REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 30, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

BEING DRAWN TO JESUS

Jesus said to the crowds: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day." John 6:44

This Scripture passage reveals to us a wonderful spiritual principle we need to understand and live if we are to grow close to God. It's the principle of being drawn to Jesus by the Father.

First of all, it's important to understand the first part of what Jesus says: "No one can come to me unless…" This tells us that coming to Jesus in faith, growing in that faith, and growing in our love of God is not something we can do on our own. Coming to faith is a response to God's action in our life.

This is important to understand if we wish to establish an authentic relationship with Christ because it reveals to us the fact that we have to let God take the first step in that relationship. When we let Him do this, it's our responsibility to then respond.

Of course this does not mean we just sit back in a passive way waiting for God to reach out. God is constantly reaching out, constantly speaking and constantly drawing us to Himself. So our first responsibility is to tune into His gentle "wooing." This comes in the form of gentle promptings of grace inviting us to turn more completely to Him and to surrender more fully each and every day.

In our busy world, it's so very easy to let ourselves become distracted by the many competing voices. It's easy to hear the pulling, and even pushing, of the world and all its enticements. The world has become quite good at penetrating our short attention spans and offering quick satisfactions that ultimately leave us empty.

But God's voice and His invitation are quite different. They are found in interior silence. However, we need not be in a monastery in order to achieve this interior silence. Rather, it's achieved by faithful periods of prayer each day, and a formed habit of turning to God in all things. It's achieved when we respond to God's calling, and then do it again, and again, and so forth. This builds a habit of being drawn, hearing, responding and being drawn in even closer so as to respond again.

Reflect, today, upon how well you listen to God. Try to find at least a few minutes (or more) of silence today. Close your eyes and listen. Listen to God speaking to you. When He draws you, respond to Him with much generosity. This is the best choice you can make each day!

Lord, please draw me in, draw me close and help me to recognize Your voice. As I hear You calling, help me to respond to You with much generosity. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Help me to desire You all the more. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 29, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

COME TO JESUS

"I will not reject anyone who comes to me." John 6:37

These few lines from the gospel of St John speak directly to the hearts of the human person in her daily struggle in the society. It speaks to us on different level, on how we accept others in the society or reject them. It speaks about the love and mercy of Jesus who never rejects anyone who comes to him. Do we still hear these important words from Jesus?

Why is this important to hear? Because, very often, we can carry the burden of rejection. Without even realizing it, there are many who have experienced rejection in their life and, as a result, are afraid to be vulnerable in a relationship out of fear of being hurt.

Some persons have been living with a sense of rejection as a child. When a child is told by the parents that his/her birth into this world was a mistaken. This child grows up with an attitude of rejection not only by the family but by the society. Others are rejected on the basis of their skin color or the family society/economic background. once there is that sense of rejection, fear and hurt comes to play.

Once you have been hurt in a relationship, you proceed with caution. This hurt can come from a family member, spouse, friend or anyone we've tried to reach out to in love only to receive hurt and rejection. And that hurts.

If what we need is Jesus and what we truly long for is Jesus, then what keeps us from going to him? Sometimes it is our pride or spiritual laziness or maybe our superficiality in our spiritual life.

But behind these reasons is often the fear that if we open ourselves to Jesus, we will somehow lose out. We should never be afraid of Jesus or compare our earthly relationship with that of Jesus. When we come to Jesus, he takes nothing away, rather he gives us everything. When we give ourselves to him in trust, we receive more than we expect.

Jesus' words are especially important because they help to reassure us that Jesus is trustworthy. It is true that we can come to Him, open our hearts to Him, become completely vulnerable to Him, and He will treat us with the utmost tenderness, respect, kindness and care. Jesus will treat us with more care than we even treat ourselves!

Reflect upon these words of Jesus today. Say them over and over. "I will not reject anyone who comes to me." Know that He wants you to come to Him and to open your heart to Him completely. Doing so will allow Him to manifest His love for you and enable you to trust Him beyond what you ever imagined possible.

Lord, I want to come to You in my sufferings and rejection. I know You are the Divine Healer and will bring comfort to my soul. Help me to trust You and to let You love me. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 28, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

LONGING FOR JESUS THE BREAD OF LIFE

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." John 6:35

Wouldn't it be nice if you were never hungry or thirsty again? What's fascinating is that Jesus uses these very natural human experiences to teach us about Himself. He uses natural hunger and thirst to teach us that we long to be satisfied spiritually. And there is only one way to satiate these spiritual longings…through Him.

It is a good spiritual practice to reflect upon your natural longings as an analogy for your spiritual longings. Naturally speaking, we regularly get hungry and thirsty. We eat and drink, but several hours later we hunger and thirst again. This is a cycle we cannot avoid. Our body continually craves food and drink.

The same is true on a spiritual level. We cannot pray once and satisfy our spiritual longings forever. We cannot simply believe in Jesus and then be satisfied forever. Why? Because prayer and unity with Jesus is something that must take place daily throughout your day.

The Eucharist offers insights into this hunger and thirst in that it provides us with our "daily" food. It is a gift that we must daily seek. Some of the Sacraments are given to us only once (Baptism and Confirmation). But the Eucharist is a gift that we must continually consume and long for. The fact that we must continually go to Mass and receive the Eucharist tells us that our Christian life is not something that can be fulfilled by one definitive decision. Rather, it's something that needs daily nourishment and fulfillment.

What do you do to satisfy this Christian longing each and every day? Perhaps you cannot attend Mass every day, but do you seek to fulfill your Christian desire for Christ each and every day? Do you seek Him who is the Bread of Life every day? Do you seek to satiate your thirst with Christ each and every day?

Loving Jesus and following Him is a decision that must be renewed not only each day, it must also be renewed throughout your day. It must be renewed as often as you become physically hungry and thirsty.

Reflect, today, upon these natural longings you have for food and drink to continually remind yourself of your much deeper spiritual longing for Christ. Praying to Him, listening to Him and receiving Him into your soul is the food that satisfies like nothing else. Jesus is the true Bread of Life and your true Spiritual Drink. He is what you are made for. Let Him satisfy your deepest desires in life!

Lord, I do long for You. I long to be satisfied. Help me to turn to You at all times and in all things. Help me to always remember that You are what I need and You alone satisfy. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 27, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

SEEKING FOR JESUS

Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." John 6:26-27

This Scripture goes straight to the heart of our priorities in life. What are you working for? Are you working hard for the "food that perishes" and only working slightly for the "food that endures for eternal life?" Or vice versa?

For some reason, we can easily become obsessed with working for the "things" of this world. In the passage above, people were looking for Jesus because He had fed them the day before and they were hungry again. They were looking for food, literally. Jesus gently rebukes them, taking this as an opportunity to point out the real reason they should be seeking Him. The real reason is that He wants to provide the spiritual food of eternal life. What is the food Jesus wants you to seek? That's a question you must let our Lord answer in your heart.

