THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The kingdom of God means the ruling of God in our hearts it means those principles which separate us from the kingdom of the world and the devil it means the benign sway of grace it means the Church as that Divine institution where we should make sure of attaining the spirit of Christ and so win that ultimate kingdom of God where God reigns without end (Catholic Encyclopedia: https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08646a.htm Referring to the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven as that ultimate kingdom where God reigns without end, John, the Autor of the book of Revelation says: I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. God will dwell with them and they will be God’s people and God will always be with them as their God. God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Rev 21:2-5). Referring to the Kingdom of God as the ruling of God in our hearts, Saint Paul tells us that the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit and that whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by others. He then urges everyone to pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another (Rm 14:16-1).
After John had been arrested, Jesus proclaimed the Gospel in Galilee saying: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:14-15). On another occasion he said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). The kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven was thus inaugurated on earth by Jesus Christ (CCC 567). “This kingdom shone out before men and women in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ” (LG 5 CCC 567). The Church is the seed and beginning of this kingdom and its keys are entrusted to Peter (CCC 567). The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ. Christ is thus the shepherd of the sheep, although ruled by human shepherds the sheep is nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd, and the Prince of the shepherds, who gave His life for the sheep (LG 6). This Church is no other one than the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, which our Savior, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity (LG 8).
By overcoming death through His own death and resurrection, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, redeemed humanity and re-molded men and women into a new creation. And by communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers and sisters called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body. Christ is the image of the invisible God and in Him all things came into being. He is before all creatures and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body which is the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the first place. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven (Col 1:15-20). By the greatness of His power, He rules the things in heaven and the things on earth, and with His all- surpassing perfection and way of acting He fills the whole body with the riches of His glory (LG 7). All the members ought to be molded in the likeness of Him, until Christ be formed in them. For this reason, we, who have been made to conform with Him, who have died with Him and risen with Him, are taken up into the mysteries of His life, until we will reign together with Him. On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths He trod, we are made one with His sufferings like the body is one with the Head, suffering with Him, that with Him we may be glorified (LG 7). May the Holy Spirit inspire us and help us to imitate Jesus Christ our Model in thought, word and deed so that when we die, we see God and live with God and the Angels and Saints for ever and ever, Amen!
Father Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp., PhD.
THE CALL OF SIMON PETER
From the beginning of his public life Jesus chose certain men, twelve in number, to be with him and to participate in his mission (Mt 10: 1-4; Mk 3:13-19; Lk 6:12-16; CCC 551). Simon Peter holds the first place (Mk 3: 16, 9: 2; Lk 24: 34; 1 Cor 15: 5). In the college of the Twelve, Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him (CCC 552). Jesus called Simon to become one of his Apostles and immediately changed his name from Simon to Peter saying: “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas” which means Rock or Peter (Jn 1:42). Jesus, at Caesarea Philippi, asked his disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:13-19).
Christ, the “living Stone” (1 P 2: 4), thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers and sisters in it (CCC 552). The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection (CCC 553) when he told Simon Peter to take proper care of the universal Church saying: Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep (Jn 21:15-17).
The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the Apostles (Mt 18:18) and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom (CCC 553). Jesus also prayed for Peter saying: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31-32). Simon peter is thus the Vicar of Christ, the head of the Apostles and the visible Head of the whole Church while Christ Jesus Himself is the supreme cornerstone (LG 19). Jesus Christ is the founder of the Catholic Church. He also told his disciples that he has much more to tell them, but they cannot bear it now but the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth will guide the Church to all truth.
May the Holy Spirit inspire us and help us to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church, so that when we die, we see God and live with God forever, Amen.
Father Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp., PhD
THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD
Jesus Christ is true God and true human person (Jn 1:1,14, CCC 464), he has no sin, but he received baptism from John the Baptist to teach us that no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:3-5). Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan. John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. A crowd of sinners, such as tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” John the Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son” (Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3: 21-22) This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as messiah of Israel and Son of God. The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death for he has come to “fulfill all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will, therefore out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming a wholesome delight in the Son. The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”. Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all humankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened,” the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed; and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit. This is a prelude to the new creation. All the Old Covenant prefiguration find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. After his resurrection Christ gives this mission to his apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of John, intended for sinners, to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus’ gesture is a manifestation of his self- emptying.
