Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Beatitudes are True Sources of Happiness by Fr. Joel

Last week we read about the call of the disciples to journey with Jesus and to continue hbeatitudesis mission after he is gone. We too have been called to do the same as the disciples of Jesus. Today we are being called to practice living out the beatitudes. The beatitudes were delivered by Jesus to his disciples on the mountain. This is soon after calling the disciples to follow him so that he will make them fishers of men and women. These beatitudes are not different from the Ten Commandments received by the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. They are the rules for true discipleship and supreme happiness in life. It is only those who live according to them that can be truly happy in life, says Jesus.
The antiphon of today said: ‘’save us, o Lord our God. And gather us from the nations, to give thanks to your Holy name and make it our glory to praise you.’’
The first reading said: Seek the Lord, seek justice, and seek humility. These are qualities expected of a true disciple of Jesus Christ and they are qualities that can bring true happiness in their lives.
The Psalm said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of God is theirs. It means realizing how poor we are in spiritual matters and desiring them from God. Poverty in spirit encourages humbly serve God and our neighbors. This is an attitude expected of true disciples of Jesus and when we possess such attitude were shall be truly happy in life.
In the second reading, Saint Paul said: God chose the foolish, weak, lowly, and despised of the world to shame the wise, strong, and the privilege people of the world. This means that worldly possessions and achievements are not capable of giving us true and lasting joy but heavenly riches are capable of doing so for us.
The gospel clearly explained the beatitudes as given by Jesus. It explain how seeking humility, justice, mercy, love, purity of heart, service to others, making sacrifice for the sake of God and our neighbors and so on are very rewarding to true disciples who are able to do so. Unfortunately, many people thing that worldly possessions and achievements are capable of giving lasting joy. But that is not true because worldly things can only give surface level happiness. We need to live our lives according to the beatitudes in order to experience true and lasting happiness in life. To be blessed means to be supremely happy in life. That is the kind of happiness Jesus promised his disciples if they practice the beatitudes.
The Ten Commandments are summarized into two commandments namely: love the Lord your God with all your strength and mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself. That is exactly what the beatitudes are demanding from true disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus is emphasizing the benefits of being true disciples and practicing the beatitudes so that we can be encouraged to so. Therefore if you want to be a true disciple, truly happy and gain salvation please practice the beatitudes.

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
THE BEATITUDES ARE TRUE SOURCES OF HAPPINESS

The Epiphany of Our Lord by Fr. Joel

Epiphany means the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Mathew 2:1-12). The Gentiles includes all non-Jewish people. Jesus was born among the Jewish people and his birth was revealed to other nations through the Magi. The Magi are three kings that represented the different parts of the world, who came to visit the new born king, Jesus. The Lord revealed to the Magi through a star that led them to the Baby Jesus. This means God revealed himself to the whole world, even though Jesus was born in Israel. Jesus is a universal king of the world. He is king of every race and nation. Therefore, no particular people can claim monopoly of him. He is for everybody in every nation.

The three kings came with gifts to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and to worship him. On the other hand Herod was angry at the birth of Jesus and wanted to kill him. Up to this day there are many who still hate Jesus and his church. That is being demonstrated in the persecution of Christians all over the world. Furthermore, the chief priests and leaders of the Jews were indifferent to the birth of Jesus Christ. This is still happening in our time. Many people are indifferent to Jesus Christ and are concern more about worldly things. Many of us are guilty of this because we place certain things in our lives above Jesus. This feast is a call to every one of us to celebrate the birth of Jesus as the universal king of all nations.

God created us differently and gave us different talents for a reason. Everything he created is good and beautiful. That is God’s creativity and it is wonderful. This is a fact that cannot be denied by anyone. Even identical twins have some differences in them. Our differences are not to be seen as sources of division and hatred for one another, but as sources of strength and beauty that come from God. These differences and talents should be used to build one strong family of God. Therefore, anyone who hates or dislikes others because they are different is just wasting God’s time and resources because no amount of effort or hatred would change our differences and make us to look the same. Our differences are God’s design and plan for the world. Therefore, let us accept it, appreciate it, and cherish our differences and love one another as children of God.

God created us differently for a purpose. He did not make any mistakes. The story of creation tells us that everything he created was good. And in creating us he did not give anyone everything that they need in this life, instead, he gave each one of us some things and denied us some other things. That is why, in order for us to be completely happy in this life, we have to depend on each other to get those things that we do not have. Therefore, we were created to complement each other before we can succeed and survive in this world.

