ISAIAH 2:1-5; PS. 98; 1TIM.2:1-8; MATTHEW 28:16-20
Fr. Evaristus Okeke: We are sent to One Another
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: Whom shall I send?
Fr. Paul Oredipe: “GIVE TO GOD THE THINGS THAT ARE GOD’S” (Mt. 22:21)
Fr. Evaristus Okeke:
We are sent to One Another
The pattern with which Jesus evangelized during his earthly ministry remains a rich source of inspiration if we must respond adequately to the yearnings for God in the hearts of men and women of our time. Most of Jesus’ teaching came about as a response to a prevailing situation. For example, after feeding the thousands of men with bread and fish, the crowds were increasing steadily for want of more bread. Such desire for Jesus was inordinate yet rather than send them away, Jesus taught them that he is the bread of life.
This means that rather than seeking for a bread that they will take home, only to come again when the bread is finished; they should seek to establish a permanent relationship with Him who is the bread that can gives life everlasting. In truth, the ability to reflect the face of Christ in whatever circumstances of life so that Christ remains perceived by men of every age and time, is the mission of every baptized Christian and the thrust of the mission Sunday celebration. Little wonder the theme of the Pope’s message for this year’s mission Sunday is “Here am I, send me (Isaiah 6:8).
How do we preach Christ and reflect His love in a world that is being ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic? In his message, the Holy Father noted that we are like the disciples in the Gospel who were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. There is confusing everywhere, and with one voice we are crying out “we are perishing”. We have seen how frail the human nature is. We have been forced to keep away from one another and even from public worship so that we can stay alive.
Ironically, we have even come to understand better that the social distancing we are asked to maintain in order to be alive, is what we cannot sustain if we must life meaningfully. So, the covid-19 pandemic has taught us that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves only. It has taught us that we cannot live outside or without God. The Pope says: “The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others”. Thus, on this mission Sunday, the first message taught us by the pandemic is that “We Need One Another”. This truth has been echoed more than ever in this time. To consciously join in echoing this truth of Love is what mission is all about.
God who is love Himself is healing the world already of this virus. We are recovering gradually; but we must be careful not to become like the Israelites who after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, made little of God’s wonders amongst them and desired slavery again. As we gradually come back to one another, living out our God-given social nature, it will be very ungrateful of us to live selfishly. God is sending each and every one of us to build up our social responsibility towards one another. Now is the time to love more, share more, pray more, help more, and de-emphasize whatever that does not enhance healthy human relationship.
While recognizing the fact that we are all involved in the missionary mandate of Christ given in the Gospel reading of today, St. Paul, in the second reading of today, exalts us all to pray for and support our leaders. This does not rule our criticisms but let be constructive and carried out with utmost goodwill.
He devil is grossly against the building up and expansion of God’s kingdom here on earth. Consequently, his fierce attack is always targeted against the leaders who are at the fore front of making disciples of all nations for Christ. So, please, pray for your Priests. A priest may never make his struggles the theme of his sermon nor will he have to emaciate in size to reveal his battles; yet, the struggles are real.
Do not assume the position of the devil’s advocate. See, an unhappy Priest can mean disaster to missionary work. When you pray for your priest, they will be happy, when you do not tempt them to sin, they will happy; when you correct them, they will happy, when you encourage them they will be happy; when you do not misjudge or gossip about them, they will be happy.
Beloved, we gradually return to one another, let us be all the more conscious and convince of the fact that WE NEED ONE ANOTHER. God Bless You!
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:
Whom shall I send?
Today the Church celebrates World Mission Sunday. The Holy Father, Pope Francis thanks the Lord for the opportunity to celebrate another World Mission Sunday amid the Coronavirus Pandemic. He says that: “even though Coronavirus has affected so many things, it will not stop us from proclaiming the Good news as St. Paul tells us “nothing can separate us from the love of our God”” (Rom.8:35-39).
