The first Christian Evangelist

As Christians, the importance of evangelization to our faith cannot be over-emphasized. It occupies so central a place in our very concept of faith- for if God, out of love for us, sent his son to lead us back to him by reproducing his very life in us, the fruit and indeed the proof of that very life of God in us is a life that seeks to also reach out to others. Like I have pointed out in a previous article, we were saved by the one mediator between God and man- Jesus Christ, who scripture says, ‘gave himself a ransom for all’. (1 Timothy 2:6). A true Christian spirit therefore consists in a ‘being for all’. Also, as St. Paul points out in Philippians 2, it follows that the kind of mind we should have amongst ourselves is such that was present in Christ Jesus who ‘emptied himself’ (Gr. Kenosis) for us, and so we should empty ourselves for others.

I sometimes like to put it this way; Jesus died on the cross for us so that we may die on the cross for others. The divine life that was emptied out into us was not just meant to be contained in us-No. It was rather meant to be emptied out as well into others. Evangelization is therefore a fruit of conversion, of salvation. Imagine a world full of Christian evangelists, of ‘other christs‘.

The centrality of this truth is shown forth from the very first day the good news of Christ’s birth came to earth- to man. Continue reading “The first Christian Evangelist”

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Equality with God

I thought to myself that I couldn’t leave the month of September without sharing with you my favorite bible passage from this month. And guess what, it’s a passage many of us are very familiar with but yet most times we miss the vital message from this passage. This favorite passage of mine is Philippians 2:1-11. So if you could read along with me… PS This will be long…

Here St. Paul starts out by admonishing the people of Philippi to imbibe some certain virtues in communion with one another, and for me, this forms the basis or background for what he is going to be telling us in the next 10 verses. What was St. Paul saying? That if there was any encouragement in Christ to be found amongst them, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection or sympathy, the faithful of Philippi should complete his Joy by being of the same mind, having the same love and being in full accord with one another. He advises them to shun selfishness or conceit, but that rather in humility they should ’count others as more important than yourselves’, looking out for other people’s interests and not their individual interests alone. (cf. Philippians 2:1-4). These may sound like mere virtues which are extrinsic or external and which the faithful of Philippi should acquire to, in a way, garnish their Christianity and make them look nice before other people, but St. Paul disagrees with this notion. For him, this mind which he want us to have is not extrinsic to our Christian heritage but indeed flows from it, because this mind was also in Christ Jesus. (cf. Philippians 2:5).

How was this mind in Christ Jesus? St. Paul tells us, ‘who though he was in the form (Gr. morphe) of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (Gr. harpagmos) but emptied himself (Gr. Kenosis) taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.’  The Greek for ‘grasped’ here could also mean ‘exploited’ or ‘used to his own advantage’, as Pauline scholarship agrees, and so there we have it. It is clear therefore that the central theme of Paul’s message can be said to be ‘humility=divinity’. Most times we tend to think that God exercises his divinity by ‘superiority’ or by ‘Lording’ himself over us. We have the conception that He is God because He is creator. This is indeed a false conception. God is indeed eternal but He is not an ‘Eternal Creator’, Creation is by no means an intrinsic attribute of God, God was never compelled to create, either by something within himself or outside himself. There is however one thing God is eternally, and that is an ‘Eternal Father’. When we read 1 John 4:8 and learn that God IS Love, we realize that Love is indeed an intrinsic attribute of his being. His being goes concurrently and is indeed synonymous with his love. And so being an eternal Father, what he does eternally is to make his very being a gift of love, his very being an outpouring or an emptying (kenosis) of his life in love to another. Continue reading “Equality with God”

The FECAMDS Family: The Making of a Nation of God’s Children

by: Fabian Chinenye Adili-George

 from Lagos State University College of Medicine, Ikeja

 as at the time of writing this piece he was the National Ex-officio FECAMDS, NIGERIA; 2014/2015.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success” –Henry Ford

If I ever have the opportunity of being questioned about my most inspiring moment of life, i bet I would say; it’s whenever I see the wonder of every new day, after the quiet dark of the night fades, and a new day is birthed. That which is most amazing is when I have the opportunity of witnessing that very moment when the skies bow in a slowly fading fashion and separate the night from the glow of a brand new day, and then the morning is etched with the echoes of faraway whistling birds. Wow! Is all that comes out of my mouth accompanied with this deep sense of reverence of the Almighty.

Science would tell us that my above description best fits the word “dawn” i.e. the time that marks the beginning of twilight before sunrise, recognized by the presence of weak sunlight while the sun itself is still below the horizon- the depth of knowledge behind this phenomenon is endless as many postulations on how and why it comes to be fills the air spaces and in the dotted lines of bulky textbooks, but if I was asked to explain that which happened, I would likely simply say ;”it’s a miracle born out of the works of the only creator of the universe who is God”.