In his Passover Christ opened to all humanity the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a “Baptism” with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist is the sacrament of new life. From then on, it is possible “to be born of water and the Spirit” to enter the Kingdom of God (CCC 223-225).
Now that we have been freed from sin through baptism and we have become slaves of God, the benefit that we have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rm 6:22-23), may the Holy Spirit inspire us and help us to imitate Jesus Christ our Savior in whatever we do so that when we die, we live with him in heaven, Amen.
Father Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp., PhD.
THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year to everyone. May the year 2021 be for you a year without pandemic disease, a year of good health, fitness, God’s protection, fulfilling of dreams, great accomplishments, great achievements; a year of peace, love, happiness, and immense spiritual and material blessings; in the mighty name of the newborn Jesus Amen!
Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God, and Savior of the world. the great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. the magi’s coming to Jerusalem to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament (Catechism of the Catholic Church 528). The three wise men from the East were pagans but they searched for Jesus and found him; and when they found him, they worshiped him and gave him gifts (Mt 2:1-12).
Worship means going to Jesus without a list of petitions, but with one request alone: to abide with him. It is about discovering that joy and peace increase with praise and thanksgiving. In worship, we allow Jesus to heal and change us. In worship, we make it possible for the Lord to transform us by his love, to kindle light amid our darkness, to grant us strength in weakness and courage amid trials. Worship means concentrating on what is essential: ridding ourselves of useless things and addictions that anaesthetize the heart and confound the mind. In worship, we learn to reject what should not be worshiped: the god of money, the god of consumerism, the god of pleasure, the god of success, the god of self. Worship means bending low before the Most High and to discover in the presence of the Most High that life’s greatness does not consist in having, but in loving. Worship means recognizing that we are all brothers and sisters before the mystery of a love that bridges every distance: it is to encounter goodness at the source; it is to find in the God of closeness the courage to draw near to others. Worship means knowing how to be silent in the presence of the divine Word, and learning to use words that do not wound but console. Worship is an act of love that changes our lives. It is to do what the Magi did. To bring gold to the Lord and to tell him that nothing is more precious than him. To offer him incense and to tell him that only in union with him can our lives rise up to heaven. To present him with myrrh, balm for the bruised and wounded, and to promise him that we will aid our marginalized and suffering neighbors, in whom he himself is present. We usually know how to pray, we ask the Lord, we thank him, but the Church must move forward in her prayer of worship; we must grow in worshiping. This is wisdom that we must learn each day. Praying by worshiping: the prayer of worship. (The homily of Pope Francis at Mass of the Epiphany: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2 020/documents/papa-francesco_20200106_omelia- epifania.html
Like the three wise men, let us continue to search for Jesus Christ our Messiah and Savior of the world, let us continue to worship him and offer him gifts so that when we die, we unite with him in heaven Amen.
Father Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp., PhD
THE HOLY FAMILY
The family is a Domestic Church. Christ chose to be born and raised in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary. the Church is nothing other than “the family of God.” From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had become believers “together with all their household. “When they were converted, they desired that “their whole household” should also be saved. These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world. In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation, which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation.
“It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way “by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.“168 Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.”169 Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life. We must also remember the great number of single persons who, because of the circumstances in which they have to live – often not of their choosing – are especially close to Jesus’ heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors. Many remain without a human family of- ten due to conditions of poverty. Some live their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion. the doors of homes, the “domestic churches,” and of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them. “No one is without a family in this world: The Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who ‘labor and are heavy laden” (CCC 1655- 1658).
The Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is characterized by the virtues of humility, chastity, obedience, and love. Jesus is equal with God (Jn 1:1) but he is so humble that he did not see equality with God as something to becringed to. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human form and likeness, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:6 – 8). He lived a life of chastity in celibacy to the core and encouraged those who can, to go ahead and do the same (Mt 19:10 -12). During the annunciation, all these virtues were unfolded in Mary when she said to the Angel Gabriel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Now about Joseph, he is the least in that holy family of Nazareth but because he was a humble man with a solid faith in God, he obediently followed the advice and the instructions of the Angel to the letters (Lk 2:13-23). Like Jesus and Mary, Joseph also lived a life of chastity in celibacy to the full.
May the Holy Spirit inspire us and help us to imitate the holy family, by living a holy and humble that is rooted in solid faith and disciplined and strengthened by chastity so that when we die, we join the holy family of Jesus Mary and Joseph in everlasting happiness in heaven, through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Father Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp., PhD