There are two key questions we should ponder here so as to let Him answer us. First, "What do I want in life?" Spend time with that. Spend time all by yourself and try to be honest with this question. What do you want? What is your heart's desire? If you are honest and if you let yourself face your desires you will most likely find that you have some desires, or even many, that are not put in your heart by Christ. Recognizing what these desires are is the first step to discovering what the true food is that Jesus wants to give you.

The second key question is this: "Are you seeking Jesus for the right reason?" When we are sick we seek a doctor for a cure. When a child is hurt, this child often runs to a parent for comfort. This is OK. We do the same. When we are lost and confused we often turn to God for answers and help. But, ideally, we will eventually seek God for more than just healing or comfort. We will ultimately seek God for the reason of love. We will seek Him simply because we love Him and want to love Him all the more.

Reflect, today, upon your desire to seek Jesus, or lack thereof. When you can begin to seek out Jesus simply because you love Him and want to love Him more, you are on the right road. And as you walk down that road, you find it is a road of the utmost delight and fulfillment.

Jesus, help me to seek You. Help me to seek You for the help and healing I need. But more than that, help me to seek You out of love. My Jesus, I do love You. Help me to love You more. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 26, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE EMMAUS ENCOUNTER

With that their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" Luke 24:31-32

We should put ourselves in the shoes of these two disciples. Downcast and confused, they were making their way back home, unable to understand all the things that have occurred. These disciples were about to lose their faith in Jesus. Like these disciples many people have lost their faith in Jesus because of one situation or the other. Some may have lost faith in God because of the pain or death caused by covid-19 pandemic. Jesus wants to have an encounter with us like these two disciples.

As they walked along Jesus joined them and explained the scriptures to them like nobody had ever done, He opened their minds to the Scriptures in a new way. But something within their hearts told them that was not ordinary but at the same time, something prevented them from recognizing him. As they got to the village called Emmaus, the disciples extended an act of kindness to the stranger, by inviting to stay with them for the night. They were concern about the safety of this stranger. What would have happened had they let him go without caring for him?

While at table, the great discovery took place, as they recognized Jesus at the breaking of bread. In every Eucharist, we reenact that Easter Sunday at Emmaus. Jesus reveals himself to us in our journey. He speaks to our hearts in the Scriptures. At this encounter their dying faith and wavering hope were kindle. Even when Jesus had vanished from them, they never regretted the experience.

After the encounter and the revelation, the disciples were prompt in their response that night, as they left Emmaus back to Jerusalem a distance of about 12km in the dark. Nothing could stop them. Their faith and hope already regained was all they needed. So, they went back to Jerusalem to share their experience and encounter of the Lord with the other disciples. The gospel gives us only one name of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. In doing us, we are invited to take the place of the other disciple since often times our situation in life resembles that of the two disciples.

As in the case the disciples, trial and temptation like the present covid-19 pandemic might not extinguish our faith in Jesus altogether, but might seriously threaten it. When this happens, we feel tempted to go back to our former life and doing so we gradually lose the joy which the Christian faith brings into our hearts. In times like this, moved by love and concerns for us Jesus comes to our rescue. He joins us and explains the scripture through our daily or Sunday liturgies. He reveals himself at the breaking of bread which is in the Eucharist. The moment Jesus manifest himself in the Eucharist, a great transformation takes place in our hearts.

The truth is that Jesus is not absent. He is centrally involved in all things. What we need to receive is an understanding of the profound and mysterious ways of God. We need to understand the Scriptures, human suffering, human relationships, and divine action in our lives. But this will never happen unless we allow Jesus to open our minds.

Allowing Jesus to open our minds takes faith and surrender. It means we believe first and understand later. It means we trust Him even though we do not see. St. Augustine once said, "Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of faith is to see what you believe." Are you willing to believe without seeing? Are you willing to believe in the goodness and love of God even though life, or a particular situation in life, does not make sense?

Reflect, today, upon the Gift of Understanding. Believing in God means we believe in a person. We believe in Him even though we find ourselves confused about particular circumstances. But this gift of believing, the gift of faith, opens the door to a depth of understanding that we could never arrive at on our own.

Lord, give me the Gift of Understanding. Help me to know You and to understand Your actions in my life. Help me to especially turn to You in the most troubling moments of life. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 25, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

BEING AN EVANGELIST

"These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." Mark 16:17-18

Did Jesus mean this literally? Yes. He certainly did. And throughout the history of the Church we have seen great miracles and mighty deeds performed by His followers in His name as God willed it in various times and places. So, yes, He meant what He said.

But there is also another level of meaning we should not miss. Though this is not literally going to be lived out by everyone who believes, it will be lived out according to a deeper and spiritual meaning.

There are four basic things Jesus promises will happen here. He promises that those who have faith will: 1) be victorious over the evil one, 2) communicate in a new way, 3) face worldly dangers and be protected, and 4) be a source of healing for others.

First, the evil one is real and is constantly trying to frighten us and overwhelm us. But, by analogy, the evil one is like a 3-pound dog who has a vicious and obnoxious bark, and little bite. The "barking" may be frightening at times, but the power of Christ is like a steel-toed boot that can easily handle this menace.

Second, we are called to "speak new languages" in that we are called to communicate the words and truth of God in a way that is beyond our natural abilities. We are called to speak and communicate in the language of God and to become His mouth for a world in need.

Third, there will be many struggles we face in this life. Not only from the evil one, but also from the world and from our own distorted struggles. Again, Jesus promises the grace to overcome the many dangers and struggles we will face in life if we but let Him.

Lastly, Jesus came to heal, especially our souls, and he wants us to be instruments of healing for those whom we encounter every day.

St. Mark, whom we honor today, was a great evangelist for Christ. Reflect, today, upon the fact that we are all called to share in the mission of evangelization. Ponder these callings in life as outlined above and if one stands out and speaks to you in a unique way, listen to it carefully. It may be God calling you to share more fully in His divine mission.

Lord, I do believe and I do choose to let You use me as an instrument of Your grace. May the faith You have given me be also a source of grace for a world in need. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 24, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

BEING TESTED

When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. John 6:5-6

God always knows what He is going to do. He always has a perfect plan for our lives. Always. In the passage above, we read a snippet from the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Jesus knew He was going to multiply the few loaves and fish they had and feed over five thousand people. But before He did this, He wanted to test Philip, and so He did. Why does Jesus test Philip and why does He test us at times?

It's not that Jesus is curious about what Philip will say. And it's not that He is just playing games with Philip. Rather, He is seizing this opportunity to let Philip manifest His faith. So, in fact, this "testing" of Philip was a gift to him because it gave Philip the opportunity to pass the test.

The test was to let Philip act on faith rather than just on human logic alone. Sure, it's good to be logical. But very often the wisdom of God supersedes human logic. In other words, it brings logic to a whole new level. It brings it to a level where faith in God is brought into the equation.

So Philip, in that moment, was being called to offer a solution given the fact that the Son of God was there with them. And he fails the test. He points out that two hundred days' wages would not be enough to feed the crowd. But Andrew somewhat comes to the rescue. Andrew states that there is a boy who has a few loaves and some fish. Unfortunately he adds, "but what good are these for so many?"

