A reception was recently organised for Very Rev. Fr. John Konyeke, Rev. Fr. Fredrick Chukwuemeke, and Rev. Fr. Jude Iwediunor at St. Johnbosco Catholic Church, Asaba. It was the last Parish they served before they were posted to other duty posts.
Very Rev. Fr. John Konyeke was sent to study at Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA), Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. Presently, St. Johnbosco Catholic Church, has Rev. Fr. Leonard Biachi as Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Patrick Adigwe and Rev. Fr. Ignatius Adinkwu as assistants, while Rev. Fr. Alex Nwannearizi is the Priest in residence.
Fr. Konyeke during the celebration of the Holy Mass as part of activities for the event, delivered a soul-lifting sermon as presented below. Happy reading:
In our first reading of today, Isaiah as a servant of God proclaims the good news that his ministry will restore Zion back to her original status. Isaiah emphasized the fact that the presence of God’s Spirit ensures the success of the servant’s mission.
As children of God and members of the church, we enjoy privileges that entitle us some duties in the church as baptized and sent. These privileges come from the person of Jesus Christ; which is as a result of our baptism that makes us to function as Priest, king and prophet.
As lay people in the church, the priestly roles animate you with the Spirit of God to offer yourselves on daily basis in a worthy manner to God the father, through the Son by means of the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. That is, wherever you find yourselves, you must be in communion with the church.
This is implied in the Go in peace and proclaims the good news at the end of every mass. Anywhere you find yourselves, you should make Christ known in the temporal order. As such, St. Peter in chapter 2: 9-10 admonishes in these words: you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. A people set apart to proclaim the goodness of the Lord. For He called you out of darkness into his own wonderful light. At one stage, you were no people, but now, you are God’s people. In all, the spirit of God is upon you to carry out the responsibilities of your Christian vocation.
As king, it means that you are a royal people and because of this, you will live a kingly life in Christ who is the servant-leader. A life of humility, taking the story of our master who came to serve and gave his life as a ransom for many. (Phil 2:7-8).
Today, the church is filled up with Christian-kings and Christian-queens who want to seat at the right and left of Jesus without drinking from the cup of suffering (Matt. 20:20-28). This group of persons does not like service but eye service. They feel that God should honor them for serving Him. They demand praise and glory from God for any service they render to God especially when they donate money. They have the spirit of the sons of Zebedee and can cause uproar and indignancy among parishioners. Jesus, the true king-servant says, this must not be found among you but as kings and queens who have the spirit of God, you should be ministers and servants of all, following the footsteps of Jesus.
As prophet, the lay people must be themselves as the mouthpiece of God. You are prophets when you begin to live life expected of you. You must study the current and every situation and bring Christ into it. In Jn 4, 115ff after the woman encountered Jesus at the well, she proclaimed the good news by later bringing people to Jesus by saying “I have seen someone who told me the story of my life”. The people later believed in Christ when they encountered him and not just on the testimony of the woman. We who have encountered God or the Priest in a special way should not use our opportunity to scatter the church instead, we should bring people to God. Our words are very important in what we say about God and others. Most persons might not have the opportunity of verifying the truth from our lies, whenever we present wrong information about people, things and events. For instance, after the resurrection of Jesus, in order for those who killed Jesus to continue in their lying, they paid people to give false information, the Gospel according Matthew in Chapter 28 :11ff narrate: while they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, You must say, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep. If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble. So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day. False prophets. The Spirit of God is not given for fake news. The truth will inconvenience you but it will set you free. Say the truth all the same.
Dear pilgrims, it is befitting of the lay people to be the hand and feet of Jesus Christ; the hand in order to reach the nook and cranny of the earth and the feet to carry you to the ends of the earth. In doing this, you are fulfilling the evangelical mandate of Jesus Christ in Matt 28:18-20, go and make disciples from all nations. Baptize them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is reason why the Spirit is given to any Christian who is seated here. It is therefore necessary for everybody to know his/her mission and have an identity that will aid you in the actualization of your responsibility. In this regard, no competition is necessary, for the moon and the sun have their different times to shine, no blame game, for the grass is never greener at the other side, no anger in the utility of talents for the Same Spirit is given to all, no misunderstanding because the Spirit of God is not a spirit of confusion. Your office is tied to your role because your role defines your essence in life and purpose of action.
In the gospel reading, the position of John the Baptist was never in doubt. John knew himself and why he came. He was not the light or the word, but the voice of Him. He didn’t take the advantage of performing an important role to say he was the Christ. He said, I am not the Christ, I am not Elijah etc, but I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord as the prophet Isaiah said. John the Baptist was the greatest of all born of woman, yet, he lived as a humble and faithful servant. His humility earned him the praise of Christ as one who is the greatest on earth. Growth does not come from pride, rebellion, disobedience or antagonism. Greatness comes from accepting our roles and doing our duties and doing it well. John humbly recognized that his calling came from God and not from man. And so, in sincerity and humility, he carried out his mission, even though, his enemies cut off his head, but they never silenced the truth. The catechism of the Catholic Church captures the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of John the Baptist in this way: John, precursor, prophet, and baptist.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people. The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of “[making] ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.” In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming. As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.” In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. . . . Behold, the Lamb of God.”
