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Reflective prayer to Jesus on the way to Calvary

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Reflective prayer to Jesus on the way to Calvary

By Rev Fr Henry Opara

There is this popular song “all the way to Calvary he went for me”. The next line explains his mission: “he died to set me free”. This is the kernel of the Lenten season, a remembrance of these events leading to the suffering, death and eventually the resurrection.  Jesus invites his followers to carry their cross and follow him. We are already at the middle of the season. Some questions come to mind.

How have we carried the cross following our Master on his way to Calvary? How faithful have we been? We made our resolutions at the beginning of the season. At this point in time, how consistent and persevering have we been? Pause and ask yourself some personal questions and evaluate. Like Peter,(Lk 22:33) did you say “Lord I will die for you”, at the beginning of Lent? But where are you at the moment? Are we closer to our Master’s cross? Are we in the same direction?

Do we have the same mind, heart and disposition as we carry our own cross?

Do we have the will of the crucified Jesus, as we carry our own cross?

Cognizant of our weaknesses, the Church now offers this prayer on the third Sunday of Lent: “O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,

who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving has shown us the remedy for sin,

Look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your Mercy”.

Jesus knows us all. The Psalmist being aware, made this prayer: “O Lord you know me… You have scrutinized me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand you discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is formed in my mouth, you know what it is all about, O Lord” (Ps 139: 1-4).  The story of some Major Prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah are there for us.

     Our Merciful Lord knows our weaknesses. He told his disciples “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, he then asked them to pray and watch so that they do not enter into temptation”(Mtt 26: 41-42). St Paul’s in his own letter to the Romans lamented his flaws “we know that the law is spiritual; as for me, I am flesh and have been sold to sin. I cannot explain what is evil that I do, but it is sin, living in me. I know that what is right does not abide in me, I mean, in my flesh. I want to do what is right, but I am unable to do it…; but I notice in my body another law challenging the law of the spirit, and delivering me as a slave to the law of sin written in my members.  Alas, for me, who will free me from this being which is only death? “(Rom 7:14-18, 23-24)”. O Lord give me Grace to follow you to the end, to seek you and be with you. Like Peter to walk with you and to come to you. (Mtt. 14:22-33). Jesus, we are calling on you to help our poor trust from sinking deep.

Lord Jesus we need your help and constant presence. Thus cut off from you we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). Cardinal Sarah remarked in his book The day is now far spent “no human effort, however, talented or generous it may be, can transform a soul and give it to the life of Christ. Only the Grace and the cross of Jesus can save and sanctify souls and make the Church grow. Multiplying human efforts, believing that methods and strategies have any efficacy in themselves, will always be a waste of time. Christ alone can give his life to souls; he gives it in the measure in which he himself lives in us and has completely taken hold of us. So it is with the saints. Jesus lives in their whole lives, in all their actions, in all their desires”. 

We are so weak our Lord, you know the challenges we are facing in our struggles to be blameless and holy, for example the hazard in our environment, family upheavals, peer group influences, economic situations, work place temptation, superior- subject influence to mention but a few. Our consolation emanates from the belief that “our high priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for he was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning. Let us, then with confidence approach the throne of Grace; we will obtain Mercy and through his favor, help in due time. (Heb. 4:15-16). The episode of Jesus temptation is an affirmation of the above point.

Lord Jesus, on your way to Calvary you fell down three (3) good times though not onto sin, but we ourselves may fall uncountable times (to sin) on our own journey. No doubt you provided us through your Church the sacrament of reconciliation that offers us mercy, love, pardon and grace, and above all new life. We pray like the Psalmist; “have Mercy on us, O’ Lord, in your love. In your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil. For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind”. (Ps.51:1-3).

During your journey to Calvary, you experienced the support of Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, and Mary your mother to mention a few among others present to encourage you. Loving Father, kindly provide for us good friends who will assist us to persevere on the demands of the way of the cross.

Furthermore, our Lord Jesus Christ on your way to Calvary, you encountered betrayals especially from those whom you call your friends. What an annoying experience, but you forgave them totally from your heart for they do not know what they were doing. Help me by your Grace to forgive all those that may betray my trust in this journey.

Finally, Merciful Jesus, you died a shameful death but not as a result of shameful deed. You paid a price you did not owe. You allowed yourself to be placed side by side with criminals. What a disgraceful experience. St Paul succinctly puts it this way:  “while we proclaim a crucified messiah. For the Jews, what a great scandal! And for the Greeks, what nonsense!” (1 Cor. 1:23)

Lord Jesus, when I suffer innocently or have been placed side by side with bad people through castigation, injustice, calumny, help me to accept this for your sake, to await the glory that comes through perseverance. 

In all these experiences we pray like St Gregory the great, ‘remember Lord, though frail we be, by your own kind hand were we made; and help us; lest our frailty, cause your great name to be betrayed’.

Rev. Fr. Henry Opara is the Youth Chaplain, Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri

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Called to be Merciful

Fada Henry Ibe

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Called to be Merciful

The Feast of Divine Mercy is designed to commemorate the ever-flowing mercy of God which overshadows our unfaithfulness. The mercy of God which was perfected on the Cross of Calvary is an abundantly sufficient antidote for all our sins. As Scripture says, wherever sin increases, there is a more than proportional increase in the divine grace (cf. Rom. 5:20). In one of the revelations received by the Divine Mercy visionary Saint Faustina, Jesus said: “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open…. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.”

Today’s feast is an invitation for us to become channels of God’s Mercy. Many around us need our example to come to the knowledge of the truth about God, through our practice of basic Christian principles like empathy, forgiveness, and generosity. This was the experience of the first believers as we saw in the First Reading. They were of one heart and mind and none of them was lacking because they pulled their resources together. They shared an authentic bond of selfless love, and this is what the Lord wants us to do in today’s world. Whether by visiting the sick or elderly, comforting the lonely or suffering, forgiving and asking forgiveness, or listening to those needing to be heard, we have a chance every day to be instruments of God’s mercy.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows mercy to his Apostles after they had all abandoned him during his passion. He institutes the sacrament of reconciliation and grants each of them the faculty to forgive sins and bring about divine healing. Any sin they forgive is forgiven by God and any that they retain is retained. Through the sacrament of reconciliation, the unbounded ocean of God’s mercy is poured over our iniquities, to save us from guilt and shame. The Feast of Divine Mercy is a reminder and a call to show mercy to others.

In 2002, a young man in Florida, United States, was driving under the influence of alcohol when he crashed into another vehicle, and instantly killed two young women. The driver, Eric Smallridge, was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for 22 years. On the day of sentencing, he apologized to the victims’ families and they forgave him. After a while, the mother of one of the girls started a campaign against drink driving.  She always took the wreckage of her daughter’s vehicle to the campaign events and her story had a huge impact on many people around Florida.

As the years went by, she kept feeling that there was still something missing. She felt she needed to co-opt the convicted driver into her campaign to make it more effective. Accordingly, she lobbied to have him accompany her in her presentations, and the two formed an unlikely partnership for a common cause. This move opened the path to healing for both of them. The killer-driver attended the venues in his prison uniform, wearing shackles and chains.

According to this woman: “I could hate him forever and the world would tell me that I have a right to do that, but it’s not going to do me any good, and it’s not going to do him any good. I would grow old and bitter and angry and hateful. … In my opinion, forgiveness is the only way to heal.” She also grew to love the man and his family and even considered him to be like her own son. On his part, the man said he considered the woman to be an angel. He was initially due for release in 2022, but the woman pushed to have his sentence cut in half and he was eventually released in 2012. On why she pressed for his early release from prison she said: “I didn’t want him serving too long so that he would leave with a criminal mind … We live in a world with a lot of pain and heartache, I want to promote love and forgiveness and help break that cycle of hatred.”

Dear friends, mercy is an essential ingredient of peace in the world. According to Pope St. John Paul II, real peace is possible when humans learn to live harmoniously side-by-side with one another and show the willingness to forgive one another. In his words: “We all need to be forgiven by others, so we must all be ready to forgive. Asking and granting forgiveness is something profoundly worthy of every one of us. Forgiveness, in its truest and highest form, is a free act of love.” An unwillingness to forgive shows a lack of gratitude for the blood that was shed for us. The light of God’s forgiveness cannot shine through our lives when our hearts are locked against forgiving others.

As Christians, therefore, our greatest treasure is the gift of Christ as the perfect expression of divine mercy, the only force strong enough to penetrate the walls of pain, anger, fear, and resentment that surround our hearts. God’s mercy is sealed in the blood of his only Son, and there can be no gesture greater than that. The death of Jesus unleashed a flood of mercy on the world, and since this flood has yet to reach every heart, we are invited to become its channels. Today is a great opportunity to seek forgiveness for our mistakes, to forgive others, and to forgive ourselves. And so, with St Faustina, we pray: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Amen!

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THE LAST BORN (THE DIGNITY OF A WOMAN)

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THE LAST BORN (THE DIGNITY OF A WOMAN)

By Amb. Mrs. Roseline Emma Agbachi

WHAT IS HUMAN DIGNITY?

Human dignity is derives from fact that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Genesis 1:26. The Dignity of man therefore is based on the fact that dwelling in him or her is the image and likeness of the Father. We respect one another therefore because we are God’s image.

THE DIGNITY OF A WOMAN

The woman is the last dot in the master piece of creation. But without this dot, this master piece wouldn’t have been completed. To complete it therefore, the woman was created. The dignity of a woman lies in the fact that the Father created her to be not only a helper to man but to the Father Himself, because in helping the man, she is also helping the Father.

However, this is a two-sided coin, in the sense that she can help you to the throne as well as to the grave. Gen 3, Eve played a bad role, Gen. 16, Sarah brought confusion in the family, King 21, Jezebel planned to execute the murder of Naboth., to mention but a few.

THE MYSTERY OF A WOMAN

“Let us make him a helper” Gen 2: These were the very words of the Father when He sensed that there would be a mistake in His master piece of creation if the last and the most beautiful element is not introduced. And so, the word Helper in Hebrew is rendered “Ezeh”. This name is only found in the name of God, rendered as Ebenezer in Hebrew, which means “God my helper”

The Father took a rib from Adam to form the Eve (woman) but He took the rib of His name to Name her “Ezeh”. In creating her, He caused Adam to sleep so that He could present her as a surprise, a gift and a blessing to him. Before now, notice that Adam was not comfortable relating with other creatures. He wanted someone like him yet opposite.

If Adam was complete, the Father wouldn’t have thought of creating Eve, but then Adam was not complete. Not only Adam, creation itself was not complete.

Because of her office as a helper, it is given to her to bring peace, ease and calmness whenever and wherever. It is given to her to multiply, increase, and to expand what ever is entrusted to her. If she is in your life, everything changes. Sometimes too if she is not careful, she could lose this nature of hers out of carelessness. These can happen when she starts to compare herself to a man, or think that by performing her responsibilities, that she is being used.

Imagine what would happen to our world if she was not created? Everyone would be frustrated. But you know what? The Father is a perfect artist. He wouldn’t have allowed that to happen.

GATE KEEPER

A woman is a gate in the Spirit. The womb that was given to a woman is not just about child bearing, but it is also about bearing other beautiful and wonderful things. A man and a woman are two dimensions of the Father. The woman is the dimension of the Father that has to do with accessing anything in the Spirit. There are things in this life that only going through a woman can grant you. Going through her implies that, you have to love, respect, honor and appreciate her.

A lot of gates in one’s life could lock just by hurting and hating her. The primary assignment of the woman was not child bearing. It is something more than child bearing. In any gathering, when a woman is not there, then nothing fruitful would take place in that gathering. A woman is a signpost in the Spirit realm. She points to greatness and she can also point to down fall.

To understand the Holy Spirit, one needs to understand women first. Understanding her will help us know why her name was caved out from the ribs of the Holy Spirit. This is the reason why we all need to protect her from every harm.

THE DIGNITY OF A WOMAN

In our world today, the woman has lost many of her abilities. She has lost her unique role in creation and her purpose. The devil knew that she is caring, that was why he came to her to get Adam. Genesis 3

And today, the evil one is still playing the same role as he played during the time of creation. He makes her feel that

·               She is not complete without makeup so she gets addicted to it.

·               She is not being respected, so she forms all kinds of NGO’s to seek for respect.

·               She is not getting enough, so she campaigns for gender equality.

·               She is not pretty so she goes for plastic surgery.

·               To be loved by men you have to do this or that, so she goes out of her way to do things that even her soul hates.

·               Your husband is not man enough, so she looks for another man outside.

·               Expose your body and get the attention you need so she sends nudes pictures of herself, to mention but a few. But do you know why she won’t stop doing this to herself? Because he knows that she is caring, which the woman is ignorant about.

One of the ways to know that a woman has lost her dignity is, when she starts campaigning that people should respect her. This is because the Father created her in such a way that her presence would force you to respect her. This is the bone of my bone. Genesis 2:23

The dignity of a woman is in the awareness of where, why, what and how the Father created her. To rediscover this, the woman needs to go back to the creation story and rediscover for herself the secret behind her creation. When she has done this, she would know that, she has been deceived all this time into thinking that she needs to fight for equality, respect, honor etc. if she would respect her nature just the way the Father had created her, then the honor, glory and power would come naturally.

THE IGBO CONCEPT OF THE DIGNITY OF A WOMAN

In the Igbo culture, the word used to describe a woman who is a helper is the biblical sense is “OdoziAku” as against the home breaker “Ori aku”.

ODOZI AKU: From the name, this is a woman who guards and guides the wealth of the family, who is a helper in every sense of it, who puts the family first before everything and everyone. This kind of woman knows the difference between “needs” and “wants”. The family is more important to her than career.  She is a prayerful woman always on her kneels for the family. In summary, she is obi di a.

ORI AKU: From the name, this kind of woman is a woman in competition – the show-woman. She is the one who compares her husband with other men. She is after her wants and looks. She goes for the latest gadgets and cars in town not considering the future. Career is more important to her than the family. In a family like this, the maid is usually the mother of the Children. Sometimes the Vashti cycle repeats itself in this kind of family.

CATHOLIC WOMEN

When someone is very close to the Father, he or she needs to be careful so that the tendency to take things for granted does not creep in. I want to submit to you today that no one does more harm and violence to women more than a fellow woman. We know that the news of men acting in this way is no longer strange to us. But that of women is silent. It’s a woman that knows how best and where it hurts a fellow woman. As Catholic women, if we have to restore the dignity of the woman, we need first to restore our own dignity. We need to go back to our duties and roles as helpers, mothers, wives to our husbands, children, family and the society at large.

Some women no longer cook for their husbands and children. You have replaced yourself with your housemaid. Let me reveal to you the power of aura. When we cook for our families, we deposit our auras in that meal, when they eat, we are able to hold the bond together spiritually. Anyone who feeds you has control and power over you. Now do you still wish to allow your maid to do the cooking? And we complain that our husbands cheat, you have failed to do your job and a maid is doing it for you.

We have to remain humble and honor our husbands. Respect and don’t compare your husband with any one. Be interested in his mission and vision. We have to do this, if not we would permit the Vashti cycle to repeat in our lives. Queen Vashti lost her position because of Pride. Esther 1:10-12

Do not call any Pastor, Bishop, priest etc. any name you are not ready to call your husband. Do not even give that respect to any Pastor, Priest or Bishop you are not ready to show to your Husband.  Sarah calls Abraham my Lord. 1 Peter 3:6.

Every mother should pay attention not only to training their daughters, but they should also watch and train the boys. These days, we love the boys and train the girls. And that is why the boys don’t understand why a woman should be respected.

The dignity of the woman starts from the home. Be that Angel at home not outside. If Pope Francis should come to our parish today, you will see a lot of mother’s and women doing stuffs and things they have never and would never do at home. This is not dignity. This is disgrace.

