Grace to you and Hapoy Easter!
There is an African proverb that comes to my mind this morning as I meditate on what happened to Saint Paul in Acts 19:19-20, the famous story of the stoning of Paul. The proverb is "Anya bebe, imi bebe." It means, "What affects a member of the family affects another." The literal translation is "when the eye is crying; the nose cries with it."
Suppose you were passing through a difficult time. It could be loss of a loved one, loss of a job, persecuted because of your faith. Or you are a victim of the attack of a malicious clique simply because you want to do the right thing. You were in your worst lows, and no one, no friend, no church member, was a support system when you had asked for it. How would you feel?
How about a believer you admire showed up? Maybe a member of the Morning Prayer group, those in Bible study or Legion of Mary with you, paid you a surprise visit. The person prayed with you, offered some inspiring words, made you laugh, etc. How would you feel?
One of the rich symbolisms about the Church we learned from Saint Paul is that the Church is the Body of Christ. Christ is the head, and we are the members. What affects one member of the family affects the other. When one member is broken, others should feel the need to heal. We are a community. We are a family, the family of God. The more reason we need to be a support system for one another.
If God were to open our eyes to see the power of a support system, we all would choose more of it. If we were to have an insight into the power of solidarity in moments of need, it would change our urgency to bring the news of joy. I suppose all of us would hastily go to find someone we could help out of a depressing or trying situation.
Saint Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city by some opposition group in Lystra who thought he was dead. I suggest the power of prayerful solidarity restored him to life. Hear how the Bible tells the story: “When the disciples gathered about him (Paul), he rose and entered the city, and on the next day, he went on with Barnabas to Derbe" (Acts 14:20).
Look around you. Many are knocked down and possibly on the verge of depression, if not already in it. It could be for lack of warmth, neglect, hatred, lack of food, clothing, etc. Many there are who walk out of the church because nobody would say "hello," even on a Sunday. Would you find someone today you could make to smile? Even in cases of social distancing as were are in, placing a call to someone who may need it may help. As things begin to return to new normal, would you look around your community and be a spiritual helping hand to someone. How about around your church; find that person(s) persecuted or ostracized because of their faith and let them know you care.
These simple gestures could warm the heart and awaken the stoned.
Pray: Lord, as you wished peace to your people, make me an instrument of peace and healing. Amen.
God love you. God Bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday, Easter Week 5: Acts 14:19-28; Jn 14:27-31a]
Grace to you!
[Note: The style of today's reflection will be slightly different, and the length more extended than usual.]
The doctor of Grace, Saint Augustine (354-430AD), who was from Thagaste Numidia, modern-day Algeria in North Africa, provides a brilliant line in his beautiful sermon on John 14:6. He noted that every human being desires truth and life, but "not every person finds the way to truth and life. This line is an excellent introduction to our reflection today on Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life.
Consider that all of us desire life and truth. The search for the truth and fullness of life is at the core of everything we do or aspire. The baby crawling towards a candy desires life, just as senior citizens wishing the best for their families. Universities, hospitals, shopping malls, theaters, etc. in one way or another are to satisfy the desire or, should I say, the need for life, fullness of life and truth. Enduring happiness is a life lived to the fullest. Discovering the truth is a delight for the soul.
However, the way to the truth and fulfilled life is what many argue about and find it hard to discover. It is an agelong struggle. But the Lord makes a daring proclamation to his disciples (as well as to us): "I am the Way" (Jn 14:6).
There seems to be a consensus among biblical scholars that the emphasis of John 14:6 is on "the way." Hence Newman B.M, and Nida E.A. in their "A handbook on the Gospel of John p. 457), re-rendered the text to read, "I am the way that reveals the truth (about God) and gives life to people."
I believe upon this revelation lies one of the distinguishing marks of Christianity and Jesus as the Savior. We won't be doing justice to Jesus' claim if we do not take this and analyze it in its own right. Rarely do Scripture scholars agree on any given biblical text. However, regarding John 14:6, there seems to be a consensus that the meaning as translated in various English versions are consistent with the words of Jesus and the original language of the biblical text.
Jesus adds to this revelation by saying, "No one can come to the Father (meaning God) except through me" (Jn 14:6b). In other words, the Lord Jesus said that "All people must go to the father by me" or" I am the only road that leads to the father" (ibid).
It's important to note that no religious founder claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life, nor did any claim to have absolute access to the Father (God). And we must be fair to represent who they say they are, and what they said their mission was.
For instance, in researching Gautama Buddha, one notices that having found "enlightenment," he wrote an ethical code for anyone who would want to discover "truth and life." He never claimed he is the way to enlightenment "or the truth and life." To attribute such a title to him is to lie against him and the respected tradition of Buddhism.
Confucius' humility and self-awareness were evident in his testimonial about himself when he said, "I have not been able to practice virtue aright… I have not been able to utter or pursue aright what I have learned … I have been unable to change that which was wrong. These are my sorrows…. In knowledge, perhaps I am equal to other men, but I have not been able to transform the essence of what is noble into deed." I love his humility and honesty
Mohammed, the revered founder of Islam, didn't claim what he was not either. Towards the end of his life, despite his military conquests and successes, he admitted how sinful and in need of mercy he was, just like all of us. "Fearful, beseeching, seeking for shelter, weak and in need of mercy," he said. "I confess my sins before thee, presenting my supplication as the poor supplicate the rich." He addressed his prayer to God (Allah in his language). Mohammed never claimed to be the way; neither did he claim to be the truth and the life.
Between Buddha and Confucius and Mohammed, at least these three are the founders of three of the four world's largest religions, there is a thread. One would see a genuine humility and acknowledgment of their identities as humans in search of the truth and life. None claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. Only Jesus did.
Upon this, therefore, lies the authenticity, integrity, or falsehood of Jesus' claim. It must either be true or false. If it is true, one should respond to it with the moral responsibility required of the truth. If it is false, then the entire Jesus' claim is to be completely thrown in the trashcan. Here the famous line of C.S. Lewis in his Mere Christianity fits: “Jesus was either a liar (impostor) or a lunatic or the Lord.”
But if true, then Jesus is stating that we do not need to second guess as to the Way to Life in God and the Truth, who is God. He is the answer, the full package of what we are seeking. I believe. I follow him the Way to Life and Truth.
I pray that we may discover Jesus Christ and deepen our relationship with him, who is the Way to the Father. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[5th Sunday of Easter: Acts 6:1-7; 1 Pt 2:4-9; Jn 14:1-12]
 Augustine of Hippo (1888) “Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament” in P. Schaff (Ed.), R. G. McMullen (Tans, Saint Augustine Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospel, Homilies on the Gospels, vol. 6, (New York: Christian Literature Company, p.531.)
Grace to you, and Happy Easter!
Waiting rooms at heart hospitals are one of the most anxious places to be. As families and friends wait for the news of the diagnostics after a heart attack, for example, the dominant moods are nothing to be desired. Ominous faces. Sad looks. Depressing spirits. Long silences.
"Is she going to be okay?" "Is everything going to be all right?" Questions fly back and forth. In the meantime, some who may not have prayed in a long time, dust their bibles, rosaries or other religious items and struggle to lift their hearts in prayers. Overall, waiting for the news after a heart attack is always tense.
Why is it the case? One of the reasons may be the gripping power of the sudden end of Life. Another is the fear that the worst could happen. Not even the stoics, those ancient philosophers who act as if they had no emotions, could stand the volatility of this sort of unpredictable outcome. One's state of mind could be all over the place when confronted by the power of death or sudden change in the health situation of a loved one.
Suppose the cardiologist comes with good news, "We caught it in time, and after a few surgeries, she will be okay." Faces are brightened. Smiles take the stage.
If the news isn't so good, the doctor says, "It's a rare case, I will advise you to keep hope alive while we do our best," faces drop. You will observe family and friends holding on to different sources of hope.
Perhaps, providentially a fellow patient walks out of the clinic after his routine check-up and notices the sullen faces of the family. He decides to find out what is going on. At first, nobody would talk. But when they realized he had been a heart attack survivor, they opened up to him.