Finally, with John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to man of “the divine likeness,” prefiguring what he would achieve with and in Christ.
My dear people of God, like Mary our Mother whose magnificat we sang in the Responsorial Psalm today, let us not abuse the privileges given to us by God. The position of the Holy Spirit is so clear in the teaching of the Church in these lines: “Rejoice, you who are full of grace”
Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church’s Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary. Mary is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the “Seat of Wisdom.”
In her, the “wonders of God” that the Spirit was to fulfill in Christ and the Church began to be manifested: The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” should herself be “full of grace.” She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the “Daughter of Zion”: “Rejoice.” It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son.
In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfills the plan of the Father’s loving goodness. Through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit’s power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful.
In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin. She is the burning bush of the definitive theophany. Filled with the Holy Spirit she makes the Word visible in the humility of his flesh. It is to the poor and the first representatives of the gentiles that she makes him known.
Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love, into communion with Christ. And the humble are always the first to accept him: shepherds, magi, Simeon and Anna, the bride and groom at Cana, and the first disciples. (you and me)
At the end of this mission of the Spirit, Mary became the Woman, the new Eve (“mother of the living”), the mother of the “whole Christ.” As such, she was present with the Twelve, who “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer,” at the dawn of the “end time” which the Spirit was to inaugurate on the morning of Pentecost with the manifestation of the Church. And so, her exclamation of joy has become the song of the Church, my soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit.”
Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God “Father” and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.
How humble are, as priests, religious and lay in our missionary activities? Some of us when given little opportunity or authority (unlike John the Baptist and Blessed Ever virgin Mary), God becomes afraid of us. Some of us are so much engrossed in occupying the chair of Moses without carrying the staff that parted the red sea though with grace. We have become the children of the blessings of Abraham without making the sacrifices that Abraham made and the faith that he professed in God even at his old age. Position goes with anointing and responsibility. We fulfill our mission and have inner joy when service is done for the glory of God and good of humanity.
For us, your priests and brothers, our work in St. Johnbosco has or had its aim and purpose. For us, each according to his capacity and status. We tried to serve God and humanity in sincerity and purity of conscience. And we believe that our mission is to bring the message of the Gospel to you all. And that we did as human beings with the grace of God. Fellow pilgrims, you were so wonderful, a people, you listened to us as your pastors of souls. You contributed from your resources to the glory of God and the testimonies are with us always. Your services to God in this parish and beyond will never go in vain. God will surely reward your efforts with fruitfulness and success. It is with this disposition that propels us to say always Child of God,
Ododo ki ‘bu, maka na Ododo adi eje ije ifele. (You shall be someone of admiration). Ose orji ki ‘bu, maka na ose orji ka we ji ago ndu.(The Alligator pepper is good, for with it, blessings are pronounced). E ma je ibe nmadu ubosi ife e ga efu u (you shall not visit a home who loses a valuable). Oga adili n’ mma. Ifele ama me e e n’afa Jisos. (It is well with you, you will not know shame, in Jesus name). N’ ali, n’ emaa daa (you shall not fall from your ladder of success). E ga di ke echi, echi adi a gwu a gwu. E ga di ka mmili, mmili ewene onye ilo. E ga a di ka ani, nkpologu a di akpo ani. Oga adili nma, na ututu, na efife, na anyasi.
Oga adili nma.
No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. In his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus of his Holiness Pope Benedict XV1, the Holy Father declares: Lay men and women, in fact, are “ambassadors of Christ” (2Cor 5:20 ) in the public sphere, in the heart of the world. Their Christian witness will be credible only if they are competent and honest professional people. Lay men and women are called, above all, to holiness, a holiness which is to be lived in the world.
The Pope begs the lay faithful in these words: cultivate your interior life and your relationship with God, so that the Holy Spirit may enlighten you in all circumstances. In order to ensure that the human person and the common good remain effectively at the centre of all human, political, economic or social activity, deepen your union with Christ, so as to know and love him by devoting time to God in prayer and in the reception of the sacraments. Allow yourselves to be enlightened and instructed by God and by his word.
As we welcome Jesus at Christmas, lets meditate alongside with Pope Francis on the meaning and importance of the Nativity scene in these words: Dear brothers and sisters, the Christmas crèche is part of the precious yet demanding process of passing on the faith. Beginning in childhood, and at every stage of our lives, it teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with him, his children, brothers and sisters all, thanks to that Child who is the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary. And to realize that in that knowledge we find true happiness. Like saint Francis, the Pope continues, may we open our hearts to this simple grace, so that from our wonderment, a humble prayer may arise: a prayer of thanks to God, who wish to share with us his all, and thus never to leave us alone.
Ndi St. johnbosco, rejoice and be happy for what God is doing in your misdt. Nobody can resist the spirit of God. The Lord is with you. May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit rest and abide with now and forever more, for surely, God’s goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life and you shall dwell in the house of the Lord, for ever and ever, amen.