Let us learn to help other women rise to the top. This is one of the most difficult things for women to do. This is because our elegance and beauty also came with its weakness. We are jealous and envious of one another.

Let us guard ourselves and our daughters from toxic groups, NGO’s, Clubs, Societies and information that seem to make the woman feel that she is cheated by man, nature and God.  That promotes hate and bitterness for men etc.

We should teach ourselves and our girls the nature of true beauty – that we are complete without anything to add.

We should cultivate the life of intimacy with the Holy Spirit. We bear His name, he will teach us how to be a perfect woman.

May the Name of the Lord be blessed both now and forevermore. Amen 

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How SHE Lives

Weep For Yourselves

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Weep For Yourselves

There are many salient lessons hidden in the passion week and Easter ceremonies. One only needs to look a little deeper to see these wisdom that have been embedded in these wonderful Christian rituals. It is celebrated the world over, that women were the ones who stayed with Christ till death. Even when the twelve or eleven remaining disciples fled. Thus, it became the bragging right of women in Christendom. This is one of the activities in the Bible that spurs women to over-zealousness in religious and church activities.

A little deeper in the account of Luke, precisely Luke Chapter 23:28, Christ gave a “caveat emptor”. We do recite it in stations of the cross, without paying much heed to it. Christ said… “daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and your children”. Perhaps, Christ was irritated by their over dramatic display of hurt. Maybe their aggrandizement and public show of religion without Christ, got to his guts. Perhaps he saw that they neglected their husbands, homes and neighbours in public display of following Christ, yet bore false witness against him the night before.

It will shock you to see and know the things women do to be noticed and to remain relevant in the scheme of things in religious environments. Women neglect their first God-given responsibility : their husbands and home, just to appear religious and committed to the church. Times without number, my husband and I, have mediated on issues bothering around wives neglecting the home for church activities. In such situations, you often hear the women raising statements like… “my husband does not want me to serve God”.

My dearest sisters, in all sincerity, those things you do in the church, are they intended for the service of God or are the intentions rather best known to you? Those women wailing on the street of Jerusalem could be likened to those of us who cook at home and turn all the food into the coolers and carry it off to the priests and pastors while our husbands and children remain hungry. Women who can sacrifice everything for the attention of the priests and pastors. Women who worship and adore pastors and priests and treat their husbands with total disregard and disrespect. Christ is telling us today to weep for ourselves and our children and not for him.

Let’s not get it wrong. Still in that crowd on the way of the cross, Christ recognized the sincere efforts of some women and their commitment and handed them over to one of his trusted disciples, to take care of. In the same vain, women who are sincerely committed to the things of God are commended. They do their due diligence with consideration to their homes. The Bible said so in Proverb 31:10-29. My fellow women, Christ does not resent or reject the services we render in sincerity of heart and intentions. If we recall, from the Bible account. It was around this season that Christ encouraged the woman with the jar of Alabaster to scrub his feet with her hairs and apply such expensive scent on his feet. That act appeared extravagant and controversial, but it was not done at the detriment of her home. In fact, there is nothing we give to the church and the priests that would be too much., so long as they are not given at the detriment of our homes. Such acts of goodwill should actually be done in agreement with our husbands and children where necessary.

How I wish that our pastors and priests, the representatives of Christ in our time, would be as blunt and as bold as Christ was to tell all the “daughters of Jerusalem ” to go weep for themselves and their children ; by asking all those “food-flask” carrying women if their husbands and children have eaten. By telling those attention seeking women that the attention of their husbands is all they need. To tell them, just like Jesus did, that their husbands also deserve such expensive gifts they spoil the priests with. Letting them know that the right thing, is that the priest share of the food they cooked for their husbands and homes and not their husbands and children eating the remnants of the food they cooked for the priests.. This will help the women get their priorities right.

So that, having journeyed with Christ through His passion and are singing His Hallelujah, we would know that while it is necessary for us to make sacrifices for the church and our priests, our homes should not suffer. Such that the risen Christ would not reject our efforts and sacrifices and tell us to go weep for ourselves and our children. I come in peace. Hallelujah
Shalom!

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