One would surely be tempted at this stage to wonder where all this actually leads, but do not be alarmed as this write up is about “the FEDERATION OF CATHOLIC MEDICAL AND DENTAL STUDENTS, (FECAMDS) and her twentieth (20th) year of existence” she should be likened at this age to this “dawn” I speak of and is to blossom forth into her full blown “day” if we (her members) come to the understanding of some germane facts. Hence, we would be discussing twenty (20) steps we must all consider at our 20th year of existence as a nation of God’s chosen children. They are as follows: Continue reading “The FECAMDS Family: The Making of a Nation of God’s Children”

Please don’t Judge Me!!!

 

So I am still recovering from the wonderful experience I had at Delta State at the National Convention of the Federation of Catholic Medical and Dental Students (FECAMDS). Truly, it was a nice experience as I met many lovely people with sweet and beautiful hearts. In a way I experienced anew, the concept of family and the concept of communal work in the various activities organized for our benefit.

 

Last time I shared with you our experience on the way to Delta, and the things I learnt from our bible sharing that day on ‘Light on Our Minds’, today I’d like to share with you what I learnt on Friday at the thanksgiving mass. The Gospel passage that day was from Luke 6:35-42 and the Priest’s homily was centered on verses 37, 41-42 where our Lord categorically said, ‘don’t be a judge of others and you will not be judged, do not condemn and you will not be condemned…So why do you pay attention to the speck in your brother’s eye, while you have a log in your eye, and are not conscious of it? How can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take this speck out of your eye’, when you can’t remove the log in your own? You hypocrite! First, remove the log from your own eye, then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye’.

 

You see, this passage is one we have heard a lot of times, but sadly we do not practice, we rather take it to horrendous extremes and eventually leave the message unattended. The truth is, a lot of us are guilty of this very fundamental message, even in the Christian community. There are many reasons why what our Lord says is important for us. Despite the fact that he is God and all he says is not just true but has direct implications to our own individual life experiences, judging others or condemning them is flawed on many counts. First is, no matter how nice we think we are, no matter how good we think we are, WE ARE NOT PERFECT!!! And that’s the simple truth, the goodness in a Christian is first and foremost a gift, something that he didn’t merit on his own accord and so something he should never see as a right or as something which by his possessing it has made him better or more special or to be preferred by God to other human beings. The truth is we all have weaknesses and our weaknesses may be other people’s strengths and vice versa, but the issue in our day is that certain weaknesses the world or society considers horrible seem to be loudest on our lips and we forget that even the tiniest of iniquities is horrendous to God. (Habakkuk 1:13). At this point the story of the Pharisee and tax collector in prayer comes to mind, despite the fact that we read the scriptures so much and join Jesus in accusing the Pharisees, most of the time we tend towards the Pharisees whom we have joined Jesus in accusing. Continue reading “Please don’t Judge Me!!!”

Dance as a form of Praise

The psalmist under divine inspiration has continually cried out as he does in Psalm 67:4, ‘Let all the peoples praise you, O God, Let all the peoples praise you’. I call to mind also the prayer of praise of the three young men Shedrach, Meshach and Abednego while they were in the flames of the furnace. These three still had the courage to say, ‘All you works of the Lord, bless the Lord, Praise and exalt him above all forever’ (Daniel 3:57). Indeed the praise of God has rang out since the very foundations of the earth by all creatures and in so many ways. In fact, the need to praise God seems to be engraved in the very heart of creation itself. It is the psalmist also who, very clearly, gives us a picture of the possibility of even non-living creatures giving praise to the Lord their maker; the psalmist cries out in Psalm 148:3, ‘Praise Him O sun and Moon, Praise you Stars and Light’, and for what reason? ‘For he spoke, and they were made, he commanded and they were created’ (Psalm 148:6). The three young men also did cry out to the sun and moon, the stars of heaven and every shower and dew, nights and days, light and darkness, lightning and clouds, mountains and hills to praise and exalt Him. (Daniel 3:62-75). Continue reading “Dance as a form of Praise”

Our Salvation History as recorded by St. Luke

by: Prince Ndionyenmah

 

Birthdays are celebrated once every year, and it forms one of the most beautiful and memorable days in our lives. We live it like its the first, and we as well make of it like its our last…that’s why one in every 10 well wishers joyfully phrase: “enjoy it,” or “its your day,” or “have a blast dearie.” It is special not in the sense that it comes only but once in a year, but just like every other celebration, what makes it “your day” is that we get gifts from loved ones; gifts which could take any form as a “Happy Birthday” from an unlikely mate could mean a lot more than a gold wristwatch from a friend. In this, there are no celebrations without a celebrant; no gifts without a giver(wellwisher) and no “happy Birthday” without life. Continue reading “Our Salvation History as recorded by St. Luke”

Divine Mercy

by: Prince Ndionyenmah

Have you wondered how both Judas and Peter fared at the last hour? Did you notice that both sinned against Our Lord; Judas selling His master for 30 silver and betraying Him with a kiss, Peter on the other side denied he knew not ‘the man.’


