BEYOND THE BURNING BUSH: THE CALL FOR FRUITFULNESS. HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

The sense of sight can be said to be the most exciting of all the external senses. We always wish to see and to see clearly. Even after hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting, we often still demand to see and to see closely. Notably, whatever we see can either build or destroy us; it can lead us onto the right path or onto the wrong path. Most people lost their lives while trying to see more and more like a certain woman who was killed by a stray bullet when she came out of her shop to have a closer look at an armed robbery scene at a nearby bank! The eye itself which is the primary organ for the sense of sight remains a window through which many things get into our minds.
In the First Reading today (Ex.3:1-8a.13-15), we recall Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. The background is that Moses fled to the land of Midian when his fight for the liberation of his people (the Hebrew race) turned against him (Ex. 2:11-15). It often happens in life that often your help or assistance can be misunderstood by the beneficiaries. In the land of Midian, he got favour from Jethro the priest after delivering his daughters from the hands of some shepherds who tried to stop them from getting water for their sheep. (Ex.2:16-18). From this protective and intercessory disposition, his status changed. In Egypt, he was rejected and made an out-law for trying to help his people but in Midian we was accepted and made an in-law for the same act of helping. Often times, we fail to understand that our condition of life today will not be the conclusion of our life; we need to stay in the game!
The land of Midian was not where God wanted Moses to spend the rest of his life. There is always a divine purpose for our life but there must be a starting point which may not be the ending point. The land of Midian was for Moses a place of learning, a place of preparation in view of the work of liberating the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land from being out-laws to being landlords. Moses fled from Egypt at the age of forty. Forty years later God called him to go back to Egypt in view of liberating the people he (Moses) wanted to set free forty year ago. It is only at the divinely appointed time that true liberation can come. It is not by power nor by might but by God able Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).
Before the encounter proper, Moses was at his employment; namely leading the flock of his father-in-law Jethro. He led the flock to the west side until he came to the mountain of the Lord (Horeb) where he had the most awesome encounter with the divine presence. This is reflective of our lives. We can only encounter God when we go in His direction. The west side here is the path that leads to God and to divine encounter. The call of the Lenten period is for us to advance towards the west side; the way that leads to Horeb.
Now at Horeb (or Sinai) the mountain of the Lord (the same place he would later receive the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:5ff). Something very spectacular happened. Moses saw a bush burning; which was not unusual, but the extraordinary thing was that the bush was not consumed by the fire. The primary duty of fire is to consume anything that it comes in contact with. The situation here was different; the bush was burning but was not consumed.
This could adequately serve as one of the outstanding wonders of the world; a burning but unconsumed bush. It could have been a deeply interesting sight to behold. However spectacular it was for sight, it was not mere entertainment for the Jewish shepherd. More than that, it was a theophany; that is a divine manifestation. It was particularly a divine manifestation with a divine message. We shall see in what follows the difference between the divine appearance and the divine message; the religious tree and the spiritual fruits.
Moses saw the bush burning without being consumed and he decided to go nearer to see why the bush was not consumed. On the process of getting nearer, he heard a voice calling his name from the burning bush: “Moses Moses!” It is remarkable to know that God called him by name. Of course God knows you (Jer.1:5) and your name is written on the palms of his hands. (Isaiah 49:16). There is power in name. It shows recognition more than anything. God recognized Moses and everything that concerns him (Ps.138:8).
Next, Moses was asked to remove his shoes as he was standing on a holy ground and he went further to hide his face realizing the fact that he was before the presence of the Almighty God and nobody sees Him and lives (Ex.33:20). Shoes are used to protect soles of our feet from direct contact with the ground which might be dirty, rocky, hot or cold. In essence, shoes give protection to the soles of our feet. Standing before God Moses was asked to remove his shoes because there is no protection that is greater than that which comes from the Holy One before whom he was standing.
We are very much like Moses. Within these forty days of Lent we have been asked to climb the mountain of the Lord by looking up, giving up, taking up and lifting up. Like Moses who was asked to remove his shoes, we have been asked to put aside our material comforts and to rely on God as our sure platform. We are reminded like Moses that we are standing on a holy ground (the Holy Season of Lent). As Moses hid his face, we are called to hide our faces and disconnect from sin and indeed all evil.
