Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

“My Peace I Give to You”

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Theological Reflection for 6th Sunday of Easter 

May 5, 2013

1st Reading: Acts 15:1-2,22-29; 2nd Reading: Rev 21:10-14,22-23; Gospel: John 14:23-29

“My Peace I Give to You”

 

In today’s gospel passage, the Lord Jesus begins His farewell speech to His disciples. He strengthens their faith and gives them divine peace; “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (Jn 14:27) What is the significance of this message? How relevant is it to us today?

Today’s world seems to lack peace. More than ever there is news of war all over the world, but apart from that, there is lack of peace also in individual minds. There is lack of peace in families, Churches, and in various communities. People are troubled, worried, and are afraid. In this situation, the Lord Jesus is telling you and me, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jn 14:27). Peace is not just the absence of war; it is a gift which only God can give. It is also a necessity. That was why, on the very day He rose from the dead, the Lord Jesus gave peace to His disciples and breathed on them the Holy Spirit (cf Jn 20:19-22). In order to achieve peace, we need to live in the spirit of God. Without the Holy Spirit individuals would be forever conflicted and the Church would never have peace.

Today’s first reading shows a serious conflict experienced in the early Church. Apparently, some of the early Christians decided to teach doctrines that have no divine basis; “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1-2). These teachings upset many people and disturbed their peace of mind but the apostles and elders, after prayer and fasting, came to a conclusion and sent a message to the troubled community in the following words, “It is a decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond necessary…”(Acts 15: 22). The Bible tells us that, through these words, the Church in Antioch was delighted and peace was restored (cf Acts15:30-35). How do we restore peace to so many hearts who are troubled today?

On a very sad note however, many Christians today do not seem to be paying much attention to the Holy Spirit. Consequently, we impose human teachings and traditions on people. And our teachings make their minds troubled. There is no peace because only very few pay attention to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  In the Church, some perform ministries as if they were mere social functions; we hold council meetings without prayers and we make decisions without discernment. The more we forget the spirituality behind church ministries, the more secular/worldly the Church shall become. And the worldlier the Church becomes, the more trouble we shall have. How many of our teaching have to do with salvation of souls? How many of our teachings have to do with bringing peace of heart to people?

Today’s liturgy challenges us to reflect on our lives and ask ourselves: “Why do we have conflicts?” We can never achieve peace by war and arguments. Professional social mediators can never resolve a Church conflict. The only mediator we need is Jesus and the only advocate we need is the Holy Spirit. The only “circumcision” we need is that of the spirit and not of the flesh.

About ten years ago when I was serving in New York, a little girl came to give me a sheet of paper after Mass. She wrote this message in capital letters and I would like to share it with you all:

NO JESUS, NO PEACE

KNOW JESUS, KNOW PEACE.

May we know Jesus so that we may know peace in our hearts, our families and our Churches all over the world.

 

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

“Love One Another”

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

  Theological Reflection for 5th Sunday of Easter (year C

 April 28, 2013

1st Reading: Acts 14:21-27; 2nd Reading: Rev 21:1-5a; Gospel: John 13:31-33a, 34-35

 

Love One Another

 

In today’s gospel passage the lord Jesus gives a profound teaching about love. The love he teaches us is sacrificial love. He, himself, through his crucifixion, demonstrated sacrificial love. He gave up his life for us without asking anything in return. Now he is commanding us, his disciples, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you should love one another.”(Jn 13:34). What is the significance of this new commandment?

It is easier for us to say, “I love God with all my heart” (because God is invisible) than it is to say “I love my mother-in-law with all my heart.” But in reality, we cannot separate the love of God from the love of others. What is so different in the new commandment? The old law says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (cf Mt 22:38), but the new law presents Jesus as the “yardstick” for measuring love; “love one another as I have loved you.” (cf Jn 13:34). How did Jesus love us? And why must we love that way?