The theme for the Pope’s message for this year is “Here am I, send me” (Is.6:8). The Pope says that amid the suffering and challenges of this year as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, God is looking for people to send out. He needs people like Prophet Isaiah who will answer “Here am I” to the question, “whom shall I send?” Today God is still asking this same question, can we hear him? Is 6:8 says “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?” And I said: “Here am I, send me!” Beloved in Christ, who will go for us? Who will be his messenger?
I, the Lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord, if you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart
I, who made the stars of night
I will make their darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
I, the Lord of snow and rain
I have borne my people’s pain
I have wept for love of them
They turn away
Today’s celebration should help us rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Christ Jesus, a faith graciously bestowed on us at baptism. Today, the practice of our faith as individual and as a church does not go beyond attending masses and societal meetings. The missionary dimension is almost forgotten. A day like this serves as a fast reminder to launch us into evangelization.
The word “Evangelization” is traced to the Hebrew word basar which means “to announce the good news or joyful tidings.” This is linked to the tradition in Old Testament of “bringing the good news of salvation” (Isaiah 52:7; 61:1). In the New Testament the word euangelion is a translation of the Hebrew word basar. It is in this sense that Jesus used it in the Synagogue (Lk 4:18-21) generally regarded as the manifesto of Christ. Jesus’ disciples continued this mission by proclaiming redemption and salvation to the world. Thus, Evangelization is the proclamation of the gospel, the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, to people who have not yet heard it. It takes place through the missionary activities of the Church which is built on the biblical theology of the Great Commission in Matt.28:19-20 to preach to the whole world.
Today, no one talks about the state of evangelization in the Catholic Church without reference to the New Evangelization. The New Evangelization is the particular process by which baptized members of the Catholic Church express the general Christian call to evangelization. The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. It is carried out in three principal settings”. The three settings are: 1) Ordinary pastoral ministry (to inflame the hearts of the faithful), 2) Outreach to “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism” and 3) Evangelization to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. We must rise up to this burning desire in the heart of God; the second reading says “God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Again, in the second reading, Paul inspires us further; he is Christianity’s missionary par excellence. Upon his conversion, he was commissioned by God to be “a chosen instrument . . . to carry [God’s] name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Paul had great zeal for this task, and he extensively engaged in all kinds of evangelistic endeavors: in synagogues, with individuals, in public halls, in homes, and through letters. God blessed his ministry, and Paul planted churches and tended to new flocks all across the Greek and Roman world of the first century. His example in Acts and teaching in his epistles serve as apostolic foundation for Christians till date. Lastly Paul says I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling. Today we must lift up our holy hands in prayer; without quarrel not just to #ENDSARS #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY #ENDBADGOVERNANCE we must also #ENDSIN; #ENDHATRED; #ENDGREED and win the world for God. Before we can do this we must #Endsin St. Paul lifted up holy hands; the hands and hearts we lift up in prayer how clean are they? We must #ENDSIN too.
The Gospel reading says “Go and make disciples of all nations.” this instruction is meant for all of us. We must continue to reach out to people. Mission keeps the Church alive; if the Church does not send it ends. The greatness of a church is not in its seating capacity but in its sending capacity. Rom.10:14 raised some question for mission, it asked “How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? Every baptized is a preacher. When one is baptized, he or she is expected to be productive. That is why we say redemption is not reduction. We have not been redeemed to reduce; we have been redeemed to produce. Thus in Matt.28:19 Jesus says “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” Go and be fruitful.
29TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR ‘A’ MISSION SUNDAY
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
“GIVE TO GOD THE THINGS THAT ARE GOD’S” (Mt. 22:21)
My lifetime, I will give God my lifetime. – 2ce
If I give God my lifetime, He will take care of me.
He will never ever let me down. I will give God my lifetime.
“Render … to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”
Indeed, we must render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. But we must also recall that everything belongs to God, including Caesar himself.
Secular government and culture have their legitimate place, but they are not independent of God and God’s purposes. Caesar depends on God, his Creator. So, the message is clear: nothing must be neglected, neither the temporal nor the spiritual. “Say among the nations: The Lord is king.” This verse from today’s Responsorial Psalm summarizes the message for today and invites us all to worship the Lord.