This little spark of faith in Andrew, however, is enough faith for Jesus to have the crowds recline and to perform the miracle of the multiplication of the food. It seems that Andrew at least had a small insight into the fact that these few loaves and fish were important to mention. Jesus takes this from Andrew and takes care of the rest.

In trying and challenging times like we are today with the covid-19 pandemic, we may be going a testing period. It is not that Jesus does not know what to do, but probably He may want to see if you fail the test. That does not mean we are left alone because Jesus always care for us. Do we fail the test of faith like Philip or with a little faith like Andrew allow Jesus to complete the rest?

Reflect, today, upon the precious gift of even a little faith. So often we find ourselves in difficult situations where we don't know what to do. We should strive to have at least a little faith so that Jesus has something to work with. No, we may not have the full picture of what He wants to do, but we should at least have a small inkling of the direction God is leading. If we can at least manifest this little faith then we too will pass the test.

Lord, help me to have faith in Your perfect plan for my life. Help me to know that You are in control when life seems out of control. In those moments, may the faith I manifest be a gift to You so that You can use it for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 23, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

NO RATIONING OF THE SPIRIT

He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. John 3:34

At wartime, when soldiers have a scarce amount of food, they have to ration it. They only eat small measured portions each day so that the food will last as long as possible. If they do not, they may run out and starve.

What if this were the case with God and His grace? What if the Holy Spirit were to say to us, "Now I'm only going to help you to a limited degree. Once you use up the grace I'm offering you, you're on your own." Ouch! That would be problematic.

Of course the good news is that God acts in the completely opposite way with us. He commits to a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit and offers all the grace we could ever need or want. The problem is that we often "ration" His grace anyway. We don't do this because we believe God is limited. Rather, we often do it because we are afraid to let God unleash His almighty power in our lives.

This is the time for us as Christians to allow God to unleash his power and grace in our live. We need the mighty power and Spirit of God now more than ever. In the trying and challenging time of Covid-19, positive yourself for the Spirit of God.

Reflect, today, upon what your life would look like if you let God do whatever He wanted with you. What would change? How would your daily life, your relationships, your words, your actions and your future be different? Intellectually speaking, we know it's right to fully embrace the will of God in all things. But when it actually comes to doing it, there is often much hesitancy. It may be fear of the unknown. Or it may be that we do not fully want to change. Whatever the case may be, God is offering you an unlimited amount of grace by the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It's up to you to decide if you will ration or not.

Lord, I do want to let You do whatever You want in my life. I want to be fully immersed in Your grace. Help me to say "Yes" to You no matter what that leads to and help me to trust in this glorious "Yes" You are calling me to make. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 22, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

WHAT DO YOU PREFER?

"And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. John 3:19

What a strange thing to be so true. God the Father sent the Son into the world to be Light for us all. He is the Light that dispels all darkness. But, according to the Gospel above, "people preferred darkness to light." They preferred their own sins to freedom from sin. Why is that?

As an example of this reality, all we have to do is watch the news or read the newspaper. It seems that 90% of what is reported in the news media is a sensationalistic presentation of darkness. We hear of one murder after another or one scandal after another. Why does the media focus upon this so much? Because it's what sells. And why does it sell? Because we too often are drawn to darkness more than we are to light.

Think about the present situation or evil we are confronted with today. The covid-19 pandemic, what does the media say about it? The media gives us mostly the alarming figures of new cases and numbers of death. What about the recovery cases? Negative new is what sells. What really appeal to us? What are we drawn to as individuals today? It is the good news or the bad news? What do we prefer?

Most of us today are quite disinterested in the darkness of the world and the sensationalistic sins all around us. But the fact that the darkness of evil is so front and center all the time should offer us a certain warning about our fallen human nature. We tend to be drawn into mud and too often are all too happy there.

Easter is a time to examine what it is you are drawn to. Do you let yourself be drawn into the Light? Are you attracted by those things that brighten your day? Are you drawn to the many ways that God is present and active in the world all around you? Hopefully you are. But there is most likely some degree of pull toward disorder, sin and darkness. There can be an interior conflict that everyone experiences. It's good to be aware of this, to identify it as part of our fallen human tendency, and to seek to shed all interest in the chaos and evil all around us.

As a follower of Christ, we are called to keep our eyes on Him and on Him alone. We are called to penetrate the darkness with our faith and to let our whole being be attracted to and drawn toward Christ Jesus. Perfection means that even our passions and desires are ultimately drawn to Christ as the Light of our life.

Reflect, today, upon that which you are drawn toward the most. Commit yourself to the Light this Easter Season. Move your eyes from the temptation to become drawn in and fascinated by the evil around us, to the joyful vision of our Resurrected Lord alive and at work all around us. Let this Light guide your daily life.

Lord, help me to live in the light. Help me to keep my eyes firmly focused upon the glory of Your Resurrection. May the joy of that gaze keep me from the countless distractions of evil all around me. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 21, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

EFFECTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Jesus said to Nicodemus: "'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:7-8

Do you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? In this passage, Jesus offers an image of how the Holy Spirit works in us. He analogizes the Holy Spirit to the wind. We can hear the wind blowing but cannot see it. We do, however, perceive the effects of the wind. For example, when you see a tree swaying, you know that the wind is blowing.

So it is with the Holy Spirit in our lives. Though we may not be able to tangibly perceive where the Holy Spirit comes from, we will be able to see the effects of the Spirit. When we perceive a new strength within us, or an increase in virtues, or an ability to forgive, etc., we are aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit is present, leading us, transforming us and guiding us.

Additionally, we do not know where the wind goes once it passes. So it is with the Holy Spirit. If our lives are under the power and care of the Holy Spirit, we do not know where we will be led. The Holy Spirit leads us in the moment but does not typically reveal our whole future. We must be content to be led by the daily gentle presence of God, allowing ourselves to be moved here and there. This requires much trust and abandonment.

Ultimately the effect of the Holy Spirit is to take all that God has given us - our gifts, experiences, passions, and knowledge - and set them to work, bringing glory to Christ in the church and in the world. Apart from him, our best yields but little; yet with him, our little yields so much. So train yourself with every skill; equip yourself with the truth of the gospel; but learn always to depend on the Spirit.

Reflect, today, upon the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Look for the effects of the Holy Spirit to discern whether or not you are being truly led by God. Allow yourself to be led and moved by the Breath of God and anticipate great things in your life.

Come Holy Spirit, renew within me the grace of my Baptism and lead me each and every day in accord with Your divine will. I abandon myself to Your glorious care and trust in the promptings of Your presence in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 20, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

BEING BORN AGAIN

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God." John 3:5

Are you born again? This is a common question among many of the evangelical Christians. But it's a question that we should ask ourselves also. So are you? And what does that exactly mean?

Hopefully each one of us answers that question with a wholehearted "Yes!" Scripture is clear that we must receive a new birth in Christ. The old self must die and the new self must be reborn. This is what it means to become a Christian. We take on a new life in Christ.

Being born again happens by water and the Holy Spirit. It happens in baptism. When we are baptized we enter into the waters and die with Christ. As we rise from the waters, we are reborn in Him. This means that baptism does something truly amazing in us. It means that, as a result of our baptism, we are adopted into the very life of the Most Holy Trinity. Baptism, for most of us, happened when we were infants. It's one of those things we do not think about very often. But we should.

Baptism is a sacrament that has an ongoing and eternal effect in our lives. It implants an indelible character upon our souls. This "character" is a constant source of grace in our lives. It is like a well of grace that never goes dry. From this well we are constantly nourished and renewed to live out the dignity we are called to live. We are given from this well the grace we need to live as sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven.

Reflect, today, upon your own Baptism. Easter is a time more than any when we are called to renew this Sacrament. Holy water is a good way to do just that. Perhaps the next time you are at church it would be good to consciously remind yourself of your baptism, and the dignity and grace you have been given through this sacrament, by making a sign of the cross on your forehead with holy water. Baptism has made you into a new creation. Seek to both understand and live that new life you have been given during this Easter season.

Heavenly Father, I renew today my baptism. I forever renounce sin and profess my faith in Christ Jesus Your Son. Give me the grace I need to live out the dignity to which I have been called. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 19, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit". (Jn. 20 :19-22)

My mum expressed a deep sense of displeasure for not having celebrated the Holy Week this year in the usual manner and even missing her daily and Sunday masses. And I guess many of us shared a similar sentiment too. But it is consoling to hear from today's gospel that even the apostles once experienced a 'lockdown' as a result of a different kind of 'pandemic.' They couldn't go out in the open nor participate in prayers in the Temple and synagogues. And guess what, they encountered the risen Lord in their little room of quarantine.

The doors and iron bars of our homes have limited our sight; rendered our faces moody; our hearts empty and heavy and our hopes uncertain. But the gospel encourages us to know that our homes are the places of revelation of the face of the risen Lord. Jesus makes His way through our closed doors, and His word can only be 'Peace!'

In our gospel of today, we find the core of the resurrection story; Jesus appeared to the disciples in closed room and showed himself. The fearful disciples have hidden themselves from the world. Fear of the unknown and what will become of them. Just like the disciples we are all afraid today of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like them we are all lockdown and asked to remain at home.

In their fear Jesus appeared twice, greeted them with peace and breathed the Holy Spirit on them, with the mandate to forgive sins. Jesus sent them into the world. Their mission was not only to forgive or retain sins but to proclaim Jesus as God's messiah, proven by his resurrection.

Thomas who was not present in the first encounter doubted but later believed after seeing. The story of Thomas emphasizes the necessity for those who are unable to see the mark of the nail in Jesus' hands to believe on the strength of the witnesses of others.

The beautiful thing about this story is Jesus' divine mercy. Jesus did not condemn Thomas' request. Rather he offered to show him his hand and his side, and Thomas expressed the most profane act of faith "my Lord and my God". We have many Thomas in our world today, but we are all called to believe without doubting. Thomas called us to blind faith without asking for signs.

Today we celebrate DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY. There is nothing our world needs more than divine mercy especially when the human conscience has succumbed to secularization and the human person has lost the sense of sin and the meaning of mercy. The message of Divine Mercy started in 1931 by St. Maria Faustina. In preparation for the feast of Divine mercy we are encouraged to participate in the Novena and go for confession.

Jesus promised St Faustina "on that day, the very depths of my tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those soul who approach the fount of my mercy. The soul that will go to confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. on that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlets

As we seek divine mercy, we are called to be merciful too by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, how can we have greater mercy for those who may not believe based on our word? What is one concrete thing we can do to strengthen or mend a relationship with a family member who is far from the faith?

Reflect on this Divine Mercy Sunday on how much you have practice Mercy in the form of: Corporal works of mercy: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, comfort the imprisoned, visit the sick and bury the dead. The Spiritual Works of Mercy: Admonish the sinners, instruct the uninformed, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, be patient with those in error, forgive offence and pray for the living and the dead.

My merciful Lord, I trust in you and your abundant mercy! Help me, this day to deepen my devotion to your merciful heart and to open my soul to the treasures that pour forth from this font of Heavenly riches. May I trust You and become an instrument of you and your mercy to the whole world. Jesus, I trust in You!



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 17, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

FISHING FOR SOULS WITH JESUS

"Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. John 21:6

Every fisherman would love to have the experience that Jesus offered the Apostles in the passage above. The Apostles were fishing all night and caught nothing. Then, in the morning, Jesus appeared on the shore but they did not realize it was Him. He then gave them a simple command to cast their net off the right side of the boat. And they caught so many fish they could not pull them in. What an exciting catch!

Before this catch, there is something worth pondering about. The inability of the disciples to recognize Jesus. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus these too could not recognize Jesus until after the catch of fish. How much do we recognize Jesus in our brothers and sisters. Do we really need a miracle like the catch to recognize Him?

This catch of fish was much more than just a favor from Jesus to help them with their work. It was highly symbolic. The central symbolism is that Jesus was giving the Apostles a new calling. They would no longer be fishing just for fish, rather, they were now to fish for souls. And the important part is that if they attempted to do this by their own efforts, they would come up empty handed. If, however, they did it at the Lord's command, in His way, within His timing, then their efforts would provide an abundance of good fruit. More than they could ever imagine!

This miracle of Jesus begins to reveal to the Apostles (and to us) the command that comes to evangelize the world. This revelation comes after His Resurrection as Jesus gives His final instructions to the Apostles to carry out His mission of salvation. We should see in this miracle our own call to spread the Good News. And we must see in this miracle the command to spread the Good News only at the command of Jesus, in His way and within His timing.

Sometimes Christians tend to come up with many "good" ideas to spread the Gospel. But the key is to humble ourselves before God and realize that we are incapable of spreading the Good News of the Gospel unless the Lord is leading the way and giving the direction. This tells us we should wait on Him and let Him speak. We must listen to His voice and respond only when He leads. Evangelization is a response to Jesus rather than something we do by our own effort. This is the central message of this miraculous event.

As we continue our Easter Day celebration, it is a good time for each of us to reflect upon our own responsibility to evangelize. We all have a calling to share in this work of Jesus. It will take on different forms for each of us according to our vocation and mission. But the real question is this: "Am I responding to the call from Jesus to evangelize in the way He is directing me?" This is an important question. We should know that the particular mission Jesus gives us is not entrusted to anyone else. And He does want to use us.

Reflect, today, upon this command our Lord gave to the Apostles and hear Him speak this same command to you, calling you to "fish for souls" in accord with His holy will. Let the Lord speak to you this week and let yourself be open to His direction. God wants to use you, so make sure you let Him!

Lord, I do want to be used by You. I do want to evangelize in accord with Your will. Help me to confidently answer the call, and help me to sincerely listen to the direction You give. Use me, dear Lord, to save many souls for Your Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 16, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

INCREDULOUS JOY

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. Luke 24:41-43

"Incredulous for joy!" What a great description of the disciples' reaction to Jesus! To be "incredulous" means that the disciples were not sure what to believe. They were hesitant to believe in what they were seeing. There was Jesus, whom they saw crucified, standing before them with the wounds in His hands and feet. He was talking to them and asked for something to eat. They were in a bit of shock, disbelief and uncertainty.