At the instance of the divine encounter, came the divine message. The mission to go and liberate the people of Israel from their captivity and slavery in Egypt. At this point Moses wanted to know whom the messenger is and God told him that he should tell the people that “I AM” sent him. There is no better description at this point than this. I am stands for the one who is present and continuous to be present. It stands for the one who has no expiration. “I am” means God that is and He will continue to be.
Now turning to the mission, Moses was asked to go to Egypt to bring about the liberation of the people. This was a mission that warranted bearing of fruits. The Lenten period is our time of reclaiming the grounds, of planting of seeds that would die, germinate, grow and bear fruits. This brings us to the gospel episode of today which among other things tells us about the parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13:1-9).
During the time of our Lord Jesus Christ people believed that those who died through accident were just paying for their sins. With this in mind, some people came to Jesus to tell him about some Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices. They were like saying: “their numerous sins caught up with them”. Jesus Christ had a contrary view. For him they were not the worst of sinners. He even reminded them also that the eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam collapsed were not also the worst of sinners.
The discussion above provided an opportunity for our Lord Jesus Christ to instruct the people about the need to make use of the opportunity one has to repent and come back to God or face the penalty of perishing. Our Lord in his typical way adopted a parable to establish his point vividly. He thus spoke about a barren fig tree that could not bear fruit after three years and which the owner wanted to cut down but the vinedresser counseled that it be given one more year wherein it will be given more attention by the vinedresser for it to bear fruit and if it fails then it will be destroyed.
For three years a fig tree was occupying the ground without bearing fruits. The number three is known biblically as representing completeness. Hence the fig tree had a complete life circle that should be productive of fruits; it was really time up for it to go. But there comes the vinedresser begging for it to be given one more year. The vinedresser here represents our Lord Jesus Christ who came to reconstruct and redefine our lives so that we can in turn bear dependable fruits. By his life passion, death and resurrection we are being given another chance.
Often in life we have burning bush experience when we hear the word of God that strikes us in a very personal way. Sometimes we experience things that show us the other side of life; the nothingness of this world. Sometimes we are wowed by certain situations and circumstances that we, like Moses, go down on our kneels and feel our limitations and need for God. The question that follows is: “what happens afterwards?” Beyond the religious tree God seeks to see spiritual fruits.
What happens in your life after hearing a powerful sermon, what becomes of your life after getting instruction from God at Mount Horeb? Do you go back wandering in the desert of sin or do you change your direction like Moses from Median to Egypt. Do remain unmoved or do you go ahead to bear good fruits.
There is a relationship of cause and effect between the burning bush and the fig tree. At the burning bush we are given instructions to work with upon encountering the presence of God and at the fig tree we are expected to bear fruits corresponding to the instructions we already received.
 The burning bush is the region of God’s presence where helpful instructions are given and should be received. We notice that the fire did not consume the bush. That fire represents God’s love that does not destroy us but moves us to bear fruits. It represents God’s burning love to have us saved by giving us another chance, another year to improve on what we have not done well. It is that love that inflames us to get the spiritual manure for fruitfulness.
Imagine if you have one more year to live like the fig tree had one more year to prove itself. Imagine if it has been certified by heaven and earth that this will be your last Lenten period as it has turned out to be for some people dying around us at the moment. Most of us will likely shout: “God forbid!” But the truth remains that not all living around the world this time would live to see Lent of next year. If this happens to be your last year what effort would you make to bear good fruits (Matt 7:20).
Looking back at your life, you may have had a fruitless past but there is a chance for a fruitful future. God’s burning love is patiently waiting for us; slow to anger abounding in kindness (Psalm 110:11).God does not need religious trees, but spiritual fruits (Gal.5:22). What Jesus said also applies to us: “unless we repent we shall as well perish!”
Do have a rewarding Third Sunday of Lent. Continue to Look Up, Give Up, Take Up and Lift UP this season.
Fr. Bonnie.