This message of today is what our readings display clearly before us. In both the first reading and the Gospel a world superpower is matched up against the kingdom of God. In the Gospel, Jesus wins the day when his enemies try to use the influence of the mighty roman empire to interfere with His mission. The enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ devised a trap for Him, with his own teaching on one side and the roman empire on the other.
These two groups, who were questioning Jesus, the Pharisees and the Herodians, were political enemies. But here we see them plotting together to try to entrap Jesus. Two bitter enemies with different political and religious convictions and agenda, momentarily forgot their differences, came together, planned together and agreed for the first time with one goal, namely, … to trap Jesus in what He said. Bitter enemies agreed to speak with one voice with an intention to draw Jesus into a snare.
No matter which way Jesus answers, He ends up in trouble. Jesus avoided the trap by making the Pharisees answer their own question. Jesus brilliantly dismantled their scheme by simply asking them to show him a coin.
Our Lord’s answer is at once so profound that they fail to grasp its meaning, and it is also faithful to his preaching about the Kingdom of God. Give Caesar what is his due, but no more, because God must assuredly be given what He has a right to (the other side of the question, which they omitted to put). God and Caesar are on two quite different levels, because for an Israelite God transcends all human categories.
The reply of Jesus goes beyond the human horizons of these tempters, far beyond the simple yes or no they wanted to draw out of Him.
Jesus takes the conversation one step further. He took their question to a higher level. As always, He seizes every opportunity to lead people to repentance, even those who have just tried to harm Him. He knows that, by already having in their pockets the special coins to pay their taxes, they are prepared to render Caesar what is Caesar’s. But do they render to God what belongs to God? Do we even today fully render God what belongs to Him?
We belong to God and He wants us completely. Do these words of the First Commandment echo in our hearts and mind today? “I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:2-3)
The response of Jesus in His words shows that He recognized civil authority and its rights, but He made it quite clear that the superior rights of God must be respected (cf. Vatican II, “Dignitatis Humanae”, 11), and pointed out that it is part of God’s will that we faithfully fulfill our civic duties (cf. Rom 13:1-7).
Our faith does not excuse us from doing what we should as citizens but neither should our responsibilities as citizens prevent us from doing our duty to God. Civil duties are not to be used as an excuse for neglecting our duties to God.
Caesar too depends on God and must answer to Him. God has first claim, total sovereignty, absolute control, over us and over all that we do before we give our allegiance to anything earthly. We are responsible only to God, as is all of creation. God is sovereign over all of creation, every person, everything in the created universe.
God comes first and even over Caesar himself with all his claims. To God therefore we owe total allegiance and loyalty because God has His legitimate claims to our allegiance, our love and divine claims over how we behave toward others. All authority and power have to be exercised and evaluated in the light of God’s plan. (cf. Rom 13:1-7)
Our world today is materialistic and seemingly soulless. We live in an increasingly lawless and loveless society (kidnapping, violence, robbery, etc), the standards of moral conduct are no longer sincerely Christian and legislators are all to prone to go along with the tide of what they conceive to be public opinion rather than what pleases God. How do we fulfill our duties to our society and much more to God?
As we come together each Sunday to take part in the Eucharist, are we the true worshippers in spirit and in truth whom the Father seeks and invites to the eternal wedding feast of his Son?
Not only are we created in God’s image and likeness. The Almighty created us out of nothing, and if He were to cease to sustain us, then we would cease to exist. We could fall back into nothingness. That total dependence on God as our Creator can only mean one thing; that in the end, we owe Him everything. Our duties to the state are real, though by their nature temporary. Our duty to God is not only primary but also everlasting, because of who and what He is.