He seemed more positive than the picture of the doomsday the family is painting. Gradually, he takes charge of the entire discussion, explaining that he is a survivor. "I have been there before. I survived it." He goes on and on with details of how his case was highly complicated. Nevertheless, by sheer hope, trust in God, and the expertise of the doctors, he lives to tell. He had eight surgeries in the process.
Suddenly, the faces of the listening family members brighten up. The witness of this survivor was reassuring. At least they know, first hand, it's possible their family member can survive this.
Think about this kind of scenario. I have seen it over and over again in the past two decades. You may have been a witness to similar situations too. As you think about the story, reflect on the Gospel of John 14:1-6. The Lord Jesus reassures his disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, also believe in me" (John 14:1).
The disciples were worried he was leaving them. They were afraid he predicted the betrayals against himself. They were concerned about what will become of their hope in his messiahship. They were worried about so many other things, just as many of us are worried about health, food, the bills, the pandemic, the future, etc. Some are also deeply sad, "when can we return to Mass and receive the Lord in communion?"
The ultimate answer to human worries comes from the one who has been there before us and has returned to tell us the Good News. The answer is faith in God, faith in Christ. Believing in God is being on the victory path. Faith in Christ as the Savior Way, the Truth, and the Life is key to victory. It is journeying on the wings of providence triumphantly amidst the gallows of worries. There is sufficient room for us in God, where we can rest.
I'm praying for blessed assurance for you and your loved ones in moments of despair. Amen.
God love you. God Bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday Easter Week 4: Act 13:26-33; Jn 14:1-6]
Grace to you, and Happy Easter!
There is so much to learn from the life of the early Church. Inspired writings in Acts of the Apostles is an excellent resource. I have been drawing from those lessons for the past two weeks. Today's ideas are taken from Acts 13:1-3. Permit me to quote it.
“Now in the Church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Symeon, who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me, Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:1-3).
The organizational structure of the early Church was simple. It's understandable because there were a few thousands of believers then. Similarly, the bulk of the activity of the Church happened around Jerusalem, Antioch, and a few other Roman territories in proximity to Jerusalem.
I would want us to focus on the way the early Church commissioned missionaries and the way they took the work of evangelization seriously. Did you observe that they were "worshiping the Lord and fasting" when the Holy Spirit spoke? Did you equally notice that even after the Holy Spirit spoke, and they selected Paul and Barnabas for the first missionary journey, they still fasted and prayed upon them before commissioning them?
Let me apply the same principle to our daily lives as believers. Often, we make decisions and then call God in after we have set our minds on what we want to do. I suppose the Christian model should be to ask God's guidance from the conception stage to the actual execution of the plan.
It is needed more for those involved in ministries in churches. From time to time, we run the Church as a business enterprise or as managers of a for-profit venture. We design a strategy. Feel right about it and go ahead and implement it. Hardly do we let God lead us in the process. Rarely do we immerse ourselves in the prayerful spirit of ministry by inviting the Holy Spirit to help us as we brainstorm, plan, and implement. We tend to forget that we are ministers—shepherds; those called to continually be in touch with Christ the Good Shepherd through prayers and fasting.
Granted, we have to be attentive to the business side of times to pay bills. It's necessary to do so. Nevertheless, when the business side is the principal driver of our commitments in the Church, we realize we have missed the point. Completely. In the long run, we lose. Nobody comes to Church primarily to learn how to build business empires or be mentored into it for that matter. Business schools have it all covered. People come to Church to be spiritually fed and renewed. The Church is more vibrant when we do just that—minister the word and the sacraments; bind the wounds, revive spirits, and shine the light of Christ.
It's our blessing to invite God before, during, and after any mission, we want to undertake as believers. It is our blessings to work with the Holy Spirit, leading by our knees first. I suppose this is the Christian way of doing things. It saves us from doing our own thing instead of allowing God to be the boss. You know, when God is in charge, we are at our best.
Pray: May we learn to invite God as we plan and as we execute. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Easter Week 4: Acts 12:24-13:5a; John 12:44-50]
Grace to you and Happy Easter
Do you want to know how the early Church handled the issue of discrimination? Read Acts of the Apostles chapters 10 to 15. There you will find how the Christian mission is one that knocks down the walls of hostility among people, providing opportunities for true reconciliation with God.
As St. Paul said, "Christ has broken down the walls of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14).
In taking actions against discrimination, the early Church was decisive. For example, Saint Peter, the leader of the Church, the first Pope, didn't mince words in stating the inclusive and universal mission of the Church. He fought vehemently against those who thought Christianity was a tribal religion. We find the story in Acts 10, but Peter used it as a defense against discrimination in Acts 11:1-18. Saint Paul was at the forefront of the fight also.
It's the famous story of the vision God showed Peter concerning unclean animals. The Lord asked him to kill and eat the animals. Peter objected on religious grounds: "I have never eaten anything unclean."
God replied, “You shall not call unclean what I have cleaned” (see Acts 11:9).
Peter understood the message when three men from Caesarea came, asking him to visit the family of Cornelius, a gentile's household. Recall that at the time, for religious and cultural reasons, Jews then did not socialize with the gentiles. Peter didn't hesitate and went with the men. There, in Cornelius's house, the Holy Spirit descended on the people, the gentiles, as he did the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Saint Peter understood they were equally chosen as "we were" though they weren't Jews.
This story sheds light on the universal mission of Christianity. It, equally, reveals how we should relate to each other as believers. Many times, we carry our tribal, ethnic, or cultural sentiments into our worship of God. We allow those to becloud, if not contaminate, the purity of our fellowship. Many times we do not let the Holy Spirit break the walls of hostility and discrimination between us. However, whenever we do, there is much healing and peace.
There is freedom in "colorblindness." I do not mean the medical situation of vision problems, but being blind to the color of people's skin. It saves us from a lot of anxiety and stress. Relating to each other as God's children is the way Jesus has called us to live. It is the most healthy way. Holy too.
Once I finished ministering to a group of people. A woman walked up to me and said, "God has used you to heal me of the wounds of hate which I have carried for years. A black man abused my daughter, and I have since developed deep-seated hatred for people of color, and shudder whenever I see a black man. As I came in for this seminar and as the talks went on, it was like God was renewing my heart, bringing healing to the wounds. Thanks for being the agent of my healing."
She hugged me while still in tears.
I bet she had never shaken the hands of a person of color after the terrible thing that happened to her daughter, let alone having a prolonged, sobbing hug. God bless her. I pray for healing for all in similar situations.
There is freedom in breaking the walls. It is not merely about racial discrimination. It's also about all forms of discrimination, tribal, ethnic, cultural, and political that cause hostility among us.
May this message bring us much peace and freedom as we live the message of freedom available for all in Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for many. Amen.
God loves you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday, Easter Week 4: Acts 11”1-18; John 10:1-10]
Grace to you!
I use the Gospel of John, chapter ten, as our primary source for today's reflection.
The Lord Jesus Christ had performed an incredible miracle of healing a man born blind in John 9. Only God could do this. Some of the authorities tried everything possible to explain away the miracle. When the man insisted that Jesus must be of God, and wouldn't deny the miracle, the authorities expelled the man from the temple (Jn 9:34).
Which means he was barred from being part of the worshiping community. They shot the door against him. And, as I have explained in one of my previous reflections, being expelled from the temple was the most terrible rejection of a person in the Jewish community. It meant the person is excluded from divine worship and salvation. For the Jews, if the expulsion is permanent, it means the person is condemned for life.
But was the man condemned for life? Not if his faith is in Christ, the Good Shepherd. While expelled, Jesus sought the man out. Know this: When you are expelled, rejected, or the door shut against you because you are doing something right, or you are a believer, the Good Shepherd searches for you to find you. You are not alone. God is with you. Emmanuel (God with us)!