A Communiqué at the End of the First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria

A Communiqué at the End of the First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at the Daughters of Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC), Lugbe, Abuja, 13-19 February, 2016
 THEME: CATHOLIC CHURCH PROMOTING MERCY, SOCIAL JUSTICE AND PEACE
 1. PREAMBLE
 We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, held our First Plenary Meeting of the year at the Daughters of Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre Abuja, from 13 to 19 February, 2016. Having prayerfully reflected on the issues affecting the Church and our country, we now present our Communiqué.
 2. EVENTS IN THE CHURCH
 We pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop Emeritus of Port-Harcourt, Bishop Alexius Makozi, who was buried on 28 January, 2016. May the souls of all our departed bishops and all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace, Amen. We congratulate His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, on his Golden Jubilee of Episcopal Ordination. We also express our sentiments of joy and celebrate with Most Rev. Michael Okoro Bishop Emeritus of Abakaliki, on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee of Priestly Ordination, with Most Rev Francis Okobo, Bishop Emeritus of Nsukka, on his Golden Jubilee as a Priest and Silver Jubilee of Episcopal Ordination and with Nsukka Diocese on its Silber Jubilee. May the Lord continue to bless and strengthen his ministers and his Church, Amen. The 8th World Meeting of Families Celebration in Philadelphia, USA, and the 51st International Eucharistic Celebration in Cebu, Philippines, ended successfully. We hereby invite all to the National Meeting of Families taking place in the Archdiocese of Lagos from 11 to 14 April, 2016.
 3. YEAR OF MERCY IN ACTION
 We recognize that mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life (Misericordiae Vultus 10) and a criterion for the credibility of our faith namely, ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy’ (Matt 5:7). As members of God’s household, beneficiaries of the abundant mercy of God, we must make ourselves credible ambassadors of God’s mercy to our neighbours and to our world. As ambassadors of God’s mercy, we must rediscover the tremendous benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation; live out more fully the corporal and the spiritual works of mercy (Rom 12:8); draw men and women to be reconciled with God and among themselves and inspire them to live fully their Christian faith. We urge every particular Church in Nigeria to initiate programmes that will promote living this Holy Year as an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal. We reiterate the incisive statement of Saint Pope John XXIII to the effect that “there can be no peace between people unless there is peace within each one of them, unless, that is, each one builds up within oneself the order wished by God” (Pacem in Terris 165). We affirm that the human family is fundamental in attaining peace in the society.
 4. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
 We re-affirm the teaching of the Church that the human being is fundamental to the social order. Over the years, the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of promoting social justice. We commend the Justice, Development and Peace Commission and Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria for the good work they are doing. Given the emerging challenges of our time, we urge them to intensify efforts in promoting human rights, conflicts management, elections monitoring and advocacy for good governance. We are resolved in promoting a better quality of life for all, the right to work and the dignity of labour. We equally advocate integral education, poverty alleviation and health care services.
 5. THE STATE OF THE NATION
 We recognize the efforts of the Nigerian government, the Military and other Security Agencies in degrading Boko Haram Insurgency, especially in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. Yet, there are strings of attacks in soft targets such as Internally Displaced Persons camps, markets and parks. We encourage the government and security agencies to do all they can to defeat insurgents and prevent further loss of lives. We pray for God’s mercy on all who have died in this war. We equally enjoin government and indeed all Nigerians, to seek alternative strategies towards ending terrorism and thus win them over to our communities. We commend the initiative of the Federal Government towards rehabilitation of the Boko Haram victims. We also urge the government not to lose sight of the destroyed properties of all affected groups including the religious bodies, and request that the composition of relevant committees would include religious leaders in the North East, who are already working hard in this regard.
 We appreciate the efforts of the government in fighting corruption. In his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis says: ‘Corruption is a grave sin which cries out to heaven for vengeance, because it threatens the very foundation of personal and social life. It is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is a form of power’ (art. 19). We therefore call on the government to use appropriate legal processes to thoroughly investigate the crimes of the past, transparently prosecute accused persons, and hold the guilty accountable in accordance with the laws of the land. Nonetheless, legal efforts are not enough. We enjoin all to seek positive and effective way forward through our common spiritual and religious values, namely, prayers and spiritual/moral rebirth as basis for repentance, reparation and reconciliation.
 We note with dismay the glaring inequality in our society. The poor who have equal rights to benefit from the wealth of the Nation have continued to experience lack of basic human needs. We need to diversify our economy and invest more in grassroots economic infrastructure that promote healthy small/medium scale industry and enterprise. We call on public office holders to ensure that resources meant for national development and common good are used accordingly. This indeed is the goal and end of social justice. We are worried by the intractable culture of conflicts and growing criminality in our society. We all have a responsibility to ensure that no member of the society suffers violence, marginalisation and deprivation. We call on individuals and communities groups to be more vigilant and be proactively involved in ending these crises.
 6. MERCY, NATIONAL RECONCILIATION AND PEACE
 We recognize the dire need, in our nation, for positive thinking and action towards reconciliation, mercy and peace. Tribal, regional and religious sentiments have held us in bondage for decades. We urge Nigerians to work in solidarity to correct imbalances in resource/power sharing. Proper social security and good governance will engender functional education, employment, health-care, social justice and development, and thus curb corruption, violence, and poverty. In the spirit of restitution and healing of hurts, we request the relevant governments at all levels to return and rehabilitate the schools taken over by the governments after the Nigerian civil war, to their rightful owners, including the Catholic Church. Also, in the light of divine mercy, we urge the relevant government authorities to exercise their discretions on prerogative of mercy, pardon and amnesty with which they are empowered by the National Constitution in the interest of the common good. This is consistent with the teaching of Pope Francis: ‘Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe’ (Misericordiae Vultus, 21).
 7. PEACE: A TASK FOR ALL
 We reiterate the incisive statement of Saint Pope John XXIII to the effect that “there can be no peace between people unless there is peace within each one of them, unless, that is, each one builds up within oneself the order wished by God” (Pacem in Terris 165). We re-affirm that the human family is fundamental in attaining peace in the society. With a renewed urgency, we urge all families, especially Christian families, to live up to their expectations as harbingers of peace by shunning violence, building tolerance, creating an atmosphere of love, harmony, and mutual affection among their members. As a Church we shall continue to promote repentance, reparation, reconciliation, justice and peace by preaching the truth of the gospel, by witnessing of life, by strengthening and sustaining our various structures for conflict management and by advocating right order in the Church and the Society.
 8. CONCLUSION: LENTEN SEASON, A TIME OF GRACE
 We invite all Christian faithful and indeed all Nigerians, to seek the face of God whose is rich in Mercy (Eph 2:4). We call on all Nigerians, either as individuals or as communities, to repent of their wrong doing (Joel 2:13) with a firm resolution to change for the better, and amend their ways by making reparation and restitution for their sinful conduct. It is only then that true reconciliation can take place in a spirit of forgiveness which leads to peace and harmony. We pray that Mary, Mother of Mercy, intercede for us so that we may be worthy of receiving the mercy of God and sharing same with our brothers and sisters. Amen.
 Most Rev Ignatius Ayau KAIGAMA Most Rev William A. AVENYA
 President, CBCN, Archbishop of Jos Secretary, CBCN, Bishop of Gboko