To Peter Christ was just a man, but to Judas he recognizes Him still as his master. One would be moved to think that although both of them sinned, Peter’s was the heavier one being that he wasn’t just the newly appointed head of the Church, His flock, but because rather he had promised earlier and professed his love for his master as ‘he would die with Him.’ But in any case both of them sinned against our Lord and thereby wounded His heart of love. But let us take a look at how these two reacted to their sin in Matthew’s Gospel in the 27th chapter beginning from verse 1. The Good book tells us that Judas was sorry for he knew he had sinned and so he first of all sought restitution by returning the money he collected. Notice now that prior to this, Judas had failed twice: first by collecting money from the Pharisees to surrender his Master,

Secondly, by sealing the betrayal with a KISS. Peter on the other hand had denied his Master three times of which Christ foretold. Now both were sorry for their sins for they acknowledged they had tresspassed. For repentance to be complete there must be a recognition of fault…(the sinner must admit he has sinned). Secondly there must be a heart of sorrow..(I.e to say, a sign that he is truly sorry for his sins) and finally, the sinner must confess truly with total regret and a promise never to go back to his sin. These were the talking points in the case of Peter and Judas. Peter immediately sought repentance and is evident as the writer says ‘he cried bitterly.’ The stress in his action seemed to show a true contrition of Peter and a heart of sorrow, one which was open to confession. But in Judas’ case, although Matthew tells he was sorry and sought restitution, remember he had committed two faults, he rightly went back to the Pharisees and returned the ‘blood money’ as it was called. This was the first step he took. Now remember that by collecting the bribe, Judas atoned it by returning it back. But he had killed God with a kiss and just as he needed to atone for that, he was supposed to allow the Master welcome him back with a kiss of love.

Although Judas must have been heavily burdened with his sin, and guilt must have blinded his heart from seeking forgiveness, Judas probably taught he was doomed and could never get this mercy as he had not just sold his Master, he had killed God. He masterminded the killing and as such he was a killer. But Judas was faithless to have forgotten the words of his Master: ‘come all you who are heavily Laden and I’ll give you rest.’ Peter surely must have remembered when he asked: ‘master, how many times shall we forgive our brother who sins against us, seven times?’ He knew all he had to do was CONFESS. Judas allowing the devil not only use him to betray his Master, but to harden his heart so that he’d not sought forgiveness and believe he was beyond pardon. This was what Christ warned about sinning against the Holy Spirit. And by rejecting grace, Judas condemned himself even when God would never have. He rejected and resisted forgiveness and so he couldn’t get mercy. The difference between Peter and Judas is that; Peter focused more on the person he had failed, on the heart he had wounded; Judas whereas focused on the severity of his sin, he looked so much more on the consequence of his wrong doing and so he was blinded to confession. Peter was fully repentant, Judas was only remorseful.

And this brings us to the today’s homily and solemnity. The Divine Mercy of God. God has overtime professed and proved His unending Love and bountiful Mercy and becoming like us was just incredibly unimaginable. Dying for us was the ultimate proof of that love. And so we must all be confident in approaching His throne of mercy, we must always trust in His love so that we don’t lose sight of Him and become hardened just like Judas. There’s no sin God doesn’t forgive and just as His death cleared all debt and sin, we must remember His very words to His disciples.

‘take heart and do not fear, for I’ve conquered the world.’

Peace be with you!

Peter’s Boat

After a long while dearest friends I would like to share with you my meditations on Luke 5:1-11, which was the gospel reading in the Church two days ago. Actually I have written a reflection on this passage on this blog under the caption, The Virtues of a Fisherman, where we considered the virtues worth emulating, portrayed by the Holy Apostle during this event. We established that these virtues are actually important ones which a lot of us in our day need to acquire.

But taking a look at this passage once again I wish to share with us, quite a few other things. First, there is something about the boat. Over the years, spiritual reflection on this passage and on the entirety of scripture has come to see this boat as representing the Church, and there are a lot of things that tell us that right from this passage.
First we see that Jesus entered the boat ‘while the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God’. (Luke 5:1). This is very significant because that is exactly prophetic of Jesus founding his Church in order that he can teach and feed the people, to feed us with the Word of God, the words of Divine Wisdom, of truth and of Love that flowed from his sacred lips, but also to feed us Himself who is the ultimate and definitive Word of God (John 1:1), in the Eucharist.  Secondly, we also see that it was none other’s but Simon’s boat which he entered to teach the People the Word of God. This is the same Simon whom he appointed Chief Steward over his Church in Matthew 16:16-18. There is therefore little wonder that after the huge catch was made, He told Simon Peter, ‘Do not be afraid, henceforth you will be catching men’. (Luke 5:10), a further illustration that the just concluded miracle was only a prototype for what Peter and the other Apostles were going to be doing for Jesus in the establishing, consolidating and peopling the Church of God, the new Kingdom of God, which Jesus came to found.