Lack of appreciation for our differences breeds hatred, discrimination, racism, and war in our world. It is only when we begin to appreciate our differences that we will overcome our selfishness and begin to live in peace with one another. Everyone of is special and has somethings to contribute for the building of God’s kingdom. Let us tolerate and love one another and live as members of one big family of God

There are different ways of discriminating against people of different races. Some people think is only the majority or rich or powerful people who can discriminate against other people. No, even the minorities and less privilege people can discriminate against other people as well. Any form of segregation and showing of differences is racism. For instance, if you suppress and discriminate against other people because they are different from you, is discrimination. When you deny people their rights and privileges because they are different from you, is racism. When you see others as less or second class citizens because they are different from you, is racism. If you avoid people and bear grudges against them because they are different from you, is racism. If you decide to form groups of you own type of people only and refuse to mingle with others, is discrimination. When you speak in a language that is not known to everyone in a group, is discrimination.

Today as we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord to different people at different times, which means God’s love for all peoples and nations, we should learn to appreciate our diversity and love one another. Let us appreciate our different talents and use them to enrich our community and society. Let everyone bring what they have and share with others and our community will become a wonderful place for everyone. For instance, we have different priests and deacons with different talents, that is a blessing to our community; we have different choirs that sing at different masses and ceremonies, that is a blessing to our parish; we have different international communities here with different cultures and ways of doing things, that is also a blessing; we have different ministries for different services, that is another blessing in this parish; we have different people volunteering to offer different services, that is also a great blessing for our parish community. All of these contribute in very wonderful ways toward enriching and making our parish community great.

Unfortunately, some other people get upset when things are done differently or not their own ways. It is fruitless, however, to think that things would always be done the same way or your own way, because it is not possible. Our world is full of diversity, the earlier we recognize and appreciate that and use it for good the better for us. Here in this parish, in attempt to recognize and appreciate our diversity, we celebrate the feast of epiphany as our multicultural day. It is an effort to show appreciation for our diversity and to use it as source of strength and means of evangelization in our community and to the larger society. The rainbow, God designed it with different colors which suggest diversity in the world. Therefore, we are like the rainbow with different colors and diversity, what a beauty of God’s creation we are?

As a person, I like our diversity because I do not see our differences as distinctions or segregations but as different parts that are meant to complement each other to accomplish a great mission of God here on earth. For instance, I was not conscious of the fact that I was the only black person in the parish office, not until someone commented on face book at our staff picture from my country Nigeria saying, ‘’father you are the only black person among white people.’’ I see that as a compliment. And I have never felt that I am different from others in the office or parish. Another thing I really appreciated was when one the students in our school said to her classmate, look father has the same hair like you. For me that was identifying, complimenting and appreciating how God created others differently. This is how we should comment and appreciate our diversity and use it for the common good of our community and society. Another day, I was wearing my traditional clothe and a woman walked up to me and said she liked the dress because it was beautiful.

Every person, in spite of our differences, is very special and important in our parish community and society. Therefore, let us appreciate one another and work together to accomplish God’s mission in our lives. The mission of God is to love everyone without discrimination. Let us glorify the Lord with our colors and diversity because we are created in his image and likeness.

Just as the star guided the three wise men to where the baby Jesus was, that is how he has guided and brought us together in spite of our diversity to meet Jesus in this parish community. We are call upon to help guide others through our words and deeds to come meet Jesus. Let us use our diversity to reveal Jesus to others by the way we love and serve each other as children of God. The three wise men represented the then known world: Asia, Africa, and Europe, in the same way, our parish community which is made up of different international communities, represents the different cultures of the world today. The word catholic means universal; therefore, our parish is a universal parish because we have different cultures and nationalitijoel-bakoes that represent all the different parts of the world here. Our parish is truly the image of the Catholic Church. In this parish everyone is welcomed and accepted as a
member of one big family of God. Please feel free and be at home. Let us celebrate our diversity and use it to glorify God. Let us share our cultures, colors, food, and gifts with one another to demonstrate our love for each other and to reveal the baby Jesus to everyone.

Homily given by Fr. Joel Bako (pictured to the right) on Epiphany, January 8, 2017 at Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church in Irving, TX.