But the description says that they were incredulous "for joy!" It's as if they were waiting to explode with joy, they wanted to experience joy in what they were seeing, but something was holding them back. It all seemed to be too good. Was it true? Could it be that Jesus really conquered death and was once again back with them?

This reaction of the disciples reveals an experience that we all have at times when invited by God to enter into His glory and grace. So often, when God invites us closer to Himself, when He invites us to experience the joy of His Resurrection, we react with hesitancy. We can find it hard to actually let ourselves experience the reality of the Resurrection in our lives.

This can happen for many reasons. Discouragement is one cause for our hesitancy to fully embrace the Resurrection. The disciples were deeply discouraged at the death of Jesus. And now that He had risen, and was standing there before them, they were hesitant to let go of that discouragement they let take hold.

So also, we can easily let the weight of the world, our sin, or the sins of others get to us. We can get angry or upset and find ourselves brewing over the apparent problems we face. Taking joy in the Resurrection means we turn our eyes away from those things and look intently at the realities God wants us to focus on.

It does no good to become discouraged with the many problems that come our way. Instead, our Lord is regularly calling us to look beyond them to something greater. He is calling us to look to His victory! Looking at His victory is freeing and produces an incredible faith in our lives. And that faith in the Risen Lord will have the effect of a wonderful joy that God wants us to have.

Reflect, today, upon your own reaction to the reality of the Resurrection of our Lord. Spend some time today gazing upon the Risen Lord. Look at His victory. Look at His glory. Look at Him who calls you to a deep faith. With your eyes fixed on Him, all else that tempts you to discouragement simply fades away.

Lord, I do want to gaze upon You. I want to see Your splendor and glory. I want to see You risen from the dead and take great joy and delight in this reality. Help me, dear Lord, to experience the incredible joy that comes from knowing You, our Resurrected Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 15, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

RECOGNIZING JESUS

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16)

This appearance of Jesus to two of His disciples is intriguing and fascinating. They were quite distraught and didn't seem to know what to think about Jesus' death. They had hoped He was the Messiah but then He was killed. And then there were some who claimed His tomb was empty. What should they make of all this?

As the story goes on, Jesus "interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures." With that, these disciples realized that this man with whom they were speaking had incredible wisdom and understanding, so they invited Him to stay with them. Like these disciples we need to invite Jesus specially into our life's challenges, we need his presence as we remain in lockdown, isolation and practicing social distancing. Jesus stayed and sat down with them in their home. While there, Scripture says that "he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight."

Again, this is intriguing and fascinating. Why did Jesus appear to them, conceal who He was, sit down and break bread with them, allow them to suddenly recognize Him and then vanish into thin air? Well, He did it for a reason and we should be very attentive to this.

Jesus wanted those disciples, as well as all of us, to know that He who rose from the dead was very much alive and that we would recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. We would recognize Him in the Most Holy Eucharist! This appearance of Jesus to these disciples was, in fact, an appearance to teach all of us the simple truth of His presence in the Eucharist. It was at that moment, as they "took bread, said the blessing, broke it," that Jesus was suddenly made manifest to their minds and souls. Jesus is alive in the Eucharist! But it also tells us that He is veiled in the Eucharist. This combination of being veiled and truly present gives us wonderful guidance in our faith.

Jesus is here, right now, in our presence, but we most likely do not see Him. But He is truly here! These disciples were in the presence of Jesus and they did not realize it. The same is true for us. We are constantly in His presence and we do not realize it. This is especially true when we are at Mass, but it is also true in countless other ways throughout our day, even in our home as we "shelter-in-place" from covid-19. We must commit ourselves to seeing Him, to recognizing Him and to adoring Him. We must discover the resurrected presence of Jesus all around us.

Too often we think that our Lord is present only in extraordinary ways. But that is not true! He is constantly present to us in very ordinary ways. He is here with us right now, loving us, speaking to us, and calling us to love Him. Do you see Him? Do you recognize His presence?

Reflect, today, upon the experience of these disciples. If you were them, you'd be blessed to be in the presence of the Savior of the world. What an honor! The truth is that God is with you now and always. He is constantly with you and is constantly speaking with you. Look for Him and listen to His voice. You may be surprised at how near He really is.

Lord, thank You for loving me so much that You are always with me. Help me to see You and to recognize Your gentle and still voice. Give me the eyes of faith to see You present in the Most Holy Eucharist, and help me to discern Your presence in every ordinary event of my day. I love You, dear Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 14, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

HOLDING ON TO JESUS

Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him. Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." John 20:15-17

Mary Magdalene had been outside Jesus' tomb weeping because she didn't know what had happened to His sacred body. Jesus appears to her suddenly in her grief and she is overwhelmed, crying out "Rabbouni!" Jesus tells her to stop holding on to Him. Why would Jesus say this? What did He mean?

As we can imagine, this was a very emotional moment for Mary. She had been there watching the entire Crucifixion. She knew Jesus well and loved Him dearly. She watched Him die and now, all of a sudden, Jesus was alive and in her presence. Her emotions must have been overwhelming.

Jesus was not being critical of Mary when He told her not to hold on to Him. He was actually giving her beautiful advice and direction in her spiritual journey and in her relationship with Him. He was telling her that His relationship was now going to change, and deepen. He told her not to hold on to Him because He had "not yet ascended to the Father." At that moment, Mary's relationship with Jesus was primarily on a human level. She had spent much time with Him, been in His physical presence, and loved Him with her human heart. But Jesus wanted more.

Jesus wanted her, and all of us, to now love Him in a divine way. He was soon to ascend to the Father, and from His heavenly throne He could descend to begin a new relationship with Mary, and with all of us, that was far more than one on a human level. From His throne in Heaven He could now enter Mary's soul. He could enter into a new and much deeper communion with her and with all of us. He could live in us and we in Him. He could become one with us.

By letting go of the more human and emotional aspects of her relationship with Jesus, Mary could soon cling to Him in a way that she couldn't do through her human interaction with Him. This is the divine marriage, the divine communion to which we are all called.

Reflect, today, upon your own clinging to Jesus. He is now fully resurrected and ascended and we can experience the full fruits of the Resurrection as a result. We, with Mary, can now hold on to Him in our souls because He is primarily the one holding on to us.

Lord, may I cling to You as You cling to me. May my heart, mind and soul be Yours. Come live in me so that I may live in You. I give my life to You, dear Lord, help me to offer You all that I am. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 13, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE JOY AND FEAR OF THE RESURRECTION

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. Matthew 28:8-9

They went away "fearful" but also "overjoyed." What a fascinating combination! These two experiences do not at first seem like they go hand in hand. How is one fearful while also filled with joy? Wouldn't fear undermine joy? And wouldn't joy seem to cast out fear? This all depends upon what sort of "fear" these holy women were experiencing. The fear they were experience is very different from the fear we are confronted with to with the covid-19 pandemic.

The fear these women were experiencing was one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gift of holy fear. This is not a fear in the normal sense of being afraid. Rather, it's a fear that is better defined as a deep reverence, wonder and awe. It's a gift that enabled these women to recognize the profundity of what they were presently experiencing. They were in awe, holy shock, amazement and filled with joy all at the same time. They would have suddenly experienced the amazing realization and hope that Jesus had beaten death itself. They were most likely confused but also filled with a faith that left them with a conviction that something extraordinary had just taken place.

This is the experience we must have today in whatever situation we find ourselves because Jesus risen from the dead is with us. Today is the second day in the Octave of Easter. That means today is Easter Day once again. We celebrate Easter Day for eight straight days culminating with Divine Mercy Sunday. So these next eight days are days when we should spend extra time trying to penetrate and experience the same experience these holy women had as they first discovered that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. We must let ourselves engage the mystery of the Resurrection. We must see it for what it is. We must strive to comprehend this gift and the amazing fact that in His Resurrection, Jesus destroys the effects of sin. He destroys death itself. Truly amazing!

Do you understand the Resurrection of Christ? Not well enough. It's only the humble truth for each of us to admit that we need to understand the Resurrection more. We must let not only the truth of the Resurrection sink in, we must also allow the effects of the Resurrection to change us. We must allow the Resurrection of Christ to enter into our souls and invite us to share in this new life today.

As these holy women left the tomb, the Scripture tells us that they met the Resurrected Christ on their way. And it tells us that when they saw Jesus they, "approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage." This is no small act of adoration and love. This act of worship and adoration of Jesus shows that they not only believed, but also acted by worshiping Him. We must do the same.

Reflect, today, upon the awesome event of the Resurrection and spend time this week in this humble adoration. Try to literally bow down to the ground in homage before the Resurrected Christ. Try to do this literally. Perhaps in the silence of your room, or in a church, or any place that you can comfortably express this literal and physical act of worship and adoration. As you do this, let yourself come face to face with the Risen Lord. And let Him begin to more deeply transform your life!

Lord, I do believe. I believe You rose victorious over sin and death. Allow me, especially during this Octave of Easter, to enter into the great mystery of Your Resurrection. Help me to understand and experience this overwhelming glory in my life. I adore You with a profound love, dear Lord. Help me to worship You with all my might. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 12, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE EMPTY TOMB - HE IS RISEN

"On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him." (Jn. 20: 1-2)

In the above gospel, we are presented with the witness of Mary of Magdalene. What was a driving force in her life? It was love that moved her to Jesus. As Christians, do we have that same love for Jesus? She became the first witness of the resurrection because of her love.

When Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb the first thing that came to her mind was that the body of Jesus has been stolen. She came first thing in the morning to the tomb of Jesus while it was still dark. She found out the stone was rolled away and obviously the armed guard were not there. In the history of the world only one tomb was sent guard to keep watch to prevent the resurrection. But while the resurrection happens, they could not explain. Even the grave could not hold Jesus captive.

Mary came to the tomb with a heavy heart looking for Jesus. Is He truly dead and gone? On this Easter morning what are we looking for or expecting to see? When Mary saw the empty tomb, she ran to Peter and the other disciple to report "they have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don't know where they put him". Peter and the other disciple went and confirm Mary's story.

With the resurrection, we see Mary Magdalene's courage and boldness. We are called as Christians to be of the same courage and boldness. Easter is a feast of liberation from the domain of darkness to that of light. So, at this Easter, we have been liberated from death, bitterness, envy, hunger, sin, fear and loneliness.

The reality of fear and loneliness are all before today. Many of us are in lockdown and have been denied for a good reason our freedom of movement, or worship. To prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Many are required to self-isolate themselves, while other who are sick have been denied visitors. We have been asked to practice social distancing. Many of our loved ones who have died from this virus have been left to died alone without their loved once around them. The fear of being alone can bring a sense of rejection, exclusion or abandonment in us.

This is the pain of our current situation. Jesus this year was left to died alone on Good Friday without his follower around him in the church and places of worship. But this facts and situation did not hinder his mission or stopped him from rising. The Covid-19 pandemic should not stop us from expressing our joys in our home as a family even if we are denied from gathering together and worship.

At the resurrection the apostles and Mary Magdalene were transformed. They became apostles of life. So, like the apostles and Mary, we are all apostles of life, light, peace, unity, forgiveness, love. Christ is risen and he is with us wherever we are right no. The tomb is empty. The Lord is alive. Lent is over. Death and darkness, despair and uncertainty are not the final answer. What are our feet going to do today? This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad, no matter covid-19 pandemic.

Reflect on this Easter morning/day, what do you really seek? Are you still looking for the certainty of your Faith in the mist of Covid-19? The darkness cannot and must not be our final answer. Are you still looking for the Jesus in an empty tomb? He is risen, even though you cannot totally comprehend resurrection or the covid-19 pandemic. Trust in the power that trampled death and reign victoriously.

Jesus our risen Lord, you have been set free! Open the tomb of our hearts so that we swell with your Easter joy. We thank you for transforming us from the plodding of pre-dawn heaviness to this moment when the sun comes up, when you are risen! Lighten our feet so that we too can start to dance with the gift of certainty that you live, and we need not worry or fear anything. Jesus, I trust in you.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 8, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

STUCK IN DENIAL

The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born." Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" He answered, "You have said so." Matthew 26:24-25

Was Judas in denial? Did he truly think that he was not the one who was to betray Jesus? We do not know for certain what was going on in Judas' mind, but one thing is clear…he did betray Jesus. And it appears from his words that he didn't see his act as a betrayal and, therefore, he was in deep denial.

Denial, if written out as an acronym, has been said to mean that I "don't even know I am lying." Perhaps Judas was so steeped in his own sin that he couldn't even admit to himself, let alone to others, that he was lying and preparing to betray Jesus for money. This is a scary thought.

It's scary because it reveals one of the effects of persistent sin. Persistent sin makes sin easier. And eventually, when one persists in the same sin, that sin is easily rationalized, justified and denied as sin altogether. When one gets stuck in this downward spiral of persistent sin it's hard to get out. And often the only way to survive the psychological tension is to remain in denial.

This is an important lesson for us this Holy Week. Sin is never fun to look at and takes great courage to do so. But imagine if Judas would have actually confessed to what he was about to do. Imagine if he would have broken down in front of Jesus and the other Apostles and told them the whole truth.

Perhaps that act of honesty would have saved his life and his eternal soul. It would have been painful and humiliating for him to do so, but it would have been the right thing to do. Sometimes we may argue that Judas had no choice and that all happened to fulfill the scripture. That is another way of playing a blame game. Trying to attribute all to God.