Belonging to God, we are called to become in His image. We are called to actively maintain our gifts by living our faith in Christ. We are called to give to God what belongs to God so that it will not be said: “In their case the god of this world has blinded them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:4)
Today’s message is let us appreciate what God has given us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, let us preserve our gifts and blessings with all our souls, our minds, our spirits, our hearts and our strength. In the Most Holy Name of Jesus, let us keep these gifts stainless so that one day, when we will appear before the Lord God, we will proudly give Him back what He gave us. Then, we will rightfully inherit the assurance of our salvation.
The first reading of today reminds us of how God’s sovereignty extends over everything and indeed everyone, living and dead. Initially, God allowed the King of the Babylonians, Nebuchadnezzar, to conquer Jerusalem and bring all those who remained alive to Babylon. There was no hope for escape. But afterwards, the Jewish people prayed, repented, and promised to continue to reform. God found a way to do the impossible. He did this through Cyrus, a non-Jewish Babylonian king, the King of the Medes and Persians.
To Cyrus, this Persian ruler who was not part of God’s people, one who did not even know God, God says, “I call you. I anoint you Messiah to my people.” God could do that because God is sovereign over everyone, over all of us. God, through Cyrus, a non-Jewish Babylonian king, the King of the Medes and Persians, restored the Jewish people. Is that not wonderful?
Now if God could use a pagan king like Cyrus to accomplish his work and returned his people from exile, how much more can He use us, the people to whom he has entrusted his Spirit? That is why St. Paul tells the Thessalonians in the second reading: we preach not with words but with power, carried out in the Holy Spirit. We preach with complete conviction, because God acts through us.
We are all sons and daughters of God, yet some of us have been called in special ways with special graces to help other people to come to know, love, and serve the Lord our God at all times and places. The power of the Gospel is manifest among those of us here whose determination to live our convictions has attracted those who are unsatisfied with the valueless and clueless ideals of materialism.
Today, we are challenged to be available for God to use us. “Give to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt. 22:21) God uses us, the people who share his life and his Spirit, to return the world to its natural state of union with its Creator. He has anointed us, just as he anointed Cyrus, to deliver his people from a meaningless existence. Like Peter and the apostles in the early Church: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” “Obedience to God comes before obedience to man.” (Acts 5:29)
Dear friends, brother and sisters in Christ, may we all find firm encouragement to the closer following of Christ in hope and joy in our lives and may we all have the courage to allow him to use us to complete the salvation of his people.
Now let us, together rededicate ourselves to giving God the things that belong to God – our whole self. Let us renew our promises, our professions, our commitments and our vows. We do this in humble adoration.
ALL to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give.
ALL to Jesus I surrender, humbly at his feet I bow.
I surrender ALL. I surrender ALL. ALL to thee my blessed Saviour, I surrender ALL. 2ce
Please, recall the message of Pope Francis for today WORLD MISSION DAY 2020.
Here am I, send me (Is 6:8)
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
FOR WORLD MISSION DAY 2020
Here am I, send me (Is 6:8)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I wish to express my gratitude to God for the commitment with which the Church throughout the world carried out the Extraordinary Missionary Month last October. I am convinced that it stimulated missionary conversion in many communities on the path indicated by the theme: “Baptized and Sent: the Church of Christ on Mission in the World”.
In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah: “Here am I, send me” (6:8). This is the ever new response to the Lord’s question: “Whom shall I send?” (ibid.). This invitation from God’s merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity as a whole in the current world crisis. “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying ‘We are perishing’ (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this” (Meditation in Saint Peter’s Square, 27 March 2020). We are indeed frightened, disoriented and afraid. Pain and death make us experience our human frailty, but at the same time remind us of our deep desire for life and liberation from evil. In this context, the call to mission, the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbour presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer. The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.
In the sacrifice of the cross, where the mission of Jesus is fully accomplished (cf. Jn 19:28-30), God shows us that his love is for each and every one of us (cf. Jn 19:26-27). He asks us to be personally willing to be sent, because he himself is Love, love that is always “on mission”, always reaching out in order to give life. Out of his love for us, God the Father sent his Son Jesus (cf. Jn 3:16). Jesus is the Father’s Missionary: his life and ministry reveal his total obedience to the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4:34; 6:38; 8:12-30; Heb 10:5-10). Jesus, crucified and risen for us, draws us in turn into his mission of love, and with his Spirit which enlivens the Church, he makes us his disciples and sends us on a mission to the world and to its peoples.
