Igbo Catholic Community

Category: Sunday Mass

Vanity of vanities”

Vanity of vanities”

Today’s readings draw us into the daily circus of knowing the appropriateness of things, going for the right measures of the most beneficial goods and sharing our material goods with the needy. The 1st reading contemplates the enigma of life and how all turn to vanity when we make them an end in itself. The original meaning of the word “vanity “is ‘a gust of wind’ reflecting the fleeting nature of riches. The spiritual goods we acquire by sharing our material goods with the needy are true riches in the eyes of God and will serve us as provisions for our journey towards God.
St. Gregory the Great taught that when we care for the needs of the poor, we are giving them what is theirs, not ours. We are not just performing works of mercy; we are paying a debt of justice. Life does not consist in possessions but in sharing what we possess with others. The goods of the earth have been given to everyone.

This is what Jesus meant when he warned us against “storing up treasures for ourselves, instead of making ourselves rich in the sight of God” (Lk.12:21).By giving and giving ourselves, we make treasures in heaven and become rich in the sight of God. We have the duty of reaching –out, extending –hands, to empathize with others. In the parable of the rich fool, two things clearly stand out: The ‘rich fool’ never saw beyond himself. The aggressive pronouns “I, my, mine” are mostly found in whirlpool of self-centeredness. In the contrary, life presents us with the truth that for there to be any meaningful progress, we have to grow beyond the confines of my givenness, thereness and fallenness into a more inclusive climate of the pursuit of “our common good”. Let us therefore search our minds and bring to spotlight those shady parts of our lives that define the world and success only from the yardstick of the “self”. Secondly, the rich fool “never saw beyond this world”. His world was so large that it could find a place only in the protected territory of his barn, bank, investment and worldly cares. But the man who never realizes that there is another world is destined someday to the greatest surprise and grimmest of unimaginable shocks. The inestimable greatness of God can supply all our needs in Christ Jesus, according to his riches in glory. Today, Jesus ministers to a good number of us who shift from the urgency of serving God in our community to taking counts on how they are the most successful, the mightiest and most learned.

Contrary to what people think, Jesus isn’t knocking the acquisition of wealth nor the zest for private enterprise, rather, he was knocking the foolish idea that some people have of placing greater importance on laying up material treasures than on laying up spiritual treasures. We concretely violate the priority Jesus speaks about when we acquire wealth at the expense of becoming dishonest, when we acquire power at the expense of becoming ruthless, when we acquire reputation in the community at the expense of neglecting our own family. We grossly violate Jesus priority when we acquire a huge chunk of world’s passing treasures at the expense of losing eternal treasures in heaven. When a man clothes his soul with the garments of honor, purity and goodness, nothing can injure them. Let us therefore seek the treasures of heaven by investing our time, treasure and talents in our community for the sake of God and posterity. We are to tell ourselves that we must never allow our riches to define us or set bounds of exclusion in the face of God and people.

“How to Pray (Ask): Ask, Seek, Knock”

“How to Pray (Ask): Ask, Seek, Knock”

Today’s 1st and Gospel Readings encourage persistence in prayer. The 2nd reading, reminds me of what God has done for me in Jesus. God’s track record in history and in my own life shows that he will answer my persistent prayers in the way that’s best for me. “Great is the mystery of faith”. This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer (1Thes.5:17-18). The drama of prayer is fully revealed to us in the Word who became flesh and dwells among us. To seek to understand his prayer through what his witnesses proclaim to us in the Gospel is to approach the holy Lord Jesus: first to contemplate him in prayer, then to hear how he teaches us to pray, in order to hear our prayer. Prayer is the pillow of religion. Only the self-sufficient do not pray, and the self- righteous cannot pray. Our persistent prayer to God is to be made in a climate of love and trust, for he is a loving Father who cares for us and will give us the best thing at the right time.
Prayer is “a surge of the heart, a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (St. Therese of Lisieux). St John Damascene, described prayer as “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or requesting of good things from God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2590).Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening. It enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself. The degree of our faith is the degree of our prayer. The strength of our hope is the strength of our prayer and the warmth of our charity is the warmth of our prayer.

Understanding the 5 basic disciplines taught by Jesus in the “OUR FATHER” will most certainly help:

1. RELATE – Our Father who art in heaven –Relate to the Father with family intimacy, affection, reverence and love. We are not merely praying the “the deity” or the “Godhead.” We are praying to our Father who loves us, who provides for us and, who sent his only Son to die for us and save us.

