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

Thursday, Second Week of Lent

March 16, 2017

READINGS: Jer 17: 5-10; Ps 1; Lk 16:19-31.

by, *Mr. Christian Okeke, SJ


Is there any person peculiarly exempted from the Two Standards of living which today's readings present to us? I doubt none. It would be meaningless to look beyond ourselves in searching for who falls under, within or outside which category. The evidences abound all over! How many times have we followed our own ways, trusting in our devices and self-seeking achievements and possessions and judgements, sometimes excluding or confusing our responses to God's loving invitations upon us? The Lord is reminding us today of the two distinct principles which leads to curses, emptiness, doom, and ultimate death or to blessings, true fulfillment, refreshing prosperity, and eternal life. The story of the rich man and Lazarus concretises this imagery: no accommodation or collusion between God's own standards and our self-centred ways of being. The great chasm exists and even continues in both temporal and eternal dimensions.

The real message reveals one secret: that the Loving Lord wills and desires us to be fully alive forever, if planted and nourished in Him: this begins here and now. God's 'ecology' is that we become transformed into ever-green fruit-yielding trees, from which others, like Lazarus, can pluck and eat from. Otherwise, who desires to become a barren tree in a wasteland or an uninhabited wilderness? Never.

Again, God demands our hope and trust in Him despite the certainty of the heat in the year of drought. Only God's promises of blessings secure the only unfailing anchor for our fruitfulness and peace of mind.

This season provokes us to what is at stake here: the freedom of our hearts. Our spiritual liberty defines us as humans. God has issued His invitation. Ours is to respond, appropriately. According to His ways and standards and not as it pleases our fancies. There is no third or neutral pathway. But this must be done in real freedom. No compulsions. No undue influences. No wondering then about the rich man's five brothers. They, and we, cannot be compelled to listen and obey the Word of God or to pay attention to and assist the needy around us. The Gospel of Christ now provokes our thoughts and freedom anew: to wake up always in paying attention to the Word of God and to be genuinely compassionate in sharing with others like Lazarus.

The exercise of our freedom comes through a discernment that considers the two Standards as God's secret memos for our living. Too bad the rich man understood this too late. The possible failure to do and act on this is confirmed by God's lamentation about the inexplicable, deceitful, corruption of human hearts. Thank God for His Living Word in Jesus Christ, our Teacher and Model.

God alone can give us the strength to repent always and be convinced afresh in living for Him through love for others especially in challenging times like ours. May we be awakened towards receiving the needed graces for discerning and living out God's Word in truth and compassion, today and always. Amen.


*Mr. Christian Okeke, SJ, is a Jesuit Scholastic presently studying theology at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya.  

Wednesday, Second Week of Lent

March 15, 2017

"Whoever Desires To Be Great Among You Shall Be Your Servant"

Jeremaih 18:18-20; Psalms 31:5-6, 14, 15 – 16; Matthew 20:17-28


by Mr. Mberu Chidiebere, nSJ

Reflecting on today's gospel reading, I discovered that it dwells on two important words that are part of the major challenges we struggle with in life and to which Jesus continually invites us to pay close attention, so as to improve on them. They are; "Unconcern and Humility". In the gospel reading, we realize that the word "unconcern" really played out in the lives of the disciples of Jesus. They never felt worried, neither did they feel disquieted nor perturbed at Jesus' forecast of the impending danger that was fast approaching. Jesus was telling them to expect his betrayal and death, but they were busy thinking about their place in the kingdom. This is typified in the lives of the sons of Zebedee (James and John), who wanted their thrones above everyone else's by seeking this favour from Jesus through their mother. Chapter 9:30-35 of Mark's gospel tells us that all the disciples were jockeying for positions in the coming kingdom instead of being concerned about the predicted death of their Lord and Master. It is this same unconcern that we experience from time to time, and sometimes, it does happen amongst us (Christians), unknowingly. Jesus invites us in today's gospel to re-examine our relationship with people around us, especially those who needed to be shown love and those mostly in need of our concern.

The two sons of Zebedee were far from the reality, that was why Jesus enriched their knowledge with the teachings on humility, which he also invites each and every one of us to imbibe. Whoever desires to be great among you shall be your servant. If we read Paul's letter to the churches at Colossae and Corinth, (Colossians 1:23-25, 1st Corinthians 3:5), we would see that St. Paul uses the word "servant" frequently to show that he is merely a servant of Christ. In John's Gospel, 3:17, Jesus is presented as a servant, and in St. Paul's letter to the Philippians 2:7, the same Jesus is presented as a slave – to tell us of the degree of humility which our Heavenly Father invites us to embrace. The Christian life is not one of self-seeking, but sacrifice (Luke 14:26-27). To be great is to put one's talents totally at the service of others as we see in the life of Jesus who put his whole life at our disposal so that we should experience fullness of life; and we are all invited to take part in this same great enterprise.

Friends in the Lord, as we gradually journey with Jesus in this Lenten season, he invites us to embrace humility to the core, to go deep into the practice of love for one another, and to be charitable to those in most need of our help. AMEN!!!


*Mr. Mberu Chidiebere, nSJ is a second year Novice in the Jesuit Novitiate in Benin City, Nigeria. 


Tuesday, Second Week of Lent

March 14, 2017

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20; Matthew 23:1-12

by *Fr. Alexander Irechukwu, S.J.

"Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool." (Isa. 1:18) In this text of Isaiah's prophecy, we come upon one of the best known and best loved lines of scripture. Reading it, we may imagine God coming down to our level, so to speak, putting his loving hand on out shoulder and assuring us of his endless mercy. Speaking these words to the Israelites, Isaiah sought to engender true repentance in them, one made possible only by humility, the kind shown by God who comes down to theirs and our level.

Humility is a crucial virtue for true repentance and right relationship with a God who is humble. Jesus underscores this truth by inviting his followers to lead lives of humility warning them as he did against following the example of the Scribes and Pharisees, their religious teachers and leaders, who were notoriously proud, considering themselves, on the one hand, as the be-all and end-all of the Jewish people, and on the other, regarding themselves indispensable to their well-being. In their pride, rooted on a false sense of self, the Scribes and Pharisees abused their position of authority designed for service making it one of domination designed for selfish gains.

Jesus' warning is apt for us today as our world both political and ecclesial is rife with Scribe-like and Pharisee-like teachers and leaders. Indeed, ours is a world where men and women in position of authority lead lives of excessive pride and arrogance so much as to abuse their authority by dominating and intimidating those they are obliged to serve.

These kinds of political and ecclesial figures persist in our world because many among us subscribe to their cult, following in their footsteps and examples, against the stark warnings of Jesus and the outstanding example of his life. We subscribe to the cult of the kind of political and ecclesial figures Jesus warns us against by celebrating them when we ought not to and failing to challenge them when we ought. We follow in their footsteps and examples when we consider ourselves at our various posts in life better than others and superior to them thereby looking down on them and discriminating against them.

Following in Jesus' example, we, his disciples are charged not only to shun pride but also to lovingly and graciously call out those among us who indulge in it, hence helping them overcome this malicious and dreadful vice by which they risk the company of the Lord and the exaltation which he promises those who demonstrate authentic humility.

As we continue our Lenten journey mindful of the significance of humility to our life and discipleship as Christians, may we rid ourselves of every element of pride that has corrupted our life, families, communities, church, nations and world opening ourselves and every facet of our life to the experience of God's love and mercy as we listen to and hear the beautiful words of Isaiah which he spoke on behalf of Yahweh: "Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool."

*Fr. Alexander Irechukwu, SJ, is a graduate student in Interdisciplinary Education at Santa Clara University, California, United States of America.


Monday, Second Week of Lent

March 13, 2017

Dn 9:4b-10  Lk. 6:26-38

by *Mr. Linus Labik

On some occasions, we mention our surnames and a question comes up to link us to someone of the same surname. Either way, our name will ring a positive or a negative emotion. Who is that Father Jesus is asking us to be like? Why is Jesus asking us to be like our Father utilising one nature – compassion? Because, it is that nature of God that Daniel is appealing to in the first reading. Daniel recounts the cause of their punishment and asks for mercy and pardon. Compassion is that feeling where the other person is our mirror image; that feeling where the other person reflects our inner self!

When we are able to accept that our frailties are the same as that of our neighbour, it is easier not to judge them. When we accept that just as we can fail, others can fail, it is easier not to condemn. When we are able to accept that just as we hurt others through our failings, it is easier to forgive others when we are hurt; for when we forgive, it is easier to go to God to ask for forgiveness.

Jesus expects us to give not only our material wealth but our humanity as well. God didn't keep his only begotten Son from us. He offered Him as a sacrifice for our salvation. It is in the same way that He asks us to be like our Father in giving all the good within us and not keeping anything for ourselves. The reward for giving will be measured using the scale which we used. What about the "reward" for not giving? Will it also be "a full measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing"? Would we be that welcoming of that "reward"?

Daniel and his generation had inherited a bad name and were suffering a punishment! Probably they were not even part of those who sinned and yet that "reward" was poured into their laps. How would you respond when someone recounts the hurts and pains suffered at the hands of your father? Would you seek recompense or give excuses for the harm done? Daniel understood how God felt and sought recompense for his generation. No one was blameless, for those who could push for the right things to be done chose silence. Others also chose to follow the crowd.

Many a times we are quick to jump into judgement seats to judge and condemn others for what we see as wrongs. Probably, before we take the judgement seat, we should take the accused's stand, so we can come to terms with our own frailties.

Our Father neither judges nor condemns us. He knows how frail we are and is always willing to have mercy and forgive us. He requires that we also exhibit this nature and that we see ourselves in the other person.

*Mr. Linus Labik is a happily married Investment Adviser and Planner who worships at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Baatsona, Accra, Ghana, which is run by the Jesuits.  


2nd Sunday of Lent

March 12, 2017

Genesis 12: 1 – 4

by *Fr. Peter Chidolue, SJ

During this second week of Lent, let us truthfully ask ourselves if we trust God enough? Are we willing to leave everything for God? Are we willing to follow God wherever He leads? God asked Abram to leave his homeland, his family and his father's house for a land that He will show him. Abram did. He left everything without knowing the land that God will direct him to or how far it will be. Do you trust God enough to act like Abram did? If you were Abram's wife or child would you agree to sell all you have and follow your 75 year old father to a land he claims God will show him? Can you trust God without asking for a sign.
Jesus trusted God completely without asking for a sign. Can we do the same?
May God help us to trust Him completely.

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

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