“The mission, the ‘Church on the move’, is not a programme, an enterprise to be carried out by sheer force of will. It is Christ who makes the Church go out of herself. In the mission of evangelization, you move because the Holy Spirit pushes you, and carries you” (Senza di Lui non possiamo fare nulla: Essere missionari oggi nel mondo. Una conversazione con Gianni Valente, Libreria Editrice Vaticana: San Paolo, 2019, 16-17). God always loves us first and with this love comes to us and calls us. Our personal vocation comes from the fact that we are sons and daughters of God in the Church, his family, brothers and sisters in that love that Jesus has shown us. All, however, have a human dignity founded on the divine invitation to be children of God and to become, in the sacrament of Baptism and in the freedom of faith, what they have always been in the heart of God.
Life itself, as a gift freely received, is implicitly an invitation to this gift of self: it is a seed which, in the baptized, will blossom as a response of love in marriage or in virginity for the kingdom of God. Human life is born of the love of God, grows in love and tends towards love. No one is excluded from the love of God, and in the holy sacrifice of Jesus his Son on the cross, God conquered sin and death (cf. Rom 8:31-39). For God, evil – even sin – becomes a challenge to respond with even greater love (cf. Mt 5:38-48; Lk 22:33-34). In the Paschal Mystery, divine mercy heals our wounded humanity and is poured out upon the whole universe. The Church, the universal sacrament of God’s love for the world, continues the mission of Jesus in history and sends us everywhere so that, through our witness of faith and the proclamation of the Gospel, God may continue to manifest his love and in this way touch and transform hearts, minds, bodies, societies and cultures in every place and time.
Mission is a free and conscious response to God’s call. Yet we discern this call only when we have a personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his Church. Let us ask ourselves: are we prepared to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to listen to the call to mission, whether in our life as married couples or as consecrated persons or those called to the ordained ministry, and in all the everyday events of life? Are we willing to be sent forth at any time or place to witness to our faith in God the merciful Father, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, to share the divine life of the Holy Spirit by building up the Church? Are we, like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, ready to be completely at the service of God’s will (cf. Lk 1:38)? This interior openness is essential if we are to say to God: “Here am I, Lord, send me” (cf. Is 6:8). And this, not in the abstract, but in this chapter of the life of the Church and of history.
Understanding what God is saying to us at this time of pandemic also represents a challenge for the Church’s mission. Illness, suffering, fear and isolation challenge us. The poverty of those who die alone, the abandoned, those who have lost their jobs and income, the homeless and those who lack food challenge us. Being forced to observe social distancing and to stay at home invites us to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationship with God. Far from increasing mistrust and indifference, this situation should make us even more attentive to our way of relating to others. And prayer, in which God touches and moves our hearts, should make us ever more open to the need of our brothers and sisters for dignity and freedom, as well as our responsibility to care for all creation. The impossibility of gathering as a Church to celebrate the Eucharist has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday. In all of this, God’s question: “Whom shall I send?” is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: “Here am I, send me!” (Is 6:8). God continues to look for those whom he can send forth into the world and to the nations to bear witness to his love, his deliverance from sin and death, his liberation from evil (cf. Mt 9:35-38; Lk 10:1-12).
The celebration of World Mission Day is also an occasion for reaffirming how prayer, reflection and the material help of your offerings are so many opportunities to participate actively in the mission of Jesus in his Church. The charity expressed in the collections that take place during the liturgical celebrations of the third Sunday of October is aimed at supporting the missionary work carried out in my name by the Pontifical Mission Societies, in order to meet the spiritual and material needs of peoples and Churches throughout the world, for the salvation of all.
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization and Comforter of the Afflicted, missionary disciple of her Son Jesus, continue to intercede for us and sustain us.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 31 May 2020, Solemnity of Pentecost