 

 

Solemnity of Mary by Fr. Joel

There are many dogmas (Church’s teachings or declarations) about the Virgin Mary. For instance; ‘’Immaculate ConceptMary, Mother of God.jpgion’’, which means she was conceived without sin and redeemed from inheriting original sin; ‘’Assumption into heaven’’, which means her body never experienced corruption here on earth; ‘’Mediatrix of all graces’’ because of her intercessory role to humanity; ‘’the queen ship of Mary’’, which means the Queen of all the saints in heaven; and then ‘’the holy mother of God’’ that we celebrate today. These are some of the different ways in which the Church honors Mary. The Church honors her because of her unique and profound role in the history of our salvation.
Many people would ask why we honor her. Some would say that we worship her. That is not true. Why do we call her mother of God? John 1:1… says: ‘’in the beginning there was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God and all things came through him, and without him nothing came to be….. And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…that is the incarnation’’ It is this word that took flesh in the womb of Mary. If that word is God then Mary is the mother of God since she gave birth to him. We can as well say that of all children their mothers are older than them except Jesus because he was before her as God and her creator. And so if God who created all things chose her and made her his mother, who are we not to give her that honor due to her?
In our creed we do say: ‘’ I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, born of the father before all ages. God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
BEGOTTEN NOT MADE—Means he was not created like us humans but was divine and only took a human nature to be with us. He is one in being with the father
CONSUBSATANTIAL WITH THE FATHER—means- he is of the same substance or being with the father. That is why he told the disciple that to have seen him is to have seen the father because they are of the same being and substance. Philippians 2:6 say: Though he was God but he did not count his equality with the father….. Rather he emptied or humbled him, and took the form of a slave, coming in human form. All these goes to confirm the fact that Jesus is truly God. Therefore, Mary is the mother of God and we should honor her accordingly.
In Luke 1: 48, Mary said ‘’from now hence forth all generation shall call me blessed because the Lord has done great things for me’’. So, we are simply fulfilling this prophecy as we honor her. Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist said to her ‘’blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of womb, Jesus. Whom am I that the mother of my Lord should visit me?’’
Some people question why we venerate images and pray asking for interception of the saints. We honor and revere our heroes in the civil society, and we name streets and buildings after them; we sometimes make their images to immortalized them and for remembrance. We make them our role models. So what is wrong if we do the same thing to the heroes of our faith and religion? We keep pictures and images of our family members, friends and dear ones. Why can’t we do the same to our spiritual family members and friends?
We go to mortal human beings and ask for prayers or intercessions. We also believe that when people lived good lives here on earth and they died, that they will go to heaven to be with God. You cannot be where God is unless you are like him in holiness. Therefore, if people here on earth can intercede for us, and God will listen and answer their prayers for us, why won’t God listen to those (saints) in heaven with him? The book of wisdom 3:1-9 says: ‘’the souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace….God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself….They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever’’. This explains to us the power and position of the saints in heaven. Therefore, praying and asking for their intercession is not out of place.
If you believe that Jesus is God and born by Mary, why can’t you honor her? If you honor and respect you own parents why can’t you honor and respect the mother of God? If you believe that ‘’with God all things are possible’’, why are you not believing the virginity of Mary ( immaculate conception) and the fact that she never had any other child but Jesus even though she was married to, and lived with Joseph? Why do you think that God himself will dwell in a human being like Mary and yet she would be unclean? The angel said she was full of grace, meaning that, she was redeemed and made pure without sin.
LESSIONS TO LEARN FROM MARY
• Her humility before God and her husband Joseph.
• Her generosity in giving herself and her son for the serving of mankind.
• Her purity of heart that attracted God’s favor to her.
• Her obedience and submissiveness to the will of God.
• Her faith in God despite a difficult message from an angel.
• Her gratefulness to God as expressed in her song of joy to God for doing great things to her.
• Her desire for justice to be done to the oppressed and poor.
• Above all she is a model for all Christians. Let us emulate her as we enter the new- year. Let us ponder on the word of God to get wisdom and knowledge to live a better Christian life this New Year.
• Let us consecrate ourselves to her for her maternal protection and intercession this new- year. Let us pray and work for peace, love, and unity in our society.
• Let us resolve to be better Christians in the new- year and do not carry unnecessary luggage into the New Year.
• I wish you a happy and prosperous new year.

THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD