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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Feast of the Holy Cross

Homily by: By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

"Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim / Till all the world adore his sacred name." This popular hymn beautifully expresses our sentiments as we celebrate today the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, also known as the Triumph of the Cross or simply the feast of the Holy Cross. We celebrate this important feast for two reasons: (1) to recall an historic event that proved to be extremely important in the life of the Christian church, and (2) to underline the importance of the symbol and reality of the cross in the daily life of every Christian man or woman. 

The important event we commemorate is the finding in the year 326 of the relics of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. According to St John Chrysostom, St Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine, longed to find the cross of Christ. For this reason she travelled to Jerusalem where she organized a dig at the hill of Calvary. The diggers uncovered three wooden crosses. They could not tell which was the cross of Jesus and which were the crosses of the two thieves crucified with him. Finally they brought a sick woman and a dead man who was being carried to burial. The three crosses were placed one after the other on the sick woman and on the dead man. Two of the crosses had no effect, but on contact with the third cross, the sick woman was healed of her infirmity and the dead man came to life. These miracles clearly indicated which of the three was the holy cross. News of the finding of the true cross quickly spread and believers gathered to see the true cross and to venerate it. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Makarios, standing on a raised platform, lifted high the cross, "exalting" it, for all to see. The people fell to their knees, bowing down before the cross and crying out repeatedly: "Lord, have mercy!" 

 St Helen then commissioned a church to be built over the site. The church of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated on September 13, 335. The feast of the finding and exaltation of the Cross was appointed to be celebrated annually on the following day. The basilica of the Holy Sepulchre is today regarded as the holiest spot on earth by Christians of all denominations. Today the sign of the cross has become a universal Christian symbol. When people sneeze and cross themselves or athletes make a sign of the cross before or during play, we recognize them immediately as Christians. Ornamental crosses are fashionable today in the form of necklaces, broaches, earrings, and the like. A crucifix (the cross with an image of Christ's body upon it) identifies a church as a Christian church. Likewise, crucifixes in the homes, the school and the classroom is a constant witness and reminder of our faith in Christ who died on the cross to set us free. These are all useful and important ways of proclaiming and lifting high the cross of Christ. The cross is not just a piece of wood. It is a symbolic summary of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ by which we have been redeemed. It is a symbol of our faith in the crucified and risen one, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Jesus taught us that the cross should be a constant feature in the daily lives of his followers: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). To take up the cross in this way we need to do more than wear a crucifix or place it in our surroundings. To lift up the cross the way Jesus asks us to do is a way of life. It is to accept self-denial and sacrifice as part of our daily lives. Sacrifice means to give up something that is of value to me for the sake of God and the benefit of my neighbor. Another word for it is love. Love is measured by sacrifice. People who love much sacrifice much. Yet sacrifice does not make us poorer but richer. This is what we see in Christ. This is what we see in the lives of the saints. This is what we are all called to be. Let us all today resolve to "Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim / Till all the world adore his sacred name."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Parable of the Seed


15th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A



My wife and I just returned from our annual mission trip to San Lucas Tolim├ín in Guatemala. Although we work on a variety of projects while we are there, including construction, reforestation, and coffee, it is spending time with the local people that I enjoy the most. The main town has continued to change over the years, modernize some, but the surrounding small villages have preserved a purity, simplicity, and peacefulness that is in great contrast to what we have become accustomed to.

Many of the children in the small villages still run and play without wearing shoes.The girls all wear brightly-colored woven clothing. And when a foreigner arrives they are quickly approached by the children with fearless and trusting curiosity. There are no iPods, gaming systems, cell phones, or texting amongst the children. Relationships are cultivated, nourished, and maintained directly and face to face.

Everywhere you go there is laughing, giggles, and smiles. One would not thinking of walking past another person without acknowledging their presence and greeting each other with either a “Buenos Dias”, “Buenas Tardes”, or “Como Estas”. These wonderful people have been preserved from the inward selfishness and self-centeredness that has become pandemic in our culture today.

As I watched the local Mayan people, and visited with a few of the friends that we have made there over the years, I quickly realized that their lives contain much more struggle and strife than my life does. Nutritious food can be scare at times. The water supply is infected with Amoebas. Many of the village people have chronic illness and have no means of obtaining help. Yet, they smile, laugh, and are optimistic about the future. They even graciously welcome strangers into their lives and treat them as a gift from God.

The faith of the Guatemalan people is deep and encompasses their entire life. These marvelous people fervently participate in the Mass unlike anything I have witnessed before. They sing at the top of their lungs. They pray with such deep emotion. And despite a church overflowing, there is complete reverence for the Sacred Mass. Maybe it has to do with their deep struggle in life. Or maybe is has to do with not knowing when they will again have Mass since routine Mass is not guaranteed. But, When the Mass is over, and the exit procession is complete, everyone in the church lowers down upon their knees for a few minutes of silent prayer before leaving, this is a quiet time for personal prayer and for thanking God for the holy encounter. There isn’t a single person who leaves Mass after communion, or who would ever think of leaving Mass early. What a wonderful example of faithfulness, honor, and respect.
___________________________

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of his word as being a seed. He speaks of 4 different kinds of people who receive it.
  • One who hears it but doesn’t understand it.
  • One who hears it, understands it, but allows the message to quickly fade away.
  • One who hears it, understands it, but allows worldly ways to push it aside.
  • And one who hears it, understands it, embraces it, and nourishes it, while allowing it to grow, and then receives great benefit from it. Let us take a minute and honestly think about our own lives, our relationships with others, and the quality of our personal and intimate relationship with Christ.

¿Which of the four people that Christ is talking about best describes us?

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions that might help us discern where we are spiritually right now.  Is our faith at the forefront of our lives?  Do we truly appreciate what we have in the Holy Mass?  Are the relationships with others in our lives more important than anything else?  Do we embrace strangers and the encounters with them as a gift from God? Do we regularly express external kindness more often than not?

Christ sews seeds in all soil, good and bad. We are that soil. In order to receive it and for it to bear fruit we have much work to do in our lives. We must begin by removing the objects within us that would prevent growth, be it jealously, pride, or lust. We must take Christ’s words to heart and act upon them, graciously serving those around us. We must nourish our mind with learning the faith, studying the saints, and listening to our Pope. We must get rid of the toxic things in our lives by using the sacrament of Confession regularly, choosing our friends wisely, and scrutinizing what we read, watch on TV, and search out on the internet.  And finally, getting to know in a deep, profound, and intimate way, who Christ is in the Holy Eucharist. Everything of who we are, and who we are called to be, originates right here in the Eucharist. He is the Source and Summit of our lives.
______________________

A few days ago I spoke to my daughter, Mackenzie, who has been working in Honduras and Guatemala this summer as a missionary and translator for the visiting American groups. She stated that the greatest and most profound experience that she had this summer, although heart-wrenching, was found in Honduras. She stated that she was asked to visit a home for abused girls and women, some as young as 10, and to minister to them. She described their wounds as deep and large. Only being 18 years old herself, she initially felt unqualified and inept to minister to them. All she could do was hold them, talk to them, listen, make them laugh, and love them.

Isn’t that all we want as well? To be heard and loved!

Maybe all we need to do in life is to hold one another.

Hold each other close and invite others into our lives.

To turn our gaze and focus outward.

Make each other laugh.

And simply, to just love one another, to love as Christ has loved us.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Free Download of my newest novel (May 28 and 29, 2014)



Greetings Friends and Family, My newest novel is available as a FREE Download through amazon from 05-28-14 through 05-29-14 from this site.

I had a lot of fun writing this one and I hope you enjoy it.

If you like the book, please tell a friend. It is my way of spreading the "Good News" and supporting the missionaries of The Family Mission Project.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Poem


"When you thought I wasn't looking"

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I immediately wanted to paint another.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you make my favorite cake for me,
and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick,
and I learned what it means to serve one another in brotherly love.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I heard you say a pray over me and kiss me goodnight,
and I felt loved and safe.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw how you handled your responsibilities even when you didn't feel good,
and I learned what it means to glorify God in all things.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you give of your time and money to the church and to people in need,
and I learned that God loves a cheerful giver.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it's alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you praying and reading the bible,
and I learned to depend on and trust in him too.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I looked at you and I wanted to say '"Thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn't looking."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Shepherd and the gate (Homily Year A, Easter, Week 4)


Homily - 4th Sunday of Easter
John 10: 1-10

To understand the parable of the sheep and the gate, it is helpful to trace our steps back two thousand years into the time of Christ, to the time of sheep, shepherds, and watering holes.

During the time of Jesus in the land of Palestine, during the evening, the shepherds would bring the sheep down from the hills to protect them at night when the wolves and mountain lions were hunting their prey. At night, the shepherds would gather their sheep together and lead them into large pens. These large pens were called sheepfolds. These sheepfolds or sheep pens had large walls which were made out of rocks. The walls of the sheep pens were about five feet high. On the top of the four stone walls were briars or prickly branches. The shepherds put the prickly briars along the top of the wall, as it was like our barbed-wire of today. The result was that the mountain lions and wolves couldn’t get inside the sheep pen. The door way was about two feet wide. …not wide at all. It was a small entry. It was like one small gap in the wall. So I ask you: What was the door made out of?

  • Was the door made out of wood that a carpenter had constructed?
  • Was it made out of wool, a wool blanket that a weaver had woven?
  • Was it made out of stones that the shepherd had piled up?
  • Was it made of out sticks, all laced together to form a barrier?
  • Was it made out of leather, a hide from the sheep?
  • Was it made out of linen, like a linen cloth hanging there in the gap in the wall?
What was the door made out of?

Actually there was no door!

The shepherd himself was the door, the gate. At night, the shepherd would sleep in the small opening of the rock wall. He would sleep there, by the fire, with his rod and staff. If a mountain lion would come, the shepherd would fight it off with his weapons, his short stocky club, or his long pointed staff. Literally and actually, the shepherd himself was the gate.Therefore, the meaning of this parable of Jesus is unlocked when we start to think of Jesus himself as being the gate.

He also mentioned that whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but tries to climb over elsewhere, is a thief and a robber.

Is he trying to say that there is no other way?

·         No short cuts?
·         No easy way?
·         No cutting corners?

I think so! It is in knowing Christ, serving Christ, and following Christ that we can have a meaningful and abundant life. He teaches us that to follow him we must also recognize his voice. And since most of us will never hear his voice audibly, we better learn to identify the other ways he speaks to us. The ordinary way that most of us will hear and recognize him will be in our prayers. So, we must ask ourselves: have we developed a prayer life that will allow us to hear him? So often he speaks in the quiet of our hearts and our minds. Have we developed a method of prayer that also allows our mind and our hearts to rest in peaceful quiet? If our life is in a state of constant distraction, constant stimulation, and endless external activities, how will we ever hear his voice?

I have come to know that to hear his voice, and to hear it clearly, it is in the quiet that it can be recognized. And since God often uses situations, events, and encounters to speak to us, we should reflect upon our daily events each night. It is in that prayerful reflection, that meditation, that examination of conscience, that he so often speaks to us, guides us, and inspired us. I was once told that we should imagine Jesus walking through our mind holding a candle. He will gently point the candle toward a though or idea, illuminating it, and drawing quiet attention toward it. However, if we aren’t paying attention, it will go unnoticed and his voice will never be heard.

So let us not only make room for Christ in our lives, but let us also make a decision to enter the sheepfold.

We will enter and follow our shepherd, Our Lord and savior.
We will not look for the easy way, nor will we try to take short cuts.
We will make time of quiet in our lives to get to know him, listen to him, and follow him.

By entering the sheepfold, following Christ, we will be protected from the world, the devil, and those mountain lions and wolves. Jesus is the only door, the only gate, and the only way that we must travel and pass through, to gain eternal life and a life worth living.