Jesus shows deepest love by sacrificing everything, including His life, for us without asking anything in return (cf Jn 15:12, 13). Is that how we love one another in today’s world? It is only when we love one another unconditionally that people will know we are Disciples of Christ (cf Jn 13:35). As we continue our journey into the season of Easter, it is pertinent for us to ask ourselves, “Am I truly a Christian?” The name Christian was first given to the apostles in a place called Antioch. The disciples were called Christians because people saw them behave like Jesus (cf Acts 11:26). The name Christian was given as a nickname, and it was taken from the character of the early disciples. It is very funny to me when some people say they are Catholic, but not Christian. But if I may ask rhetorically, what is the pride in being catholic without being Christian?

The mark of the New Testament is love. When I was very young I remember that my parents moved from the little town where I was born, to a bigger one, so that my siblings and I may have a high school education, since there was no high school in that little town, Oba. My parents had to sacrifice their comfort, their friends, and everything else for our sakes. Some of us parents have offered similar sacrifices in today’s world, migrating from one place to another, so that our children may have better opportunities in life. Some spouses have sacrificed by leaving jobs and families behind to be with their husbands/ wives. Some of us have even moved across the sea, sacrificing our native land, comfort, and inheritances all for the sake of our children. That is what love is all about. Love is not just about holding hands in the park and using “sugar-coated words”. Love is not about pampering your kids when you should be correcting them. Love is about sacrifice. And like I always say, “There is no love without sacrifice, and there is no sacrifice without pain.” Jesus sacrificed his life for us, and he wants us to sacrifice whatever we can afford for one another.

You can ask yourself this question for your reflection; “What am I sacrificing for others to show my love of God?”

 

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

“Jesus The Good Shepherd”

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Theological Reflection for 4th Sunday of Easter 

April 21, 2013

1st Reading: Acts 13:14,43-52; 2nd Reading: Rev 7:9,14b-17; Gospel: John 10:27-30

 

Jesus The Good Shepherd

Today is “Good Shepherd Sunday”. It is also called Vocation Sunday. Thus, the Universal Church prays for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. In today’s gospel passage, the Lord Jesus presents to us a teaching about Himself using the image of “shepherd”. The description of the Good Shepherd in the whole gospel of St. John gives us a summary of the Paschal Mystery which we celebrate at this holy season. It alludes to the suffering servant of God sacrificing His life for others (cf Isaiah 53:1-12). The Lord Jesus also teaches, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me…” (Jn 10:27). What is the significance of this message? What does it mean for us today? The image of the shepherd manifests the various aspects of the person of Jesus. The role of a shepherd is multiple; the shepherd seeks out the lost sheep, cares tenderly for the wounded sheep, protects the sheep at the cost of his own life, and feeds them as well. That is why the psalmist says; “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want” (Psalm 23:1). How does this celebration affect us as a Church? This is a very tough reflection so, take a deep breath and adjust your seat before you continue.

Today’s Church is experiencing a shortage of shepherds. But we have to ask ourselves, why? Probably it is because we lack true and compassionate shepherds in the family itself. Pope John Paul II made us understand that every family is a domestic Church. In that family/Church the parents are the shepherds, or pastors. If the parents fail in their duty to provide spiritual and material needs for the children, no one else can fix it and that definitely will affect the larger society. The lack of good shepherds in today’s Church can be traced back to families. We live in a society where families no longer have dinner time, no time for prayers, no time to sit down and teach our children basic morals. Through the help of the government many parents are learning to obey their children! In fact, family as an institution is in a serious crisis. Consequently, we blame the CCD teachers for not teaching our children the basic Christian prayers, and we blame the regular school teachers for every wrong thing that our children do.

Today’s celebration poses a big challenge to all of us especially in the south side of Chicago. How?

There is a hierarchy of “shepherds”. In the family, parents are the shepherds; in the Church (parish), priests; and in the diocese; the bishop: in the Universal Church, the Pope is the shepherd. If parents, who are shepherds in the family, fail in their Christian duties, then it will have a negative effect on the entire Church. If families are dysfunctional, the Church will definitely be dysfunctional because the Church is made up of families. The various crises we have in today’s Church are logically, an escalation of family crisis. So, what shall we do? Are we ready to “swallow bitter pills?”