Being stuck in denial could be true with you. Perhaps you are not at a point where your sin is leading you to outright betrayal of Jesus, but everyone can find some pattern of sin in their lives this Holy Week. You must seek to discover, with God's help, some pattern or habit you have formed. What a great discovery this would be if you could then face this sin with honesty and courage. This would enable you to shed any bit of denial regarding your sin and enable you to conquer that sin so as to discover the freedom God wants you to experience!

Reflect, today, upon Judas saying to Jesus, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" This sad statement from Judas must have deeply wounded our Lord's Heart as He witnessed the denial of Judas. Reflect, also, upon the many times that you deny your sin, failing to sincerely repent. Make this Holy Week a time for honesty and integrity. The Lord's mercy is so deep and pure that, if you would understand it, you would have no need to remain in any form of denial of your sins.

Lord, help me this Holy Week to have the courage I need to face my sin and weakness. I am a sinner, dear Lord, but it can be very hard for me to admit it. May I entrust my sin to You so that I may be set free and receive, in its place, Your abundant mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 7, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

PAINFUL BETRAYAL

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." John 13:21

It's very important to note here that Jesus was "deeply troubled." This shows His humanity. Jesus had a human heart and loved Judas with a divine love through His human heart. As a result of this perfect love of Judas, Jesus' heart was deeply troubled.

It was "troubled" in the sense that Jesus could do nothing more than He had already done to change the mind and heart of Judas. It's not that Jesus was personally offended or angered by Judas' betrayal. Rather, it's that Jesus' heart burned with a deep sorrow at the loss of Judas whom He loved with a perfect love.

Judas had free will. Without free will Judas could not freely love Jesus. But with free will, Judas chose to betray Jesus. The same is true with us. We have free will and we are given the same ability that Judas had to accept the love of Jesus or to reject it. We can let His loving gift of salvation and grace enter our lives or refuse it. It's 100% up to us.

Holy Week is an ideal time to seriously contemplate the road we are on. Each and every day of our life we are invited by God to choose Him with all our might and love. But, like Judas, we so often betray Him by our refusal to enter Holy Week with Jesus, embracing His Cross as ours. We so often fail to give completely of our lives, time, talents and treasure in a sacrificial and generous way, as our Lord did that Holy Week.

Reflect, today, upon the love Jesus had for Judas. It was His love for Judas, more than Judas' sin, that brought so much pain to Jesus' Heart. If Jesus didn't love him, the rejection would not have hurt. Reflect, also, on the love Jesus has for you. Ponder whether or not His Heart is also troubled as a result of the actions in your life. Be honest and do not make excuses. If Jesus is troubled in any way as a result of your actions and choices this is no reason to despair as Judas did. Rather, it should be the cause of rejoicing that you are aware of your weakness, sin and limitation. Turn that over to Jesus who loves you more than you love yourself. Doing this will bring your heart much consolation and peace. And it will also bring much consolation and peace to the Heart of our Divine Lord. He loves you and is waiting for you to come to Him this Holy Week.

My dear suffering and rejected Lord, I do love You but I also know that I cause Your Heart to be troubled by my betrayal. Help me to see my sin honestly this Holy Week. In seeing it, may I let go of that which keeps me from loving You more deeply, so as to walk with You to the Cross to share in Your glorious triumph. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 6, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

ANOINTING THE FEET OF JESUS

"Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. John 12:3 When we serve others, we live out Jesus' command do love one another. Mary anointed the feet of Jesus in anticipation of burial to come. What a humble and beautiful act of love toward Jesus. Mary anoints Jesus' feet and Judas questioned why the costly perfumed oil not sold and the money given to the poor.

This perfume was worth 300 days' wages. That's a lot of money! It's interesting to note that Judas objected to this act by claiming that he thought it should have been sold and the money given to the poor. But the Gospel states clearly that Judas was really only interested in the money himself since he used to steal from the money bag. Of even greater note is Jesus' response to Judas. Jesus rebukes Judas and states, "Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."

If anyone else would have said this it would have sounded self-centered. But it was Jesus who said it and He was perfectly selfless in His love. So what was this all about? It was about the fact that Jesus knew what Mary needed. And in saying what He did, He revealed what each one of us needs. We need to worship Him, honor Him and make Him the center of our lives. We need to humble ourselves before Him and serve Him. Not because He needs us to treat Him this way, but because we need to treat Him this way. Honoring Him in our humility and love is what we need to do for our own holiness and happiness. Jesus knew this, so He honored Mary for this act of love.

This story invites us to do the same. It invites us to look to Jesus and to make Him the center of our adoration and love. At this moment more than ever we should look up to Jesus. He is the "way maker, miracle worker, wonderful healer". It invites us to willingly pour out all our labor for Him (symbolized by the perfume worth 300 days' wages). Nothing is too costly for Jesus. Nothing is worth more than an act of our worship.

Worship of God is right to do. Most importantly, it's an act that will transform you into the person you were made to be. You were made for worship and adoration of God and this is accomplished when you humbly honor our Lord with your whole self.

Reflect, today, upon the depth of your own adoration of our Lord. Are you willing to "spill" your whole livelihood upon Him? Is He worth more to you than 300 days' wages? Is He the most central part of your life? Do you daily humble yourself before Him and pour out your heart to Him in prayer? Reflect upon this humble act of worship that Mary offers Jesus and seek to imitate her beautiful example.

Lord, may I follow the example of this holy woman, Mary. Help me to humble myself before You and honor You with my whole life. Dear Lord, nothing in life is more important than You and my total adoration of You. Draw me in, dear Lord, humble me before Your glory and help me to love and worship You with my whole being. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 5, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE SHOCKING CONTRAST OF A KING & THE CROSS

In today's Liturgy we face quite a contrast of experiences and emotions. An obvious paradox in the inconsistency of the human person. Jesus entered Jerusalem and he was welcomed with great joy and exultation! "Hosanna!" they cried out. "Hosanna in the Highest!"

Jesus was treated like a king and someone special. People were excited to see Him and there was much excitement. But this excitement quickly turned to mocking and horror as we enter more deeply into today's readings.

The crowd who shouted Hosanna today in few days' time cried out "crucify him". In our gospel narrative today, we heard what Jesus had to go through for love of us. We hear the pain he bears to save us. The gospel narrative culminates with Jesus hanging on the Cross crying out "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

And with that, "Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last." (Jesus felt abandoned just as many Christian today would be feeling abandoned. But God never abandoned him or abandon us today)

How things can change in one short week. What happened to all the people who were shouting and praising Him as He entered into Jerusalem? How could they allow Him to enter into this Crucifixion and death?

The deepest answer to this question is one that we may not expect. The answer is that the Father willed it. The Father willed, by His permissive will, that so many would turn on Him, abandon Him and allow Him to be crucified.

How things and time change. Who could have imagined last year or sometime in January that the world will be on lockdown from Coronavirus? How did this happen?

In truth no one can tell. Did God allow it? We can't say that for sure, but in all we are going through from this experience, God is still with us. These experiences could be our Holy Week or Good Friday and surely there will be Easter Sunday of joy for us.

The story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem and crucifixion is very important to understand. At any time during that first Holy Week, Jesus could have exercised His divine power and refused to embrace His Cross. But He didn't. Instead, He willingly walked through this week anticipating and embracing the suffering and rejection He received. And He do so, not grudgingly or with regret.

