, chaired by the faithful laity, to see that justice is done.
Culprits should be made responsible for their heinous actions. Victims will find justice through proper accountability and just restitution. Hopefully, and praying, there will be closure. In matters of this kind, it is not enough that justice is done. Justice must be seen to have been done.
In the meantime, “I believe. We believe.”
I pray for you, for the grace of fidelity, as well as firm resolve to see that justice is done. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[21stSunday Ordinary Time B: Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Eph 5:21-32 or 5:2a, 25-32; Jn 6:60-69]
Grace to you!
From the Gospel of Luke chapter eleven, we read the beautiful dialogue between Jesus and a woman who was probably fascinated by his words. The woman raised her voice and said to Jesus, “‘blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!’ But he [Jesus] said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” (Luke 11: 27-28).
Surely, Jesus was not dismissive of his mother. He was actually reaffirming what made his mother “Blessed”—hearing and keeping God’s word.
I would love to walk us through some insight into what faithfully hearing and keeping God’s word means, using the example of Mary. I will borrow from the tradition of Saint Pope John Paul II, from the homily he gave in Mexico City Cathedral on 26 January 1979.
The Pope said Mary’s fidelity to God showed in four ways, sort of one leading to the other. I would love for us to pay attention to them because they could help us in getting to the core of how to embrace God’s word, how to be faithful.
First is search. “Mary was faithful first of all when she began, lovingly, to seek the deep sense of God’s plan in her and for the world. Quomodo fiet? How shall this be?, she asked the Angel of the Annunciation” (see Luke 1:34).
We must search, and I would say thirst for God’s Word, God’s plan in our lives as the deer yearns for a flowing stream. It’s blessing to do so.
Second is reception and acceptance. According to the Pope, the how shall this be (quomodo fiet?) is “changed, on Mary’s lips, to a fiat: Let it be done, I am ready, I accept.” The pope says this stage is crucial because we have to understand we may not completely know how the word or plan of God would eventually play out in our lives. “…in God’s plan [there are] more areas of mystery than of clarity” and that however we may try, we will never succeed in understanding it completely.
Isn’t it true in your life that many times, you do not know how the will of God would work out? Yet the expectation is to trust that God will see you through. God never fails.
Third is consistency to live in accordance with what one believes. We have to adapt our life to God’s word. This comes with trails and temptations, but we have to be consistent. “But all faithfulness must pass the most exacting test, that of duration,” the pope says.
Fourth is constancy. The pope says, “It is easy to be consistent for a day or two. It is difficult and important to be consistent for one’s whole life. It is easy to be consistent in the hour of enthusiasm, it is difficult to be so in the hour of tribulation. And only a consistency that lasts throughout the whole of life can be called faithfulness. Mary’s ‘fiat’ in the Annunciation finds its fullness in the silent ‘fiat’ that she repeats at the foot of the Cross”
So, if you want to respond to Jesus’ invitation as to be blessed in the footsteps of Mary, follow these four steps of faithfulness—deeply desire God’s Word, God’s Will, accept it, be consistent in holding on to it and be constant to the end.
May God give us the grace to do hear God’s word and keep it. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 27 Ordinary Time: Jl 4:12-21; Lk 11:27-28]
Grace to you,
I wish to share with you an excerpt from my book Word for a Wounded World about the Blessed Virgin Mary and her participation in the cross of Christ. The Church’s tradition speaks of the seven sorrows of Mary and the following reflection points to them. I hope you find this excerpt helpful in your moments of pain and suffering.
“Mel Gibson’s record-breaking movie, The Passion of the Christ, depicts Mary as the Sorrowful Mother, who accompanied the Son through the tortuous and torturing moments of the Via Dolorosa (the way of the cross). She was present, not only on the short distance from the house of Herod, through the stony Jerusalem streets to Golgotha, but was part of the Cross of Salvation events from the very moment the Child Jesus was presented in the temple, before Simeon and Anna, to the prophesied events of Good Friday.
During the presentation in the temple, Simeon prophesied: “This child is destined to be the rise and fall of many . . . and a sword will pierce your soul” (Luke 2:34). During the flight into Egypt, the mother of God, accompanied by her most chaste spouse, Joseph, started to live the sorrows of rejection and persecution.
Through the hidden life of Jesus, she nourished, loved and saw how the Infant Jesus grew to manhood. Later, during the hectic loss of the Child Jesus, Mary witnessed the dark night of the potential loss of her child.
The meeting of Mary and her Son on the Via Dolorosa was like a dagger, piercing her maternal heart of love, but she kept going. Mary was present at the Crucifixion, where she, the Mother of God, stood--Stabat Mater. Only grace and the certainty of God’s love for His Son could have held her up, as she bore a suffering beyond all telling.
Jesus would say to John, as if giving His beloved Mother away, “Son behold your mother; mother, behold your son.” At the foot of the Cross, Mary said her second ‘yes,’ in a desolation we cannot even imagine. She witnessed the sword piercing the Most Sacred Heart of her son—the only Begotten Son of God!
Mary would courageously hold her dead Son in her arms, as her heart broke, but her spirit remained steadfast. Michelangelo’s Pieta is a masterpiece that depicts the sorrows of the Blessed Lady holding the pierced Innocent Lamb of God in her hands.
At the burial of Jesus, Mary, fortified with grace, was also present. Mary was the first to lead her Son closer to His ultimate mission, the journey to Calvary, as that was why He came—to nail our sins to His cross in order for us to be healed by His wounds (Is. 3:5).
My friends, all our wounds, small and big, are in His great wounds! Let us remember this. Give your wounds to Jesus—He wants them.” (Maurice Nkem Emelu, Word for a Wounded World, vol. I, pp. 201 -202).
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15]
Grace to you and Happy Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary!
On this special day, may I share with you a poem I composed last year on the Birthday of Mary (September 8).
The poem flowed from a deep love for Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To her intercession I attribute my self-awareness of God’s love and life in my poor soul. She is one of the pillars of my spiritual life, and the spiritual life of many of those I personally know who are deeply in love with Christ in the Trinity of Love. The poem is entitled, The Lady I Love So Much.
As you read the poem, remember to present to Jesus the petitions so dear to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, namely conversion of sinners. The three secrets of Fatima, indeed, the messages of Mother Mary during the six consecutive Apparitions to Lucia, Francesco and Jacinta in May 13 to 13 October 1917, and the three preceding visions of the Angel, remind us of the urgency to pray and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. We are also to do reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Pray this Angel Prayer which was revealed by the Angel of Portugal to the three children of Fatima:
O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.
A day like this would be apt to say the rosary before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima or any statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I love Our Lady of Grace statue too. Divine Graces abound on this Feast Day.
Pray for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the world and for the end to abortion and social structures of sin such as racism, discrimination and injustice.
Pray also for the safety of those in the Bahamas, Florida, etc., as the triple hurricanes—Irma, Jose and Katia—threaten lives and property. Continue to pray for the victims of the Harvey in Huston that they receive the support they need to rebuild.
Pray for the pope, the bishops and the clergy for the grace of apostolic fervor and holiness of life. Pray for married people for the grace of holy, joyful and sacrificial love for one another and fidelity in their marriage bonds.
Pray also for me today through Sunday as I give a keynote address on the Fruits of the Message of Fatima, as well as participate in a special EWTN Live discussion on the Message of Fatima with three other quests and host Marcus Grodi, at the EWTN Family Celebration in Worcester Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Pray for families, the church of the home (the domestic church).
Pray! Pray!! Pray!!!
Click here to read the poem….
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Grace to you!
One of the two classical concepts (Satan is the second) used in the New Testament to describe the devil is διάβολος (diabolos), which means a slanderer, a divider, a malicious false accuser who thrives in deceit. The word appeared thirty four times, but never was used in the Old Testament. The devil is a deceiver, an impostor.
The Lord Jesus called the devil the father of lies (John 8:44). The devil thrives in counterfeiting.
A number of examples: Watch anywhere you have a pro-life community, you would see a heavy presence of organizations that promote heartless support for abortion, violence against the life of the baby in the womb sold as women health. Black Mass is a counterfeit for the Eucharistic celebration. Wherever the good is, a counterfeit of the good is present. The devil thrives in deceit.
In the history of the world, the kingship of God has been counterfeited also. Such was the ancient kings from Sennacherib of Assyria to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Xarxes of Persia; kings of ancient China to ancient Rome during the years of imperial cults or Emperor worship; down to Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler, those despots who claimed to be the universal king, against whose background Pope Pius XI wrote the famous letter, Quas Primas of 1925 in praise and declaration of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe.
If the devil would counterfeit the kingship of Christ, would it not also counterfeit the place of the mother of Our Lord, Mary? Surely, the devil would.
In the prophecy of Jeremiah, we see the true counterfeit of what belongs to heaven, God's throne. Many who oppose the queenship of Mary use these Jeremiah texts as biblical evidence.
The texts are two where the prophet Jeremiah condemns the people of Israel for worshiping the so-called “queen of heaven” (see Jeremiah 7:18 and 44:17-25). The real name of this goddess whom the idol worshippers called the “queen of heaven” was Ashtoreth, Astarte or Ishtar—the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, who was believed to be the wife of Baal.
This is devilish, diabolic counterfeiting at its best. For those who use these texts to denounce Mother Mary as the Queen of Heaven, ask yourself: is Ishtar the queen of God's heaven? If Jesus is the Universal King, how is Ishtar the true queen of God's heaven? Can't we see how the devil thrives in counterfeiting?
Mary is the queen of heaven, the Queen Mother, because she is the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior, the King of heaven and earth. No other woman could fit that title, neither in heaven nor on earth. If heaven is God's throne and not Baal’s throne, then Mary, who is the greatest among all women, is the most fitted to reign with the Son as the queen.
Did the Bible (2 Timothy 2:11-12) not say that if we died with Christ, we shall also live and reign with him? What is wrong with Mary wearing the crown of glory which Saint Peter says awaits all believers (I Peter 5:4), or the crown of victory which Revelation 2:10 gloriously spoke about? The major difference is that we don't have a second Jesus’ mom; neither do we have a second “full of grace” figure in the biblical history of salvation. Only Mary fits the description. This singles her out among all humanity.
That this truth of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary isn’t written verbatim in the Bible is simply because the Bible was not about Mary, but about Jesus.
Moreover, by being the crown of all women in heaven as queen of all, Mary isn't sharing equality with God. Not even in earthly kingdoms, in those days of monarchical rules, does the queen have the same power as the king. The king is the owner of the kingdom. The queen is his spouse.
The image of the Book of Revelation 12, about a woman crowned with the twelve stars, which is the image of the Church, allegorically, is also the image of the birth of the Son of God by that pregnant woman—Mary.
Mary isn't worshipped; she is revered as blessed by the Lord. Her life and memories of her faith-witness tell us about the yes of a woman that ushered the Incarnation (God born as man). If this doesn’t show something beyond the ordinary, I wonder what does.
All to Jesus through Mary our mother! Love you Mother Mary. Love you the true queen of heaven.
May the grace of Virgin Mary’s queenship smash the head of all devilish counterfeit claims to sovereignty. Amen.
God love you God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday, 22 August 2017]
Grace to you!
Any feast of Mother Mary fills my heart with joy. The holy tenderness of the Mother of God spurs in my heart a prayerful contemplation of the function of grace in the life of any person who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. I mean Jesus the Christ, not some sort of platonic ideal in the memory of astral catalogue, but the one who was born in flesh and blood, carried in the womb of Mary. As Scripture says, “born of a woman (Mary)” (Gal 4:4).
The doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was formally declared as a dogma of faith on 1 November 1950 by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical letter Munificentissimus Deus, is to me, one of the best theological understandings of the ultimate blessing of freedom from sin.
As I prayed and reflected on this feast, my mind went to God’s Word as documented in the Gospel of Luke chapter 1 verses 26 to 31. I was particularly attracted by verse 28 where the angel greeted Mary saying, “Hail, full of grace.”
This translation of the Greek κεχαριτωμένη follows Saint Jerome’s Latin translation of it as gratia plena (full of grace). In fact, the Church fathers were in agreement with this translation even before Jerome tranlated the bible into Latin (the vulgate) in the late 4th century.
Granted some biblical scholars, prefer to translate it as ‘favoured one’ and numerous other variations, the consensus of the Fathers of the Church is sufficient to me.
The word charis (χάρις), which is the bone of contention, could be translated as grace or favor. At least, this much is agreed upon by many, irrespective of their side of the argument.
One who is favored by the Lord, the one who is full of grace, deserves what grace offers. We Christians (Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, etc.) know the best favor any human being could receive is God. It’s salvation. And salvation is by the grace of God granted us in Christ. One who is full of grace is granted access to salvation too. Don’t forget that Mary had the unique privilege of carrying Jesus, truly God and truly human in her womb. She was the carrier of Grace.
In the Dogma of the Assumption, I see a logical conclusion of the result of fullness of grace. If sanctifying grace (the grace of justification) is all we need to be saved, what happens if someone lives a life that has the best possible divine approval attested to through the lips of the Angel Gabriel, “Full of grace”?
No one is full of grace who has sin or has sinned. We see how the dogma of the Assumption is closely connected with the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which was formally defined by Pope Pius IX in his Apostolic Constitution "Ineffabilis Deus" (8 December 1854).
Assumption, unlike Resurrection—where the Lord by his own power went back to the Father—is the singular example of a creature who, by the grace God was assumed on the wings of Divine Grace to the bosom of the Blessed Trinity where she belongs.
This is how Pope Pius XII defines the doctrine: “"Mary, Immaculate Mother of God ever Virgin, after finishing the course of her life on earth, was taken up in body and soul to heavenly glory.”
I pray that some day we will meet Mother Mary and see her Son Jesus in the Trinity of Love. Amen.
Mary Assumed into heaven, pray for us.
[August 15, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Rv 11:19A; 12;1-6A, 10AB; 1 Cor 15:20-27; Lk 1:39-56]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural 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.