Parents have to begin to see themselves as shepherds for their families. As shepherds, parents have the duty to Teach, to sanctify, and govern (rule) the family. They need to pay more attention to the spiritual and moral formation of their children. Parents need to sacrifice whatever it takes to care for their children. They have to give loving discipline to their children and stop defending them when they are wrong. I remember a friend of mine who always says; “We cannot sacrifice discipline on the altar of love”. In other words, discipline is part of love. Moreover, parents must rise up to the challenge of leading by example. A mother who doesn’t know it is inappropriate to wear bikini and tank tops to the church on Sunday cannot teach a child how to dress properly. In the same way, a man who does not have the appropriate words when addressing his wife cannot expect the children to be any better than him. Let us raise our children in proper family settings. It is only when we can lead by example that we will be representing Jesus, who is the Good and Eternal Shepherd.

May the Good Shepherd teach us, and give us the grace, to shepherd adequately in our time. Amen!

 

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

“Feed my lambs”

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

 

Theological Reflection for 3rd Sunday of Easter 

April 14, 2013

1st Reading: Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; 2nd Reading: Rev 5:11-14, 12-13, 17-19; Gospel: John 21:1-19

 

Feed my lambs

 

In today’s gospel passage, the Lord Jesus reveals Himself, once again, to some of His disciples. The “scenario” of His appearance is filled with symbolism of different kinds. The appearance involves miraculous fishing, breakfast, and Peter’s commissioning, or appointment, as the Vicar of Christ. What is the significance of this passage? What is the relevance of this scenario in our life of today?

The appearance of Jesus in this “scenario” is to strengthen His disciples in their belief in His resurrection. The meal prepared by the Lord recalls the multiplication of the loaves and also points to the Eucharist (cf Jn 6:9, 21:13). Remarkably, Peter going through water to reach Jesus and finding Him in the Eucharist is a very prominent sacramental symbolism. Every Christian goes through the water of baptism and finds Jesus profoundly in the Eucharist. Fishing itself symbolizes apostolic mission (Mt 4:19; Mk 1:7; Lk 5:10). Peter and the other apostles were to be “fishers of men” (people).

Remarkably, the Lord Jesus appoints Peter once again and commissions him as head of the Church- the first pope. Three times the Lord questions Peter demanding a profession of love, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” (Jn 21:15-17). This corresponds to Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus during the Passion. It was after this profession of love that Jesus gave to Peter the Church – “feed my sheep, feed my lambs, feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17). Peter’s appointment as father (pope) of the Catholic Church was not based on his academic achievement but rather, on his love for Jesus. Today’s Church needs pastors (priests and bishops) who sincerely, and deeply, love Jesus and the Church.  We need priests like Peter who would prefer to die than stop preaching in the name of Jesus.

Can you imagine someone going to a restaurant and coming out after dinning only to tell his/her friends; “I am dying of hunger. I really have to look for some place to eat”. That is exactly how some people feel when they leave church on Sundays. They come in hungry and leave the church hungry. Then we wonder why we are closing down parishes and selling our church buildings to Pentecostals, hotel owners and so on. Are we really feeding people with the right “food” or we are just asking them all the time to give and give and give when actually they do not feel like being fed? Do we celebrate the Liturgy in such a way that it gives life or we are just going through the motion in order to fulfill obligations? The master is telling us once again; “feed my lambs”.

Just like a lamb that is well fed and immunized to resist diseases, a Christian who is well fed with the Word and Sacraments will be spiritually healthy, able to resist the devil’s temptations and attack.

Today’s Church needs leaders with courage who can speak like Peter and the other apostles; “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We need leaders who can preach with courage and defend the flock (Church) of Christ with the last drop of their blood. We need leaders who, like the apostles, can rejoice in the midst of suffering for the sake of Jesus (Acts 5:41). The Church of our time needs leaders who are not merely academic giants, but are also profoundly compassionate, and pastorally minded.  We need leaders, who can teach with love, sanctify with love and govern the Church of Christ with love and compassion.

More importantly, we need parents (domestic church leaders), who can adequately shepherd the home church with courage, love, and compassion. We need parents who can adequately teach, sanctify, and govern their families with the commandments of God.

May the Eucharist help us to tend the flock of Christ (home and church) with love and compassion.