He embraced this week willingly, choosing it as His own will. Why would He do such a thing? Why would He choose suffering and death? Because in the Father's perfect wisdom, this suffering and death was for a greater purpose. God chose to confound the wisdom of the world by using His own suffering and Crucifixion as the perfect means of our holiness.

In act of suffering and death, He transformed the greatest evil into the greatest good. Now, as a result of our faith in this act, the crucifix hangs centrally in our churches and in our homes as a constant reminder that not even the greatest of evils can overcome the power, wisdom and love of God. God is more powerful than death itself and God has the final victory even when all seems lost.

Let this week give us all that divine hope we need. So often we can be tempted toward discouragement and, even worse, we can be tempted toward despair. But all is not lost for us. Nothing can ultimately steal away our joy unless we let it. No hardship, no burden and no cross can conquer us if we remain steadfast in Christ Jesus letting Him transform all we endure in life by His glorious embrace of His own Cross.

As we begin this holy week today, let us reflect upon the contrast of emotions from Palm Sunday through Good Friday. Let us ponder the fear, confusion and despair that many would have had as they saw Jesus murdered. Let us think about the fears, anxiety and depression many are going through as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Let us reflect also, on God's awareness and ready to make the greatest good come out from it.

Reflect, today, upon the contrast of emotions from Palm Sunday through Good Friday. Ponder the fear, confusion and despair that many would have had as they saw Jesus murdered. Reflect, also, upon this being a divine act by which the Father permitted this grave suffering so as to use it for the greatest good ever known. The Lord gave His life freely and calls you to do the same. Reflect upon the cross in your life. Know that the Lord can use this for good, bringing forth an abundance of mercy through your free embrace as you offer it to Him as a willing sacrifice. Blessed Holy Week! Put your eyes upon the Lord's Cross as well as your own.

Lord, when I am tempted to despair, give me hope. Help me to see your presence in all things, even in those things that are most troubling to me. May this Holy Week transform my darkest moments and weakness as I surrender all to You, my God. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 3, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE CROSS BEFORE US

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?" John 10:31-32

As we draw closer to Holy Week, and to Good Friday, we begin to see that hatred was growing toward Jesus. Just as we saw in yesterday's reflection, this makes no sense. To hate Jesus and to desire to stone Him to death is an act of the greatest irrationality. But this is what happened. Little by little, those who were against Jesus grew in boldness until that ultimate day came when He laid down His life for us and willingly embraced His death.

Over the next two weeks it's good to face this irrationality and persecution head on. It's good to see the hatred of so many and to name it for what it is. No, it's not a pleasant thought, but it is reality. It's the world we live in. And it's a reality we will all face in our lives. We may be hated for no reason. That is the fact of life.

When confronting evil and persecution, we should do so as Jesus did. He faced it without fear. He faced it with the truth and never accepted the lies and calumny that so many threw at Him. Our Christian faith calls us to be bold and have no fear. Fear is a lier. In our present situation, no doubt we are faced with lots of fear. Let our trust and faith in the God of all possibilities drive out every element of fear in us.

The fact of the matter is that the closer we grow toward God, the greater the persecution and hatred we will encounter. Again, this may not make sense to us. It's easy to think that if we are close to God and strive for holiness everyone will love and praise us. But it wasn't that way for Jesus and it will not be that way for us either.

One key to holiness is that in the midst of persecution, suffering, hardship and sorrow, we stand firm in the truth. It's always tempting to think that we must be doing something wrong when things do not go our way. It's easy to be confused by the lies and calumny that the world throws at us when we try to stand for goodness and the truth. One thing God wants of us, in the midst of our own crosses, is to purify our faith and resolve to stand firm in His Word and Truth.

When we face some cross or some persecution it can be like getting hit in the head. We may feel like we are in a daze and can give into panic and fear. But these are the times, more than any other, when we need to stand strong. We need to remain humble but deeply convicted about all that God has said and revealed to us. This deepens our ability to trust God in all things. It's easy to say we trust God when life is easy, it's hard to trust Him when the cross we face is quite heavy.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that no matter what your cross may be, it is a gift from God in that He is desiring to strengthen you for some greater purpose. As Saint John Paul the Great said over and over during his pontificate, "Do not be afraid!" Face your fears and let God transform you in the midst of them. If you do so, you will discover that your greatest struggles in life actually turn out to be your greatest blessings.

Lord, as we draw near to the commemoration of Your own suffering and death, help me to unite my crosses to Yours. Help me to see in my daily struggle Your presence and strength. Help me to see the purpose you have for me in the midst of these challenges. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
April 2, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE POWER OF DESTRUCTIVE SPEECH

Jesus said to the Jews: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death." So the Jews said to him, "Now we are sure that you are possessed." John 8:51-52

It's hard to imagine anything worse that could be said about Jesus. Did they really think He was possessed by the evil one? It appears so. What a sad and bizarre thing to say about the Son of God. Here is God Himself, in the person of Jesus, offering a promise of eternal life. He reveals the sacred Truth that obedience to His Word is the pathway to eternal happiness and that everyone needs to know this Truth and live it.

Jesus speaks this freely and openly, but the response from some hearing this message is deeply disappointing, slanderous and malicious. It's hard to know what was going on in their minds to cause them to say such a thing. Perhaps they were jealous of Jesus, or perhaps they were just seriously confused. Whatever the case may be, they spoke something that was seriously damaging.

The damage of such a statement was not so much toward Jesus; rather, it was damaging to themselves as well as to those around Him. Jesus could personally handle whatever was spoken about Him, but others could not. It is important to understand that our own words can do great damage to ourselves and to others.

First of all, their words did damage to themselves. By speaking such an erroneous statement publicly, they start down the path of obstinacy. It takes great humility to retract such a statement in the future. So it is with us. When we verbalize something that is damaging toward another, it's hard to retract it. It's hard to later apologize and mend the wound we have caused. The damage is primarily done to our own heart in that it's hard to let go of our error and humbly move forward. But this must be done if we want to undo the damage.

Secondly, this comment also did damage to those who were listening. Some may have rejected this malicious statement but others may have pondered it and started to wonder if in fact Jesus was possessed. Thus, seeds of doubt were sown. We must all realize that our words affect others and we must strive to speak them with the utmost care and charity.

Reflect, today, upon your own speech. Are there things you have spoken to others that you now realize were erroneous or misleading? If so, have you sought to undo the damage by retracting your words and apologizing? Reflect, also, upon the fact that it's easy to be drawn into the malicious conversation of others. Have you allowed yourself to be influenced by such conversations? If so, resolve to silence your ears to such errors and look for ways to speak the truth.

Lord, give me the grace of speaking holy words that always give You glory and reflect the eternal Truths alive in Your Heart. Help me to also be aware of the lies all around me in this world of sin. May Your Heart filter out the errors and allow only the seeds of Truth to be planted in my own mind and heart. Jesus, I trust in You.