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Lenten Reflections 2017 - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

Monday, Fourth Week of Lent

March 27, 2017 


Is 65: 17-21/ Ps 30: 2 and 4. 5-6. 11-12a and 13b/ Jn 4: 43-54. 

By *Mr. Lotanna Obiezu, SJ

 

My little cousin Munachi once suffered from a life-threatening respiratory infection when she was about six months old. On one occasion when she was rushed to the hospital, as we arrived at the hospital, my aunt jumped out of the vehicle and carrying my sick cousin, dashed to the doctor’s office. Not minding the usual protocol nor the long queue of patients waiting to see the doctor, she cried to the doctor: ‘please help me, my child is dying’.  A sick child can be a source of great anxiety and anguish to parents.

The official in the Gospel searched desperately for a cure for his dying son. The news of Jesus’ presence must have brought great relief to his anguish and anxiety. Moved by faith he searched for Jesus and when he found him he expressed his faith in Jesus’ ability to heal his son. Jesus saw his faith and healed his son.

In the first reading, Prophet Isaiah announces a new beginning, a beginning completely devoid of past memories. He tries to restore hope to the people of Israel who are beginning to lose faith in God’s promise following their return from the Babylonian exile. The Israelites expected an immediate fulfilment of God’s promises and years after their return, their hope was beginning to wane. According to Isaiah, in the new Jerusalem which God promises, there shall be no sound of weeping or the cry of distress. Untimely death shall be a thing of the past and everyone will live to reap the fruit of their labour. Is this not the sort of news which should excite us as Christians and fill us with joyful anticipation? And, is this not the new dawn which we eagerly await as we continue our Lenten journey?

Lent is a period when we are invited to wait patiently for the fulfilment of God’s promises concerning those aspects of our lives that cause us anguish. It could be our struggle with sin, our inability to forgive or even the need for physical healing for ourselves or loved ones.  Waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises can be quite challenging and our faith can be severely tested. Sometimes we may be tempted to think like the Israelites that there is no hope. Or we may search desperately like the official for a solution. It may even be more depressing when we realise that neither our resources nor those around us can help us out of our predicaments. 

It is in such periods of waiting and anticipation that the Lord invites us to recognise his presence in the dark situations of our life and see his willingness to help us. Through his sufferings and death, he shares in our human experiences. He is aware of our condition and feels with us and we do not have to despair but to wait patiently for him. He expects us to be steadfast in faith and to express that faith by our words and actions.

As we journey with Jesus through this Lenten season, we look forward with hope to his glorious resurrection at Easter when we will experience the new life given to us by Christ through his death and resurrection. While we wait for this new beginning, we unite our daily struggles, sufferings and pain with those of Jesus. We seek daily to relieve others of their own burden by our acts of love and mercy.

We ask the Lord to give us the courage to come to him daily.

 

*Mr. Lotanna Obiezu, SJ, is a scholastic in first studies at Arrupe College, Jesuit School of Philosophy and Humanities in Harare, Zimbabwe. 

Fourth Sunday of Lent  

March 26, 2017

1 Sm 16: 1b. 6-7. 10-13a/ Ps 23: 1-3a. 3b-4. 5. 6 (1)/ Eph 5: 8-14/ Jn 9: 1-41

By *Fr. Chioma Nwosu, SJ

John's Gospel tells the story of the man born blind, whom Jesus heals and whose situation provokes a great discussion about sin and salvation. In an opening conversation prompted by the sight of a blind man, Jesus directed attention at once to the "night . . . when no one can work" and to himself as "the light of the world." To appreciate Jesus' statement we need to recall the role of light in our daily existence.


Natural light from the sun or artificial light from electricity is indispensable to human existence. Imagine life on earth without light: plants won't grow, food supply will be no more thus leading to hunger, starvation and death. Without light, we will be bumping into each other and if we walk into a room we are liable to crash into tables and chairs. Light sustains human life and makes it possible to see whatever is there and to know what to do. The opposite of light is darkness. We know from our experience that darkness is not a place to be; we like to be in the light. In the Nigerian context, with near absence of electricity, the epileptic supply of electric light at night is often greeted with applause and joy by children! We like to see and without light we are in darkness.