 

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

“The Lord Is Risen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Theological Reflection for Easter Sunday 

March 31, 2013

1st Reading: Acts 10:34a, 37-743 2nd Reading: 1 Cor 5:6b-8; Gospel: John 20:1-9

 

The Lord Is Risen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

 

The resurrection of Jesus is the central point of Christianity. It is a joyful celebration of the victory of Jesus over death. The joy of Easter gives so much strength and hope to all the earth. This is the reason why St. Peter tells us in the first reading how he becomes a witness to the mission, the death, and resurrection of Jesus. What is the significance of this profound celebration? What does resurrection mean to you and me? What is the significance of Easter to you and me today?

As I was reflecting on the readings for today’s liturgy, the story of St Augustine of Tagaste (N. Africa) came to mind. Before his conversion to Christianity, Augustine lived a very rough life. He spent all of his life in pursuit of “truth”. He was morally reckless. One day after his conversion (baptism) Augustine was walking along the street in an area where he was known as a very bad person. One of his former gang members called out to him, “Augustine! Augustine!! Augustine!!!” Augustine did not answer a word. Thinking that Augustine was deaf he ran after him, pulled his shirt, and said, “Hey, what is up with you? Where have you been?” Augustine responded, “I know that Augustine you are talking about, he died last year.” How does this story apply to us today?

As usual, the Easter Vigil celebration begins by moving from darkness into light. During the Mass we renew our baptismal vows. We are reminded of the significance of our baptism – passing from death to life. We reject, once again, the devil and all of his deceptions and his empty promises. We promise to be faithful to God, to live a new life. Thus, each one of us becomes a new creation having died to our old selves.

Easter celebration challenges us to die from our old selves of prejudice, discrimination, resentment, despair, fears, gossip, and all kinds of bitterness. Resurrection challenges us to see ourselves completely dead to the way that we have always been. It challenges us to see ourselves as a new creation. It challenges us to rise up from despair, doubt, and chaos to a new life of hope, peace, and joy. It challenges us also to see everyone in the Christian community as our brother and sister. We cannot continue to live in the past.

It is only when we can let go of our old way of life that we can truly celebrate a beautiful Easter.  The spirit of Easter challenges us to say with courage, “NO” to the people who are constantly dragging us down. The spirit of Easter challenges us to remove ourselves from the group of those who always look for what is wrong with us and everyone else. We are now a new creation. The spirit of Easter challenges us to think in a different way from the way the “world” thinks. May our celebration today raise us up and renew our lives through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever.

 

The Lord is Risen!  Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

 

 

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

“Love One Another” (Jn 15:17)

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

6th Sunday of Easter

May 13, 2012

1st Reading: Acts 10:25-26; 2nd Reading:  1 Jn 4:7-10; Gospel: Jn 15:9-17

“Love One Another” (Jn 15:17)

When I was serving in New York, after reading the gospel passage of today to my parishioners, I decided to give them a test. I asked them, “Please close your eyes and if you love me please raise up your hand.” To this request, all hands were up. Then I continued, “Thank you very much. Please keep your eyes closed. If anyone would like to die instead of me, please raise up your hand.” To this request there was no response. The place was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. Wow! It is not easy to die for anyone. After the Mass on that day, one of my adopted church mothers came up and said, “Thank you father for the Mass.” And I asked her, “Mama, I was thinking that you would raise up your hand when I asked who would die for me.” Smiling, she replied, “Clem, my love for you is undying love.” (LOL)

In today’s gospel passage, the Lord Jesus gives us a new commandment, “This I command you, love one another.” (Jn 15:17) What is so new about this commandment? The command to love is as old as humanity. In Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and Leviticus 19:18 the people of Israel were asked to love God and their neighbors as themselves. The new thing about this commandment from Jesus is that Jesus, himself, is the standard for measuring the love in the new covenant. In his own words, “This is my commandment; love one another as I love you.” (Jn 15:12) What is the significance of this message? What challenge does it give us?

Love is about giving. We can give money, food items, property, and all kinds of gifts to people. By giving these things, in some cases, we have nothing to lose, but in the new commandment Jesus is asking us to give from ourselves. In other words, he’s asking us to make a sacrifice. The yardstick for love in the New Testament is the gift of life. That is, the giving of ourselves to one another. That is why Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” (Jn 15:13) Love is about sacrifice. As I always say, “There is no love without sacrifice, and there is no sacrifice without pain”. When ancient people sacrificed animals to the gods, the object of sacrifice is killed. In the Old Testament sacrificial animals were also killed, burned, and at times, consumed. What we celebrate at this time is the gift of Jesus to humanity. Jesus gave his time, his talent and all that he had to show his love for humanity. Finally, he gave his own life. There is no other way to show our love to others than giving everything, including life.

Beloved in Christ, love is not about preaching, or rhetoric, it is about sacrifice. Just like my New York mom said in that little story, we don’t have to die physically in order to show love, but some of the sacrifices we make can be very enigmatic. As parents, some of us have sacrificed our comfort for our kids. We have migrated from our places of birth, bringing our children to the cities to raise them so that they may have a better life. Some of us have sacrificed the comfort of our own native land and traveled across the sea for the sake of our children. We may not have died physically but such a sacrifice is very profound and, of course, very painful to make. Moreover, some of us have moved, or relocated, from our state of origin to join our spouses in another state. Some of us have returned home from places of comfort in order to take care of our parents in their old age. All these are sacrifices which we make out of love. Life is like that. Sacrifice! It is not easy but is necessary. It is not easy but is possible. There is no other way to live as disciples of Christ than to love one another without measure.

As we continue our journey into the Easter season, let us ask the Lord to give us the grace to follow the example of Jesus, who sacrificed everything for our sakes.

Happy Mothers’ day to all mothers, grandmothers,  and godmothers all over the United Sates.

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

“Without Me You Can Do Nothing” (Jn 15:5)

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

5th Sunday of Easter

May 6, 2012

1st Reading: Acts 9:26-31; 2nd Reading:  1 Jn 3:18-24; Gospel: Jn 15:1-8

“Without Me You Can Do Nothing” (Jn 15:5)

In today’s gospel, passage Jesus uses the allegory of the vine to talk about his relationship with his disciples; “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). What is the significance of this message? And what challenge does it give us?

The vine is a very simple plant. The life of the branches depends on being attached to the vine. There is no other source for the branches than the vine itself. A branch that is cut away will surely dry up. No wonder Jesus says, “Without me you can do nothing.” By using this allegory, Jesus teaches us that he is the source of our vitality. He is the source of our life. Jesus is the vine and all Christians are his branches. Simply put, Jesus is the “tree of life.” In him we bear fruit, but apart from him there is no life.

Christian life is about having a profound personal relationship with Christ and extending that relationship to others. In him we find true meaning to our lives. But outside of him we find loneliness, frustration, and misinterpretations of the signs of our time.

In today’s world there is a lot of frustration among Christians. At times, human experience of suffering, poverty, and oppression may lead us to begin to look elsewhere for help. Difficulties often make us look for alternative answers. We are tempted to doubt his ability to sustain, lead, and guide us. To be a disciple of Christ is to follow him daily because he is the path that leads to eternal life. Are we looking for truth? Then we have to listen to him because he is the TRUTH. To be looking for truth outside of Christ is to sell oneself to frustration and deceit. There is nothing you and I can experience today that Jesus has not been through. Whether it is a failure or success, joy, or sorrow he has been there before. Therefore, if we are looking for answers to any human problem or question we have to look up to him. To be Christian is to remain with him for he is the source of life. Without him we are nothing and will be dried up like a river that is cut off from its source.

As Catholic Christians, we are so blessed with all the sacraments because they help us to enjoy the life of Christ, and they give us divine comfort and life. Unfortunately, not every one of us is able to enjoy the blessings of sharing in the sacraments. Let us pray for those that are not able to share that they may come someday to share in the sacraments.

May we all remain in the love of Christ and so bear fruit that will last forever.

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

“I Am the Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:14)

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

4th Sunday of Easter

April 29, 2012

1st Reading: Acts 4:8-12; 2nd Reading:  1 Jn 3:1-2; Gospel: Jn 10:11-18

“I Am the Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:14)

There was a man named “Kokumo” who lived for 99 years and died. He was not able to receive the “Last Sacrament” because the only priest serving his 4500 member parish was in the hospital for a surgery, at the time of his death. “Kokumo” gets to heaven and complains to God saying, “God, there are so many problems in the world; sickness, conflicts, catastrophes, and even in the church, there are so many believers with no priest to serve them. What are you doing about that?” God smiles and says to him, “My son, I did something.” What did you do?” the man says. God responds to him, “I created you!”

Today has been designated as “World Day of Prayer for the priesthood and religious life.” In many parts of the world today it is also called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The Universal Church encourages us to pray to the “Lord of the harvest” to send laborers into his harvest (cf Mt 9:38). In today’s gospel passage, Jesus presents to us a teaching about himself using the image of shepherd, “I am the good shepherd and I know mine, and mine know me” (Jn 10:14). The whole Gospel of St John gives us a summary of the Paschal Mystery which we celebrate at this holy season. It alludes to the suffering servant of God, sacrificing his life for others (cf Isaiah 53:1-12). What is the significance of this message? What challenge does it give us today?

The image of the shepherd manifests the various aspects of the person of Jesus. The role of a shepherd is multiple. The shepherd seeks out the lost sheep, cares tenderly for the wounded sheep, protects the sheep at the cost of his or her own life, and feeds them. What does that mean for us as a Church?

Jesus is the real, authentic, ideal, perfect, or Good Shepherd, and we are his flock, or sheep. He teaches, sanctifies, and governs us. He cares for us and guides us always. There is a hierarchy of “shepherds”. In the family, parents are the shepherds; in the Church, priests; and in the diocese, the bishop; in the Universal Church the pope is the shepherd. Every family is a “domestic church” and parents have the duty to teach, sanctify, and govern their children. If parents, who are shepherds in the family, fail in their Christian duties it will have an adverse effect on the entire Church and society.

Today’s gospel passage challenges us, especially parents, to see ourselves as shepherds for our families. We need to pay more attention, not only to the material, but more seriously to the spiritual and moral needs of our children. We as parents need to sacrifice whatever it takes to care for our children. In carrying out the task of shepherding/parenting, Jesus is the only ideal and model for us to follow. Shepherding is a calling (vocation) but not a job. It is a vocation which demands nothing less than the sacrifice of one’s life for others. Today’s world, however, does not seem to celebrate a life of sacrifice. And that is why we have very few shepherds in both the domestic and the community churches.

Hence, today’s liturgy enjoins us to pray for vacations to the priesthood and religious life. Let us all also pray for those who have already been called as shepherds on domestic and community levels that they may serve faithfully following the example of Jesus who is the perfect, ideal, and Good Shepherd. Today’s Church needs shepherds just like Jesus, who lay down his life for his flock. Preaching on the pulpit alone would not do it. We need to start talking about vocation to the priesthood and religious life at dinner tables. We need to pray that God may choose from our families to answer this special calling. I have been to some parishes where people complain so much about not having enough attention from the priest. But this priest is only one person and has 3500 or 4000 members to shepherd! At times, the question is about shortage of priests. We need three priests in this parish, but the bishop only gave us one. My question is: What are you doing about it? Complaining and criticizing, etc.? That would not help the Church at all. We need to pray for vocations and also encourage our kids to consider giving their lives to God to serve as priests.

There is no substitute for parents in the family. Similarly, there is no substitute for the priesthood in the Church. Let us pray that parents may sacrifice whatever it takes to raise their children in a way that is pleasing to the living God. Let us also pray that the Lord may inspire young men and women of our time to answer the call to sacrifice their lives to serve the Church as priests and religious.

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

“You Are Witnesses of These Things” (Lk 24:48)

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

3rd Sunday of Easter

April 22, 2012

1st Reading: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 2nd Reading:  1 Jn 2:1-5a; Gospel: Lk 24:35-48

“You Are Witnesses of These Things” (Lk 24:48)

One Saturday morning a few years ago, when I was studying in Cuernavaca, Mexico, I was abruptly awakened by a constant knock on my door. I was not too happy to get up because this was the only day for me to sleep in. But when I opened the door, I was greeted by two young men in their early twenties introducing themselves to me, “We are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we are here to share with you the Good News of God’s Kingdom.” I smiled and told them, “That’s very good! I am also a witness.” They asked me, “From what Kingdom Hall, sir?” I replied, “The Holy Roman Catholic Church!” Once they realized they were talking to a priest, they said to me, “Have a nice day, sir.” The courage of those “muchachos” is commendable.