When Jesus found the man, he started the excellent teaching about his mission as the Good Shepherd. "Truly, truly, I say to you, 'I am the door of the sheep'" (John 10:7). He didn't say he is a door of the sheep but the door, the gate. He thereby excludes the possibility of the sheep finding true, saving pasture from other sources other than him.
The Lord's claim is incredible and audacious. It's a claim, which the Church, following the teaching of the apostles, has given the general theme of "salvation is in Christ."
For the man who was born blind, it was a refreshing message. To know that the door shut against him wasn’t the door of his salvation, was encouraging.
Jesus is the door for good reasons. First, to know him, and believe in him, to walk in his footsteps is salvation.
Second, he gives life to the sheep. It isn't just biological or physical life. It is divine life—the life that lives forever. And if, as the French theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, considered one of the greatest moral theologians of the 20th Century, said that eternal life is the greatest of human aspirations and values," then Jesus grants the sheep that eternal life, the Divine life.
Hence, the desire of all hearts is found in Christ and achieved through him. He is the gate. "I am the way." He is equally the "Good Shepherd" because he leads us to the truth. "I am the truth." He is the sheep as well. "I am the life." By laying down his life for his sheep through his death and resurrection—the greatest sacrifice of all time, he is not merely a teacher. He is the priest, the victim, and the sacrifice.
At least four qualities of Christ as the Good Shepherd are evident here:
1. Christ searches for the lust or those shut out of access to salvation (Jn 9:34-35), to bring them to greener pastures. Meditate on the message of Psalm 23—“The Lord is my shepherd." Care for souls is the most important call of the shepherd who follows the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd.
2. Jesus laid down his life for the sheep. To be a good shepherd is to be able to sacrifice for the sheep. Jesus, the good shepherd, bore the weaknesses of the sheep, suffered so the sheep can live.
3. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads the way. "He goes before them, and the sheep follow him…”(Jn 10:4). Meaning: Jesus was a true servant-leader who leads the way, even when the route is rough and turbulent. So must any shepherd.
4. Finally, Jesus said he came that we will have abundant life (see Jn 10:10). Though we can never give people "life to the fullest," which is eternal life, we can be vehicles through which this grace, sanctifying grace, is granted to people.
Join me and ask the Good Shepherd to touch people's hearts to say yes to the promptings of God to become priests, deacons, and religious. Pray too that those afraid of permanent union through the sacrament of the Holy Matrimony will embrace it. May they also be open to the full love and life, including procreation, which it entails. Amen. Pray for those who aren’t religious or married, may they find joy in their unique vocation too. Pray for one another that in our various personal callings as married people or single, we may live holy lives and be the light of grace for many. Pray too for those who aren't sure about their vocation in life. May the blessing of discernment be abundant for them. Amen.
God love you. Bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Easter Fourth Sunday of Easter A: Good Shepherd Sunday: Reading Act 2:14 A, 36 – 41; 1 Peter 2: 20B –25, Jn 10:1- 10]
Grace to you!
On this Day 3 of our Novena to the Holy Spirit, I reflect on the blessings we receive when we are confirmed.
If you’ve been confirmed, remember that time the bishop or his delegate anointed you with the oil of Chrism. He also laid hands on you and pronounced the words—"I sign thee with the sign of the cross and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
You may not be quite clear of what happened at that moment. Perhaps, you were a high school kid. Maybe you saw it as a mere rite of passage. Actually, it is a big deal that leaves in your soul and spirit an indelible imprint of the Holy Spirit. You’ve been endowed with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
You were confirmed in the faith which you received through Baptism. You were blessed to become a dynamic, courageous and intentional disciple of the Lord. The Holy Spirit grants you the gifts to live the Gospel and be a witness of the good things you’ve received in the Lord. By so doing, you join the league of numerous other soldiers of Christ who are equipped to lead the gospel.
Let me walk you back to the Scripture. You will see a couple of examples in the early Church and how the first believers witnessed this power of the Spirit. Take for instance Acts 8:14-17. After hearing that some people in Samaria had received the Gospel and had been baptized, Peter and John paid them a visit. They laid hands on them and the people received the Holy Spirit. By so doing, Samarian believers were confirmed in the faith they received through Baptism.