Jesus stated, "I am the light of the world." Jesus makes it possible for eyes encased in darkness to see. The blind man whom Jesus healed of his blindness, when interrogated by the Pharisees (who arrogate to themselves the certainty in the knowledge of sin and salvation i.e. a claim to see), simply said "I know this much: I was blind before; now I can see." Here juxtaposing the blind man for whom the presence of Jesus makes possible to see, with the Pharisees who are blind to who Jesus is, John's Gospel points us to the real blindness. It is spiritual blindness. If physical blindness was the worst type of punishment for sin, spiritual blindness must be the worst type of spiritual illness. Jesus' coming divides those who truly see from those like the Pharisees who claim to see but are blind. Jesus, the light of the world gives both physical sight and spiritual insight to the man, while the leaders remain blind in their refusal to see.


Lenten season is a season of conversion from darkness to God's wonderful light, from blindness to seeing. We too, like the Pharisees have one form of spiritual blindness or another. We do not yet see God's world as clearly as we should. Our "seeing" is imperfect, often tainted with false values, self-centredness, prejudice, hypocrisy, selfish ambition, personal aggrandizement etc. We need the help of God's grace to recognize the elements of spiritual blindness in our lives so that Jesus, the Light of the world may heal us and make us truly see. Let our prayer be simply: Lord, that I may see.

*Fr. Chioma Nwosu, SJ, is the Parish Priest of Christ the King Catholic Church at Ilasamaja in Lagos, Nigeria. 

The God Of Surprises

ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD

March 25, 2017 


Is 7: 10-14; 8: 10/ Ps 40: 7-8a. 8b-9. 10. 11/ Heb 10: 4-10/ Lk 1: 26-38

By *Mr. Adomako Appiah, SJ


On this day of the Annunciation of the Lord, Christians mark the dawn of a new birth which proclaims the greatness, mercy and love of God. In the Gospel, Mary is said have found favour with God and, she is full of grace. Hence, whatever Mary will be to the human race is a gift from God. This gift is fully actualised when Mary submitted her free will and choice to the redeeming grace of God out of great trust and faith in God, who made all things and sustains them. Those very words of Mary "... let it be done unto me according to your word" demonstrates a deep faith and trust in God. Today, humanity talks about complete salvation because of Mary's self-denial and placing of her will in the hands of God, even when things were not clear to her.


The submission of one's will to the will of God is very instrumental to the salvation and growth of humanity. This is strongly highlighted in the letter to the Hebrews and the Psalmist's prayer in the readings of today. Although God is almighty, he does not force his gifts and will on humans, rather He lovingly and gently invites us to them. Thus, out of my own will I choose my end ─ to love and be with God or to follow my inclinations and desires whether they are in conformity with God's word or not. Therefore, God desires our collaboration to actualise His plans for us (i.e., to be in harmony with one another and be with Him hereafter). It becomes imperative to convincingly and trustfully say to God at all times, "God, I am your child, may your will be done!"


We are humans, and, therefore, we lean so much on what is reasonably possible, but the divine element which aids us to transcend ourselves towards God must be enhanced, so that we can grow in faith and trust in God. Thus, we can transcend reason where necessary by faith. Faith and trust in the Lord are very essential to our pilgrimage; without them we will not live in eternity with God, which is a promise of the Father to us. Hence, to live in faith is to live in eternity, for it is only through faith that we can attain ultimate fulfillment ─ eternal blessedness.


In our daily lives, we are faced with challenging and obscure situations which sometimes throw us into despair. Many of our practical daily experiences are so obscure and discouraging to the point of giving up and even forgetting that we are Christians! But the truth is that such experiences are recurring, and if we give in to hopelessness, we may not find meaning and joy in life. Consequently, in moments like these, we need to call to mind that we are people of faith and trust in the only God, and commit ourselves and such events to God in prayer and God will surprise us with exceeding joy even in our darkest moments as Mary expressed in her Magnificat. Our acknowledgement of who we are is always deepened in continuous prayer and charity towards one another, especially the needy. So we pray through the intercession of Mary that in this Lenten season, the confusing and challenging situations we find ourselves in will draw us closer to God, through continuous prayer, charity and abstinence.