“Witness” is defined as, to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception. A witness, therefore, is someone who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced. In some serious cases, the court requires some witnesses to testify or tell the story as it is. A witness always clarifies and helps the judge to make an adequate judgment about a cloudy situation. To be a “witness” therefore is to accept a serious responsibility. In today’s gospel passage, we see the second part of the Emmaus account. The Emmaus account is the story of all those who meet Christ along the way and come to recognize him. It shows the mysterious hidden-ness and presence of Jesus, which is paramount to the Gospel. Appearing to his disciples again Jesus gives them peace, he calms their fears and clarifies their doubt (cf Lk 24:36-42). Finally, he opens their minds to understand the scriptures and sends them out to preach to all nations in his name. Giving them a serious responsibility the risen Lord declares; “You are witnesses of these things.” (Lk 24:48). What is the significance of this message? What challenge does it give us today?

The mysterious appearance of Jesus in the midst of his disciples shows a manifestation of some extraordinary power. Observably, the risen Lord is not constrained by time and space. He can appear anywhere, at anytime. The risen Jesus, however, cannot be confused with a ghost. In ancient belief, ghosts do appear in places but they can neither eat nor drink. Their actions also cannot have physical effect in the corporal world. The corporality of the risen Jesus, as seen in today’s gospel passage, shows that he is not a ghost. The resurrected (glorious) body is real but uninhibited by opaque bodies or things. Jesus eats fish and shows his hands and feet to prove to his disciples that he is not a ghost. He also allows them to touch him, “You are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24:48).

Although Resurrection is a matter of faith and cannot be proved scientifically, it was somehow necessary for the disciples to see and experience the risen Jesus so that they may be authentic witnesses of that reality-Resurrection. In Christianity, witnessing comes from the experience of conversion. Christianity is about a personal experience of Jesus. This personal experience of unfathomable love of Jesus is what we share with the whole world in our proclamations. The apostles preached passionately and testified to the people of their time that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures. Not even the threat of death was able to stop them. The apostles were arrested, jailed, and flogged several times, but they were so convinced of their experience that they said to the Sanhedrin, “We would rather disobey you and die than disobey God by giving up witnessing to the name of Jesus (cf Acts 5:29).

Many of us did not see Jesus physically, but like Paul, we have encountered him on many occasions. We continue to encounter him every day, everywhere. We meet Christ in prayers, in Scripture, in the sacraments and, of course, we encounter him in one another. Although we might be experiencing difficulties of different kinds at this time, we should know that Jesus is always with us. The social, political, economic problems, and the storms of secularism blowing against us today, are not enough reasons, to stop us from witnessing the Resurrection of Jesus. Through the sacraments we have been called, and empowered, to be witnesses and nothing can intimidate or inhibit us. In our moments of doubts and internal struggles, let us call on him to strengthen our faith.

Our daily tasks and struggles, sorrows, and joys are part of the witnessing we are talking about. Our Christian life is an ongoing witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The life, suffering, and death of Jesus are a package, and if we are witnesses of these we are not only doing that in words but also by our own lives. Just like the two young men, who came to my door in the story that I shared at the beginning of this reflection, we are all challenged to continue to witness to Christ everywhere we go.

Proclamation in the form of door to door evangelization has been part of Christianity from the very beginning, and we still see it today, even in the most civilized cities, all over the world. It brings a personal touch to witnessing. Even if it only seems like “a dent” on the evangelization effort, it is still a vital part to be encouraged.

May the Lord give us the courage to be his witnesses in word and deed.

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

Alleluia! Alleluia!! Alleluia!!!

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Easter Sunday

April 8, 2012

1st Reading: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 2nd Reading:  Col 3:1-4; Gospel: Jn 20:1-9

“Alleluia! Alleluia!! Alleluia!!!”