Fr. Albert Ofere turns Afro Pop Musician

Expressions come in various forms. Ideally now, beyond standing on the pulpit to preach the Word of God, some creative minds, albeit men of God have taken it upon themselves to employ the sound of the generation, in taking their messages across to the world. That is exactly what Father Albert Owie Ofere has done with his new work, Every Day of My Life, which has a collection of six tracks: God Dey My Side, When I Think, Where Were You, Jesus Lamb of God, God You are Good and Oghene me do. A fusion of Afro pop and gospel, this piece has made Albert Ofere, the first Catholic priest to delve into Afro pop. “I know it’s very unique and new coming from a priest I have come to realise that praising God is a powerful way of connecting with God, and it releases a great deal of power into our lives.
No wonder Psalm 149.3 says: ‘Let them praise His name with dancing, and make music with timbrel and harp.’ The song ‘God Dey My Side’ is written in praise of God, reminding us that the Almighty God is on our side. And because He is on our side we have nothing to be afraid of. Indeed If God be for us who can be against us? Romans 8:31. Realising this fact we cannot but dance for joy.” To drive home this fact, Father Ofere has enlisted the services of award – winning director, Obi Emelonye and renowned comedian, Nkem Owoh who collaborated for a musical video that is currently trending online on You Tube. The video which captures the essence of the sing-along tune was shot on locations in London, UK.” Giving his view of gospel music in Africa, Father Ofere said: “Gospel music in Nigeria and Africa is wonderful and awesome. On the world stage we are doing well. But we can do more by seeking the face of God more, and allowing God to speak through our music.” 
 The songs are currently available online at iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby

5 Reasons the Catholic Church is the True Church

There are many reasons the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ, however, some of those reasons are necessary for discussions with those outside the Catholic Church. Jesus prayed for unity of believers and unity begins with understanding. The understanding of the Church’s beliefs is essential in working toward that unity. Here are some key reasons to keep in mind when speaking to non-Catholics:
1.) Authority – Jesus gave specific instructions regarding dealing with members of the Church who were in sin. Matthew 18:15-18 says “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” What Evangelical/Protestant Church has the authority to remove someone completely from the church? None. If an individual is removed from a ‘congregation’ then he/she can go down the street and join another ‘congregation’ of the same denomination. The congregations are individualized and have no authority outside their own denomination. That is not true with the Catholic Church. If removed from the Catholic Church, one cannot go to another city and join another Catholic Parish.
2.) History – The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest and original Christian Church, therefore, the beliefs and teachings of the Church were directly passed onto the leaders of the Catholic Church by the apostles. The Catholic Church began with the teachings of Jesus Christ, around 1 Century AD in the province of Judea of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church is the continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus and no modern Christian Church can make that claim. By the end of the 2 century, bishops began congregating in regional synods and to correct doctrinal and policy issues and by the time the 3 century came around, the Bishop of Rome (Pope) served as the decisive authority, kind of like a court of appeals, for problems and issues the bishops could not resolve. This is identical to the Bible’s teaching. In Exodus 18 we see where the children of Israel brought their disputes to Moses and Moses settled those disputes. However, it also shows where leaders appointed by Moses also worked to settle disputes.
The Catholic Church remained the only Christian Church until the East-West Schism of 1054, which caused medieval Christianity to split and become two separate branches. The greatest division, however, came during the Reformation from 1517-1648, led by Martin Luther. The East-West (Great) Schism was caused by Patriarch Michael I. According to Titus 3:9-11, the divisions led by Patriarch Michael I and Martin Luther were sin. “Avoid foolish arguments, genealogies, rivalries, and quarrels about the law, for they are useless and futile. After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic, realizing that such a person is perverted and sinful and stands self-condemned..”
3.) The Catholic Church gave Christians the Bible – The first official list of books contained is what is the Bible was done at the Council of Hippo in 393 and then again in Carthage in 397 and 419. However, the Council of Trent in 1556 was the first time the Church infallibly defined these books as ‘inspired’ because it was questioned by Reformers. We have to admit, the apostles did not walk around with nice leather bound Bibles in their hand. There are many parts of the Bible that are oral tradition which was written down because when early believers attended the Synagogue or church, the scripture was read. They did not have their own copy with their name engraved on the front. Oral tradition was the norm of practice long before writing and reading was a part of life. The Jews followed the Old Testament before Jesus was born and Jesus is pictured in Scripture reading from the Old Testament in the Synagogue. There were multiple writings from this time but it was only after the list of books determined to be the ‘inspired Word of God’ by the Catholic Church first with the Council of Hippo in 393 that the world had what is called “The Bible”. The Bible remained the original 73 books determined by the Catholic Church until the Reformation, when Martin Luther threw out 7 books of the Old Testament that disagreed with his personal view of theology…the same Old Testament adhered to by the Jews. He threw these 6 books out in the 16 Century. Luther also attempted to throw out New Testament books James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation. In referring to James, he said he wanted to ‘throw Jimmy into the fire’ and the book of James was ‘an epistle of straw’ with no usefulness. After Pope Damasus I approved the 27 New Testament Books however in 382 AD, Luther agreed with the Pope and accepted the New Testament books but denied the Old Testament books …which remained out of his Bible. Non-Catholics will accept the Biblical books which are contained in the Protestant Bible but do not acknowledge they are accepting and trusting the authority of the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church was the one who proclaimed the entire list, as a whole, as ‘inspired’. The letters within the Bible are not the only letters and materials written by the Apostles so, as a result, those contained within the Bible had to be declared ‘inspired’ and it was the Catholic Church which did that duty.
4.) The Sacraments are Biblical – The Apostles were given the power to ‘forgive sins’ in John 20:23, Peter taught in I Peter 3:21 that ‘baptism now saves you’, ‘anointing the sick with oil was shown in James 5:14-15, laying on of hands in Acts 8:17 and 2 Timothy 1:6, marriage in the Lord in I Corinthians 7:39 and Jesus stated numerous times that the disciples should participate in the breaking of bread (Eucharist) by stating ‘he who eats my flesh has eternal life’.
5.) Sola Scriptura is not supported in the Bible – It is difficult to make a claim such as Sola Scriptura (The Bible Alone) when, in its very essence, the claim must be written within the Bible in order to be Biblical. The concept of “Bible Alone” says it is not truth if it is not contained in the Bible, therefore removing ‘tradition’, but the Bible refutes that principle. Jeremiah 25:3 says the “Word of the Lord” is “spoken”, not just written. Paul told us to hold to our traditions, which are taught by word and mouth or by letter, according to 2 Thess 2:15. The Bible also portrays where a Council was held to settle doctrinal disputes in Acts 15. (Who else has a Council to settle doctrine disputes and holds the authority to do such other than the Catholic Church?) The Bible also warns about ‘twisted’ interpretations of Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16 and I Timothy 3:15 says THE CHURCH is the pillar and the bulwark of the truth. The Catholic Church has one teaching…one unified teaching…as opposed to the now 43,000 evangelical (Protestant) groups currently established, with 2.3 added each day. Their views on everything from the Trinity, homosexuality, abortion, and salvation all contradict each other. Truth cannot be false at the same time and Truth cannot contradict each other.