Another instance was with St. Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-8). Paul baptized the people in the name of the Lord Jesus and then laid hands on them so they would receive the Holy Spirit and they did. They spoke in tongues and prophesied. Recall that on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, Scripture says they “spoke in tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).
There are numerous other examples in the early Church. Many fathers of the Church, such as Theophilus of Antioch,Tertullian,Cyprian,Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome, Ambrose,
Gregory of Nyssa,Augustine and Cyril of Alexandria, emphasize the distinction between Baptism and Confirmation in the Holy Spirit. Many of them correlate it to the practice in the early Church. So, this is a great treasure and blessings we enjoy in the Lord being confirmed in the Spirit.
I know, some may wonder, why then didn’t I speak in tongues and prophesy when I was confirmed?
Fair question to ask. The immediate burst into tongues and prophesy is a sign expressing the power of the Holy Spirit within. All need not speak in tongues to confirm they have received the Spirit. The speaking in tongues and prophesying are two of the numerous manifestations of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
You may want to read Saint Paul’s treatment of this matter in 1 Cor 12;27-31; 14:1-25. I will discuss more about these and make further clarifications in tomorrow’s reflection.
In the meantime, here are my thoughts for today’s prayerful experience. Pray that the Lord would grant you the grace to fan into flame the blessings and gifts you received when you were Confirmed. Or better still, pray to discover what you received that you didn’t know was already in there and needed to bloom. Pray that the Holy Spirit will come afresh in you and revive your drooping spirit.
Pray with me: Come Holy Spirit, renew in me the blessings of your presence. Amen. Continue praying the Novena Come Holy Spirit.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday Easter Week 7: Acts 19:1-8; Jn 16:29-33]
Grace to you!
As we celebrate the 56th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I will reflect on the Lord’s words in John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
This passage reminds me of a contemporary story about a woman who went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and observed how the sheep and the shepherds in Bethlehem interacted. She watched the shepherds put their respective flocks in the same cave—the sheep intermingling with each other. Wondering how the shepherds would separate this sea of sheep, she rose early the next morning to observe. She watched while one of the shepherds walked some distance from the cave and with a unique voice, beckoned on his sheep. They ran out to him. The sheep knew the shepherd’s voice. Together, shepherd and sheep went on their way.
Hearing the voice of the Shepherd (Christ) involves the acts of hearing, listening, believing and doing. It is a progression from mere sensory function to moral and spiritual transformation. In theological terms, it’s the obedience of faith. Many are models in this. From Abraham the father of faith, to every person in our communities who shine the light of Christ for everyone to see.
The process of hearing can come through different ways such as direct reading of the Word of God at Liturgy or privately and being disposed to hear. It could also occur accidentally; those moments when we weren’t expecting it. Such was the way St. Augustine received the Word in Millan. It was also the case with Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta) when she was gripped by the power of the Word and declared: “This is the truth.” St. Ignatius of Loyola received the Word in unexpected ways too. When there were no more erotic books available for him to read while he was recouping from his leg surgery in 1521, he read the De Vita Christi, by Ludolph of Saxony. The book introduced him to contemplating the life of Jesus in Scripture.
It is a blessing to put ourselves in the “Zone of the Word of God.”Hearing God’s Word builds our family. It nurtures vocation. It is grace-filling. The essential aspect of this “zone” is in the worshipping community, the Church, the Body of Christ.
“The call of God comes to us by means of a mediation, which is communal. God calls us to become a part of the Church and, after we have reached a certain maturity within it, he bestows on us a specific vocation. The vocational journey is undertaken together with the brothers and sisters whom the Lord has given to us: it is a con-vocation” (Pope Francis, Message on the Occasion of the 53rdWorld Day of Prayer for Vocations).
Ask yourself: Do you as a family create time to reflect on God’s Word and learn from Scripture? How often do you share the message contained in the Sunday readings or reflect on the Sunday message as a family? What kind of words do you share together, the music and the message with which you entertain yourself? I remember growing up as a child and listening to my parents share their understanding of the Sunday readings. Those moments helped nurture my faith.