If you have ever attended worship in a Pentecostal church, or a properly inculturated church in Africa, or a regular worship of the Charismatic renewal group (grupo de oracion) anywhere in the U.S., you would probably observe the constant shouting of, “Halleluiah! Amen!” Hallelujah is a Hebrew expression, which simply means, “Praise the Lord!” When you see and hear people screaming and shouting, “Halleluiah! Halleluiah! Halleluiah!” during Easter season, you might just think that they are crazy. But if you can imagine yourself being one of the apostles who followed Christ, very closely, during the three years of his ministry, and you watched him suffer, unjustly, in the hands of his own people by hanging on the cross with blood all over his bruised body and, probably, watched him being buried, very quietly, in a borrowed tomb, the news of his Resurrection would make you more crazy than any of those people.
Christianity is based on Resurrection. Historically speaking, the apostles gathered every Sunday to celebrate the memorial of the Resurrection of Jesus; thus, without Resurrection there is no Christianity.

What do we celebrate at Easter?

At Easter, we celebrate the victory of Christ over death. We celebrate the victory of light over darkness, and we also celebrate the triumph of hope over despair. What is the significance of Easter in our life today? What challenge does it give us?

When the priest lights the Paschal candle from the new fire on Holy Saturday, he prays: “May the Light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel darkness over our hearts, and mind.” Christ is the Light of the world, and that is why the procession into the dark church proclaims him three times Christ our Light! Christ our Light! Christ our Light!

This Paschal candle stands in the sanctuary for everybody to see all throughout the fifty days of Easter Season. The Paschal candle is a symbol of the risen Christ and that is why at every Baptism we light a candle for the baptized person from it. Undoubtedly, one candle is enough to dispel the darkness in a room, and when we have two or three candles like that, there is enough light to brighten the entire room. Very few authentic and active Christians are sufficient to bring the light of Christ to the darkness of our neighborhood, church, and even the entire society.

Easter celebrates the response of God to the wickedness of human beings. For those who saw Jesus on Good Friday, hanging helplessly on the Cross, there may be a temptation to think that evil has the last word; but, by the Resurrection of Jesus on the third day, God absolutely declares his last Word. Evil has never, can never, and will never have the last word in the life of God’s children. Jesus died once and lives forever and so we are challenged to proclaim his Resurrection by our own lives. Easter challenges us to allow God to respond to a situation where all human effort is powerless.

Notably, we have handled very well the quiet, reflection, discipline, and penance of Lent. It is my hope that we can also handle the joy, the shouting of Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! during the seven weeks of the Easter season. This is the season of Alleluia but it seems to be too much for many Catholics to handle.  There is nothing wrong in being crazy for Jesus who died for our sake! If the apostles and the women of the early church were so unenthusiastic and passive, the faith would have died in the first century! No one can meet or experience the risen Christ and refuse to be passionate and crazy about him. This is the time for us to evangelize, to proclaim the risen Christ, as Peter did in today’s first reading. This is the time for us to go out like Mary of Magdala and the other women who proclaimed enthusiastically and passionately that Christ is risen.

May the unending power of light dispel the darkness of every human heart. May the joy of Easter continue to sustain the Church now and forever. The Lord is risen! Alleluia! The Lord is risen! Alleluia!! Alleluia!!!

Christians are “alleluia” people and I would like to conclude this reflection with a traditional prayer of the Church called Regina Caeli, Latin meaning “Queen of Heaven”, which is recited in place of the Angelus at 6a.m-12noon and-6.p.m throughout the Season of Easter. The Church encourages us to do this prayer three times a day, and that gives us the opportunity to shout alleluia whether you are in the church, in your car, in your kitchen, at work, on the farm, or anywhere. This prayer is said everyday from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. It is also very easy to memorize, so it can become a part of you.

Queen of Heaven, Rejoice!

V/Queen of Heaven, rejoice!

R/Alleluia!
V/For he whom you did merit to bear,

R/Alleluia!
V/Has risen as he said

R/ Alleluia!
V/Pray for us to God

R/ Alleluia!

V/Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary

R/Alleluia!
V/For the Lord has risen indeed

R/Alleluia.

Let us pray:
O God, who gave joy to the world through the Resurrection of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, grant, we beseech thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, his Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life: Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rejoice Always!

Clemente de Dios.