BY AMELIA MONROE CARLSON
Photo Credit: Flickr / Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Pope to Consecrated: Don’t Be Gossip Terrorists

Pope Francis admitted today that the lack of vocations in some parts of the Church can cause him to feel tempted to lack hope, but he says that it is a call to pray more fervently, as Anna prayed for the gift of a son, and was given Samuel.
The Pope spoke of this today — and also of the sin of gossip — when he received in audience consecrated men and women celebrating their jubilee at the end of the Year of Consecrated Life.
Tomorrow, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day of Consecrated Life, marks the end of the special jubilee year.
The Pope left aside his prepared text and instead spoke to the consecrated off-the-cuff.
He first spoke about obedience, saying some consecrated persons give a witness of obedience that is prophetic.
“There are men and women among you who live intense obedience, an obedience, which is not military, no, not this; that is discipline, something else – an obedience of donation of the heart. And this is prophecy,” he said.
This obedience works against the “seed of anarchy, which the devil sows,” the Pope stated.
He warned that the “anarchy of the will is the daughter of the devil, not the daughter of God. The Son of God was not anarchic; He did not call His own to be a force of resistance against his enemies. He Himself said so to Pilate. […] But He obeyed His Father.”
Obedience can be hard, as Jesus’ was, but it prophetically shows people that “there is a way of happiness, of grandeur, a way that fills one with joy, which is precisely the way of Jesus. It is the way of being close to Jesus,” Francis assured.
Charity at home
Pope Francis also spoke to the consecrated persons about living charity, first with those in their communities, and also by being close to those whom they serve.
Consecrated life should lead “to closeness with people: physical, spiritual closeness, to know the people,” he stated.
And this applies at home: “Who is the first neighbor of a consecrated man or woman? The brother or the sister of the community. He is your first neighbor.”
A threat to this closeness is what the Pope referred to —using an expression he has used on other occasions — as bombs of gossip.
“Listen well: no gossip, no terrorism of gossip, because one who gossips is a terrorist. He is a terrorist in his community, because he throws a word like a bomb against this, against that, and then goes away tranquil. He destroys! One who does this destroys, as a bomb, and he moves away.”
Controlling one’s tongue, as St. James says, is perhaps the “most difficult virtue,” the Pope acknowledged. “If you feel like saying something against a brother or a sister, to throw a bomb of gossip, bite your tongue! Intensely! No terrorism in the communities!”
Pointing to the example of St. Therese, who bore with patience the difficulties given her by sisters in her community, the Pope remarked that “if, in this Year of Mercy, each one of you succeeds in never being a gossip terrorist, it would be a success for the Church, a success of great sanctity! Be courageous!”
Hope
Finally, the Holy Father turned to the theme of hope.
“I confess to you,” he said, “that it costs me much when I see the drop in vocations, when I receive bishops and ask them: ‘How many seminarians do you have?’ ‘Four, five …’ When in your Religious Communities – masculine and feminine – you have a novice, two … and the Community is growing old, growing old …”
“And this awakens in me a temptation against hope: ‘But, Lord, what’s happening? Why has the womb of consecrated life become so sterile?’”
“Some Congregations are doing the experiment of ‘artificial insemination,’” the Pope said, noting how religious superiors sometimes are leaving aside the proper discernment about those who approach with a possible vocation. “What do they do? They receive: ‘But yes, come, come, come …’ And then the problems <begin> that exist inside there … No. One must receive with seriousness! One must discern well if it’s a true vocation and help it to grow.”
Instead, the Pontiff said, “against this temptation of losing hope, caused by this sterility, we must pray more. And we must pray without getting tired.”
He continued: “It does me much good to read that passage of Scripture, in which Anna – Samuel’s mother – prayed and asked for a son. She prayed and moved her lips, and prayed … And the old priest, who was somewhat blind and couldn’t see well, thought she was drunk. But the heart of that woman [said to God]: ‘I want a son!’
“I ask you: in face of this drop in vocations does your heart pray with this intensity? ‘Our Congregation is in need of sons, our Congregation is in need of daughters …’ The Lord who is so generous, will not fail in His promise, but we must ask for it. We must knock on the door of His heart.”