I will stretch the act of hearing further by stressing listening. Listening has to do with paying attention to what we hear. Some may hear and not pay attention to what is heard. Listening is a choice. It is an act inspired by the desire to know and to understand. It is important we pay attention to the Word of God because in it there is life. What we listen to may well impact what we believe.
Believing what we hear is crucial as well. It is welcoming the Word we hear and allowing it to be the center of our life. It is making the Word take flesh. This is not just a question of intellectual acceptance, but also a lived experience.
There is transforming power in the Word of God. By believing God’s Word, we make ourselves beneficiaries of its transforming power. You cannot believe the Word of God without it having an impact in your life. When one truly believes, one acts. One casts the nets for harvest. Its then the person discovers one’s unique call and live it out.
Let me end with this powerful word from Pope Francis: The Lord’s call“is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be part of a great undertaking. He opens before our eyes the horizon of a greater sea and an abundant catch.” (2019 World Day of Prayer for Vocations). Say yes to this divine opportunity for abundant harvest.
Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, give me grace to discover my vocation, and when I do, the right-disposition to say, “yes” and follow through. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Grace to you!
Happy Easter! Today, my reflection uses the Lord’s appearance to the two people on the way to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35) to inspire us on overcoming fear and despair.
On the way to Emmaus were two victims of fear and anxiety, Cleopas and the other disciple whose name was not given in the bible. They must have been in shock and despair, skeptical about the news they heard of the Risen Lord. Their journey to Emmaus happened the same day after some women broke the news that they found an empty tomb. Recall that the apostles and others (disciples) dismissed the news, thinking it was nonsense or gossip (Luke 24:11).
Not fully recovered from the disappointment that the person they had expected to be the Messiah may have been an impostor for allowing himself to be crucified—the Messiah could not be killed, they had thought. The two on the way to Emmaus felt that all that “pious baloney” must end. The enthusiasm about the Messiah in the person of Jesus had petered out. Thus, off they went to Emmaus.
On the way to Emmaus, they could not but engage with their worst fears, namely, the events surrounding the death of Jesus and the seeming false alarm about his resurrection. The scene is a prototype of the despair gripping many people in life. Many are individuals who have devastated hopes.
The weapon of despair is that it brandishes the image of the empty tomb as “nonsense” and would not allow its victim to see the reason why the tomb is empty. It grips the victim with unfounded fear and like a pit dog feasting on its prey, would not let go. It tries to create another world of its own, and with a touch of mimicry projects its world as real. Its imposing impersonation is so loud and daring so much so it takes the likes of David to surmount its Goliath stance.
Despair is a demon against holiness, the life of virtue and the life of faith. It is a strong obstacle to grace and opportunities.
The two on the way to Emmaus have been lured into the living room of despair. They would not be let out save by the help of the Prince of Hope who is the silent listener to every conversation. Just like the fourth man who came into the burning furnace to reassure Ananias, Azariah and Mizael of divine support in the Book of Daniel, chapter three; a third person must come in to help the despairing sojourner. Thus, a third party had to come in to clear the doubts, refresh the mind and gladden the heart. The risen Lord joined the two on the way to Emmaus, and in a silent way listened to their frustrations.
The Lord listened with an utter sense of pity. The two people who, like the other disciples, were of little faith. They are despairing.
Along the road to Emmaus, Jesus spoke the Word to the despairing Cleopas and his companion. They felt a fire within their soul. The fire is the power of God, which dissolves fear, doubt, weaknesses and sin; and inspires people to faith. “Faith,” the Scripture says “comes by hearing” and without the message, nothing could be heard (see Romans 10:17-18). But this knowledge of God and the power with it is insufficient to recognize the owner of the Word though he may be, like a silent quest, in our midst. Full recognition of the Risen Lord goes beyond the Word to the Breaking of Bread, the Eucharist.
Praying for a renewed love for Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament—the Eucharist.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Easter Wednesday: Acts 3:1-10; Lk 24:13-35]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu Ph.D., 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.