*Mr. Adomako Appiah, SJ, is a scholastic studying theology at L'Institut de Théologie de la Compagnie de Jésus in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.  

"I Am Like A Cypress Ever Green, All Your Fruitfulness Comes From Me."

Friday, Third Week of Lent

March 24, 2017

Hosea 14:2-10

By *Fr. Peter Chidolue, SJ


Where does your joy come from? Where does your success come from? Where does your peace come from? Where does your happiness come from? If any of these comes from things or persons, then you have every reason to be afraid and to be worried.


No human being or thing can give your lasting peace, joy, happiness or success. Everything we have that comes from human beings or things will end and fade.


The Lord reminds us through the words of Prophet Hosea that He is like a cypress ever green, and that all our fruitfulness comes from Him. We should never allow ourselves to forget this. God is the source of all our joys, peace, happiness and success. All these are His gifts. We get all the gifts that adorn our lives from God's never-exhaustive storehouse.


When we love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength, and when we remain connected with Him, we will become like an ever-flowing stream, like an ever-green cypress, our joys, our peace, our happiness and our successes will never end, because our fruitfulness will flow from the Lord.


May God keep us ever connected to Him.

*Fr. Peter Chidolue, SJ, is a retreat minister who lives and works at St. Peter Claver House in Brafo Yaw, Cape Coast, Ghana.

Thursday, Third Week of Lent

March 23, 2017

Jer 7: 23-28/ Ps 95: 1-2. 6-7. 8-9/ Lk 11: 14-23

By *Fr. Ujah Ejembi, SJ


We have arrived halfway into this great and wonderful season of grace and universal retreat for the whole Church. The Season of Lent is defined by spiritual exercises of prayer, almsgiving and fasting. This exercises are meant to keep alive the consciousness of God and others in our hearts and minds.


Today's gospel narrates an encounter with Jesus leading to liberation. A mute man encountered Jesus and was liberated from his muteness. The reaction of those who witnessed this great act of God's goodness was shocking. It makes us ask the question: "What does the evil one do in the face of goodness?" Ordinarily, goodness should increase faith and spur people to dedicate themselves to God's service. But at the sight of God's goodness, the evil one creates confusion, suspicion and distrust: "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons."


Sometimes, because of human hunger for fame and recognition, we find fault in the good acts achieved by God through others. Let us be moved rather to gratitude in the face of genuine God's goodness. The evil one, on its part, generates confusion in order to destroy both the outward and inner peace that manifest God's goodness. The people who allowed the evil one to use them to accuse Jesus forgot that what they are accusing Jesus about lives in their homes and families: "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." When you point a finger at someone, at least, three fingers are pointing back at you.


The season of Lent is one defined by the cultivation of loving and compassionate acts. The evil one sometimes puts reasons in our hearts to hinder the transmission of God's love and compassion through us. Wherever the seed of distrust is sown, it impedes the communication of love and compassion. To sow the seed of distrust in the hearts of people in the face of God's goodness is to scatter the works of God. The evil one is committed to the works of confusion that divides. Remember, he who does not gather with me scatters.


We are challenged to gather with Jesus in announcing the reign of God's kingdom over the forces of darkness. To do this, obedience to God's words is a central element. This is the point of the message from the Prophet Jeremiah in our first reading: "Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people." Obedience is the virtue of dedication while dedication to God is the highest purpose in life.


God desires even today to heal us from our muteness of various kinds. The sort of muteness that prevents us from standing for the truth, from living the truth, and from proclaiming the truth. To be healed of such, we must give ourselves, like Jesus, to God in complete obedience. In the absence of obedience, Jeremiah tells us that truth perishes. The death of truth is what the evil tries to achieve in the face of God's goodness by sowing confusion and mistrust. Let us resist this evil act by taking God's words seriously: "O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your heart."

*Fr. Ujah Ejembi, SJ, is the Assistant Parish Priest at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.

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