Source : Zenit

APC condemns Mbaka’s transfer by Enugu Catholic Diocese

The APC has condemned the transfer of popular Enugu cleric, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka from Christ the King Parish in the Government Reserved Area, GRA, of the state to Our Lady Parish in Emene, a suburb of the state.
In a statement released today January 31st, the spokesperson of the APC South-East zone, Osita Okechukwu, condemned Mbaka’s transfer and alleged that the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo influenced Mbaka’s transfer to a new parish where he will serve under someone else.
“It was wrong to punish the fearless priest for his prophecies which has proved to be from God. Whereas we accept that the transfer of priests is a routine exercise of the great Catholic Church, however we do not wholly accept a situation where the church allows external forces to influence transfer as the Mbaka’s case suggests. Otherwise, future liberation clergy who speak truth to power will be hamstrung to the detriment of the society. Our major concern is the security implications and the fate of his flocks who are mostly the downtrodden who may find it difficult to go to Emene for salvation and healing. We frown at anything which will put Fr. Mbaka in harms way or deny his flocks healing. As a party, we have watched with concern and trepidation the criticism, the attack, assault and unpleasant comments hurled against Fr. Mbaka since he providentially prophesied that President Buhari would win the 2015 elections. Even the Church did not spare him, he was called unprintable names, yet his prophecy came true. We are happy that Fr. Mbaka was vindicated. It must be pointed out that accusing fingers were pointed at the direction of some anti-Buhari elements like Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a group that didn’t want to hear the name of Buhari , even though Ohanaeze denied the allegation, doubts still persists. For we are still at a loss why a senior priest will be degraded to an assistant parish priest. We repeat that we are in solidarity with Fr. Mbaka and our major concern is the security of Fr. Mbaka and the suffering of his flocks mostly the poor who need his healing powers. We had thought that His Lordship Bishop Calistus Onaga could have retained him at the Adoration Ground, as the Bishop Emeritus Gbuji did because of security of his life and

Father Mbaka says he is going to suffer following his transfer to another Parish

Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, yesterday Jan. 30th bowed out of Christ the King Parish, GRA, Enugu, which he’d presided over as parish priest for 20 years. On his way to his new presiding parish, Our lady Parish, Emene, in Enugu, over 30 lorries accom­panied by thousands of his faithful followers escorted him in a motorcade to a new church where he will be an assistant parish priest.
The transfer of reverend fathers is not an issue in the catholic church as it is a routine exercise that is done every once in a while but Fr. Mbaka’s transfer became an issue because the people saw it as a measure for his recent prophecies especially that of December 31st 2014, when he predicted that former President Goodluck Jonathan would be defeated in the 2015 elections. This has however been dismissed by the church.
His transfer as a parish priest to a resident priest, in which he will serve under another priest, has also caused a stir among people because he has been with the catholic church for years so it is only normal to make him the parish priest and not an assistant.
While handing over formally to his successor yesterday, Mbaka said:
“I know we are going to suffer; between now and few months to come, I am going to suffer; I am going to suffer because I have no place to lay my head; I am going to suffer because I have no place to keep the Ministry’s assets; I know I am going to suffer; fortunate going to suffer because I have no ly it’s going to happen in the month of Lent; so I am going to use my exit here to observe the Lent. But Jesus said it to His apostles in John 16:20, ‘You will be sorrowful and the world will be rejoicing but very soon I will turn your sorrows to joy.’ So I am waiting for that moment because for now I know we are going to suffer. The Adoration Ministry is passing through suffering right now; even though I have accepted it as the will of God; it is the will of God through suffering; it is a mega suffering. But however, the grace of God will carry us all; even though some of you may pray that God should remove this thorn from us, the scripture says ‘His grace is sufficient for us; for its even in your weakness that the power of God is demonstrated. So we are moving but don’t forget the scriptures, ‘my brothers they make me keeper of vineyards, my own vineyard I keepeth not. All these while we have been keeping vineyards, building for Christ The King Parish…Bishop Gbuji asked them, how much …but because I don’t want to disclose my charity, they can’t keep that account. How many trailer loads of cement came here? All the monies I made from my cassette and other private crusades all of them were used to build this church. We cannot quantify it but let God be glorified.”
“It is the will of God, and when the will of God either permissive or however, happens, nobody should question it. All you have today is Amen; so to the will of God Fr. Mbaka has said Amen”.
He said he’s accepting the decision of the church leadership with absolute obedience, adding that nobody should see him as an obstinate priest. He also assured them that the parish would not collapse due to his exit, and urged the members to treat his successor, Rev. Fr. Theodore Ozoamalu, well, and to assist him in any way he needs help and not allow him to cry.
“Don’t starve him; don’t allow him to suffer; in my own time I didn’t need your help because God blessed me in my own unique way and I am happy. God will keep the parish because we have fought the good fight; I am not regretting anything and the highest gift God has given here is his Holy Spirit who assisted me up till now” he said.