2. REJOICE – hallowed by thy name! He is the giver of every good and perfect gift and to Him our praise is due. Praise and thanksgiving make us people of hope and joy. It is for this that we were made. God created us, so that we…might live for his praise and glory (Eph. 1:12).

3. RECEIVE – thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven – At the heart of this petition is an openness to God’s will, to his word of instruction, to his plan for us and for this world. When Jesus lives in us we hunger for God’s word and strive to know his will and have it operative in our life.

4. REQUEST – Give us today our daily bread – Intercessory prayer is at the heart of the Christian life. Allow “bread,” in this case, to be a symbol of all our needs. Our greatest need of course is to be fed by God, and thus bread also points to the faithful reception of the Eucharist.
5. REPENT – and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. – Sin is understood at two levels here:

1:Sin -(lowercase) our personal sins and trespasses, also referred to as our “trespasses.”
2. SIN (upper case) – referring to the whole climate of sin, the structures of sin that reinforce and underlie our own sins. Referred to here as “evil.”
LESSONS: Pray where you are, God is present everywhere and ready to listen. Pray when possible in a quiet spot where you can be alone. Pray to God simply and naturally, as to a friend. Pray remembering the good things God had done for you. Pray for God’s forgiveness for the unworthy things that you may have done. Pray for the things that you need, things that make your life finer and more Christlike. Pray for others, remembering the situations they confront and the help they need. Pray that God’s will may be done in you and in the world. Pray, and then start answering your prayer.

Be Vigilant | (Rev. Dr. Erasmus Okere)

Be Vigilant | (Rev. Dr. Erasmus Okere)

The book of Wisdom recalls the great liberation of the Israelites from their land of slavery in Egypt. This event is of remarkable importance for them and more so to us today, the Chosen People of the new dispensation. The Exodus event foreshadows the real liberation of mankind and the elevation of man to the citizenship of heaven. We are therefore drawn to the appreciation of whom we have become in Christ Jesus Our Lord. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, the true Passover lamb, we have been freed from the slavery of sin and been made sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven through baptism. Looking with optimism, the people of Israel recall their history and courageously hope for a joyful future. You are drawn to the conscious awareness that you should live a life of the redeemed, in all spheres of life in Christ Jesus.
The second reading projects Abraham and Sarah as heroes of faith. They were loyal to God’s command by unwaveringly maintaining a knowledge within their hearts beyond the reach of proof, and never were they disappointed. The Christian faith involves the belief in God against the world, the belief in the spirit against the senses and the belief in the future against the present.
Abraham’s faith was the faith ready for adventure, the faith which had patience and the faith looking beyond this world. Reversing the direction of our lives is not easy, but by stepping up our own efforts and with God’s grace, we can do it as many have done before us. You can do it if you will it. Take a bold step, say no today to the life of yesterday and put up a good fight against those components of your life that weakens you to the world that enslaves you to sin and Satan. Call upon Jesus today and you shall be saved.
The gospel invites us to be vigilant, to be found ready for the Lord when he comes to bring liberation. Jesus makes a strong statement to the disciples about the use of time, and about priorities. Some of it must have been puzzling for the disciples, who at that stage did not know about the events which would later unfold in Jerusalem.
But the point Jesus was making about being ready and about priorities was unmistakable. Time is a gift, with each of us having that gift in an unknown measure. Procrastination is like a thief who erodes that gift, wasting it by leading us to do nothing, or to do what is easy rather than what should be a priority. Why wait for tomorrow, what you can accomplish today? The last minute achiever is not the most balanced approach to life. It leaves us little choice with probabilities. It is difficult to use time wisely if there are no clear priorities. Our Lord Jesus is very clear that what matters most is being ready for the day when we will meet him in death. As a prioritizing principle, the knowledge that we will die one day and that we don’t know when is a powerful organizing force. Procrastination is not an option in the context of discipleship. It conjures up ideas of idleness, but it can actually be hidden by vigorous activity. Being in a state of permanent activity does not mean that we are doing what really matters. If we allow activity to push the harder spiritual stuff off our agenda then we are procrastinating on what should be a priority. Taking the opportunity each day to ask what matters most at a personal level and in relation to the demands being made on us is a powerful tool for being ready. It can bring order to chaos and reduce procrastination on the things that really matter. It can provide a calm and friendly assertiveness in the face of overwhelming demand. Most importantly, it gets the question of being ready, as Jesus asked it, back on the table. Don’t wait for the last minute to settle quarrels with your neighbor. Jesus is ever willing, ready and capable of meeting all our needs. Let us hurry to meet him. May your encounter with the Lord today bring you healing and blessings; peace and love to your neighbors.