 

And so once this has already been established, there are certain things that should not go unnoticed in this story. First, in this little story, the mystery of the Church is glimpsed at, for in the Church, in Peter’s boat, though it is Peter’s boat, though it is Peter who evangelizes and catches the huge fish, It is really Christ who teaches in his Church. Luke himself helps us to expand on this when he writes in Luke 10:16 that Christ told his Apostles, ‘Whoever hears you, hears me’. Christ himself in commissioning the Apostles to go and teach all nations in Matthew 28 quickly adds that He will be with them till the end of the age. This is why St. Paul who had a mystical understanding of what the Church is, especially in it being the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12), and Christ being the head of that body (Col. 1:18), adds that the Church is ‘the pillar and foundation of the truth’.(1 Tim. 3:15). Such that in her teaching of faith and morals, and in teaching and feeding us with the Word of God, the Church is Christ for us, for it is Christ who teaches and feeds us.
Again, in Luke 5 verse 2 of the passage we see that Luke was careful to mention to us that the Lord saw Two boats by the lake, but he entered one, only one, Peter’s. This truth is especially important in our day, especially with the ongoing multiplicity of Churches and the accompanying Religious indifference sweeping through Christendom, despite the contradictions in faith and doctrine. There is only One Church of Christ, not two, but only one. That Church though spread across nations has one faith, and one baptism. (1 Cor. 1:10). This Church is that where Peter was first Shepherd and continues to be the divinely constituted steward of the flock in the Apostolicity of his successors. We even see in Luke 5:7, 10 that even the other Apostles, James and John were called too, but to Peter’s boat to help in the catch, such that gathered around Peter, the apostles became the foundation on which the Church is built. (Eph. 2:20).
But on another note we see something that happens in this encounter between Peter and the Lord. This is very important for us to know. In Luke 5:4-5 when the Lord asked Peter to set out into the deep for a catch, though Peter explained how they had been there all night and had caught nothing, he still does it again, but this time, at the Lord’s word. In fact, to quote St. Peter himself in verse 5, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ Dearest friends, as part of the Church and members of the body of Christ we are obliged like Peter to be fishers of men, to be evangelizers, bringing people closer to experience the Joy we have in us, to be part of the body of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Each one of us is to do Apostolate, Evangelization. And so I ask, how is your apostolate going? How is your evangelization going? Like Peter does it seem as though you have toiled all night and caught nothing? Don’t you think it is as a result of your not seeking or waiting for the Lord to give his word before you set out?
Peter set out into deep throughout the night and caught nothing; it was not at the Lord’s word. But when the Lord gave his word, there was a rich catch. It would be very beneficial to us to always put God first in our work of evangelization. Therefore the first step in evangelization is Prayer, presenting the person or people in question before the Lord, and patiently waiting for him to give his word. That way, we are going to be assured of a huge catch. We should also remember that it is the Lord who is the principal agent of evangelization for it is him who calls, and so in our work of evangelization, we are only offering ourselves as tools in his hands. Everything we do in order to get ready and appear convincing, everything we read and study are only but sharpening a tool for God to use at his own disposal. So let us like Peter seek the Lord’s face and set out into the deep at his word.
The good thing is on the long run, he has already given his word, he is telling you and I, especially those of us who feel we should not evangelize or who are afraid of the challenges, the Lord says to us ‘set out into the deep for a catch’. That way, the result would marvel us, and like Peter and the other apostles, we will be astonished. (Luke 5:9).

From your friend and brother: Chibuzor F. Ogamba

WHAT DO YOU THINK GOD WANTS FROM YOU?

In Psalm 85:9, the responsorial for  today, we hear “The Lord speaks of Peace to his people”. And for some days now we have been reading from the Prophet Amos, who was sent to Israel, the Northern part of the divided kingdom to preach to them a message of repentance, to come back to their God. The kind of repentance Amos preached was what I would call a bit more thorough, because this time it concerned a change of heart and a questioning of conscience in the worship of God. This time the people of Israel had not stopped offering sacrifices to God, they had not another God in place of God, like Baal, but there was a lot of injustice and unrighteousness, even when they did not do all these.

Continue reading “WHAT DO YOU THINK GOD WANTS FROM YOU?”