Source: TheSun

Bioethics Q-and-A: End of Life Decision Making: What Should Catholics Do?

Some might find it difficult or even repugnant to initiate a forthright conversation with a loved one about treatment plans at the end of life. I urge you to overcome this resistance.

You check into a hospital for a routine procedure. They ask you if you have a living will. You say no. They slide a form in front of you with simplistic questions such as: Do you want to be resuscitated if you go into cardiac arrest? Do you want mechanical ventilation if you are unable to breath? Do you want nutrients and fluids supplied to your body if you’re unconscious?
Your gut tells you the questions are superficial. If CPR could revive you and you could live decently for a while longer, yes, you’d want it. If you’d die anyway an hour later, then no. If ventilation was a temporary measure to help you overcome an acute condition, yes. If you were permanently unconscious and never able to breathe again on our own, then perhaps no. And food and water? Of course you want to be fed. What’s the alternative, starvation?
You don’t get much help from the check-in clerk. And hospital healthcare managers give you ideologically-laden advice such as “think about your values…and what you feel would make your life not worth living” (from the
Mayo Clinic website). “Life not worth living!?,” you ask, “Where does that idea come from? Not from Catholic faith.”
But you recall that your Aunt Agatha didn’t have an Advance Directive and she was subjected to aggressive and obviously-futile treatments at the end of her life and suffered unnecessarily. You’re pretty sure that if she’d been asked she’d have said: “Enough’s enough. Let me go to God!” But she was unconscious. You fear that if you don’t fill out the form, something like this might happen to you. What should you do?
Advice for Catholics: If you can avoid using
Living Wills and POLST ( MOST ) forms, by all means do so. Their simplistic check-box format poses unacceptable risks from both the perspective of good medical decision-making and good ethical decision-making. They risk binding the hands of medical professionals to non-treatment decisions that are not in the best interests of patients.
But this does not mean that Catholics should be unprepared for end-of-life crises. I recommend that all Catholics who are able should do the following three things:
First , execute in writing a Health Care Power of Attorney ( HCPA) assigning a proxy decision maker—sometimes called a “surrogate”—to act as your healthcare agent in the event that you become incapable of making informed decisions. You can do this yourself without costly legal fees. Just make sure that your
HCPA is adequately specific and your signature is validly witnessed. Here are a few things you might include.
Invest your proxy with full authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, including but not limited to the power to:
(1) consent to, or refuse, or withdraw consent to, any type of medical care, treatment, surgical procedure, diagnostic procedure, medication and the use of mechanical or other procedures that affect any bodily function, including, in appropriate circumstances, life-sustaining procedures. [*Note: this power does not extend to the refusing of properly “ordinary means” of care, defined in Catholic teaching as forms of care or treatment that promise a “reasonable hope of benefit” and are “not excessively burdensome.” The
Catholic Church teaches that the administration of food and water is always ordinary care unless and until one’s body no longer can assimilate them, at which time their administration becomes futile and is no longer obligatory];
(2) request, receive, and review any information regarding your physical or mental health, including but not limited to medical, hospital and other records; and to consent to or authorize the use and disclosure of such information;
(3) employ and discharge your health care providers;
(4) authorize your admission to or discharge (including transfer to another facility) from any hospital, hospice, nursing home, assisted living facility or other medical care facility;
(5) authorize that you be discharged from a medical facility and be brought home and cared for at home;
(6) take any lawful actions necessary to carry out these decisions.
You may also want to state that the authority of your agent is subject to no limitation except the law of God, the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church, and your agent’s own conscience.
Second, ensure that your proxy not only is willing to direct all relevant medical decisions in accord with Catholic faith and morals, but understands what doing so means. Frequently the limiting factor in legal disputes over end-of-life decisions comes down to uncertainty of the wishes of the patient. Remove all uncertainty. Make your wishes known both orally and in writing as clearly as possible to your proxy and to other loved ones.
If you are uncertain about Church teaching on end-of-life decision-making, speak to your parish priest, or an informed Catholic medical professional, or contact trustworthy groups like the
Catholic Medical Association, or your diocesan moral theologian, or, if nothing else is available, directly contact your local bishop.
Third , in the event that you or your proxy are faced with a situation in which the judgment of a hospital ethics committee or other hospital decision makers seems to conflict with your faith or morals, don’t be afraid to mount a legal challenge in court. If you are reticent because of the cost of legal representation, consult with a reliable Christian advocacy ministry such as Alliance Defending Freedom,
Christian Legal Society , and American Center for Law and Justice. You might even contact one of the 50 state affiliates of National Right to Life .
Some might find it difficult or even repugnant to initiate a forthright conversation with a loved one about treatment plans at the end of life. I urge you to overcome this resistance. Because a large majority of medical resources in U.S. healthcare are consumed on end-of-life treatments for the elderly, secular medicine, fueled by Obamacare, and with the support of the medical insurance industry, is investing enormous energy in publicizing and distributing secular tools for end-of-life decision making. The tools are invariably skewed in the direction of refusal of life sustaining treatments. Although flagrant examples of aggressive overtreatment still exist, U.S. healthcare is travelling rapidly and ineluctably in the direction of a culture of refusal. Without conscientious advance planning, some will find the pressure to check the “refusal” box on these documents hard to resist.

Christian Brugger is Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, DC, and Cardinal Stafford Professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
[Readers may send questions regarding bioethics to zenitbioethics{at}gmail.com. The text should include your initials, your city and state, province or country. The fellows at the Culture of Life Foundation will answer a select number of the questions that arrive.]

Pope’s Morning Homily: Don’t Let Sin Turn Into Corruption

During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Francis Stresses ‘Ugliest Thing’ Is He Who Thinks He Has ‘No Need for Forgiveness’




Even if one sins often, whenever one returns to God seeking forgiveness, he never needs to doubt he will be forgiven.
Pope Francis made this point during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning, as he distinguished sinners from the corrupt, who “no longer see the need to be forgiven” and “don’t feel they need God,” reported Vatican Radio.
The Pontiff drew his inspiration from today’s first reading, which raccounted the story of David and Bathsheba. After David seduced Bathsheba, he found out that she was pregnant, and he hatched a plot to cover-up his adultery, including doing everything in his power to arrange the death of Basheba’s husband, a loyal man, by having him killed in battle and making it look like an accident.
“David is a saint, but also a sinner,” the Pope stressed, who fell on account of lust, but who God still loves him very much.
However, he pointed, we observe that when he arranges this murder, we see “a moment through which we all can pass in our life: it is the passage from sin to corruption.”
Corruption, the Pope acknowledged, “is a very easy sin for all of us who have some power, whether it be ecclesiastical, religious, economic, political… Because the devil makes us feel certain: ‘I can do it.’”
The Holy Father went on to warn against this moment in which the “attitude of sin, or a moment where our situation is so secure and we see well and we have so much power’ that sin ‘stops’ and becomes ‘corruption.’”
“One of the ugliest things” about corruption, the Pontiff underscored, is that the one who becomes corrupt thinks he has “no need for forgiveness.”
“Today, let us offer a prayer for the Church, beginning with ourselves, for the Pope, for the Bishops, for the priests, for consecrated men and women, for the lay faithful: ‘Lord, save us, save us from corruption.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “We are sinners, yes, O Lord, all of us, but [let us] never [become] corrupt!’ Let us ask for this grace.”

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Cull from a lighthouse 

Kenyan mothers name newborns after Pope Francis

Following the visit of Pope Francis to Kenya, 13 babies born yesterday, November 26, at Kakamega County Referral Hospital, were named after him. Some of the names includes Francisca, Francis, Pope Devin, Pope Francis, Fransisco, Pope Wambua.
According to Standard Digital News, the hospital maternity ward has recorded 13 newborns since the Pope’s arrival. The happy mothers said they had decided to name their babies after the Pope to draw from the character of the Catholic Pontif Immaculate Katiechi delivered her baby boy at 1 am and immediately named the child Pope Devin, but said was considering registering the baby as Pope Francis.

Another baby boy was delivered at Nakuru Nursing Home a few hours after the Pope’s arrival was also named Francis. Linda Tanui, the baby’s mother, said her sister had suggested that the newborn be named after the Pope.
A nun belonging to a Catholic family from Mogotio in Baringo County had suggested that the new member be named Fransisco Mario, which is the other name of the Pontiff. Alice Ng’etich, the grandmother of the newborn, said the coincidence is a sign of God’s love for the family, which is still recovering from the loss of one of her children.
At Coast General Hospital, 29 babies were born after midnight and a few mothers named their children after the Pope. Mercy Wambua, a resident of Tudor, named her baby Pope Wambua. Another mother Betty Murende, who is a devoted Catholic, named her daughter Francisca out of respect for the visiting Pope.