Category Archives: Sunday


Read­ing Time: 3 minutes



The feast of the holy fam­ily of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is part of the Christ­mas peri­od. The Gos­pel of this Sunday should be placed and read in the con­text of what Math­ew and Luke report about the birth of Jesus. The Gos­pel con­tin­ues to cla­ri­fy the iden­tity of Jesus which Mat­thew explains with the story of the vis­it of the angels and the flight into Egypt. With the Gos­pel of this Sunday and the story of the safety of the child Jesus, Mat­thew invites the read­er to reflect more on the iden­tity of Jesus.

The flight to Egypt

Now after Jesus was born in Beth­le­hem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East[1] came to Jer­u­s­alem, say­ing, where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to wor­ship him” (Matt 2:1–2). Con­cern­ing the star that guided these ancient sci­ent­ists, there has been con­sid­er­able spec­u­la­tion. While some sus­tain it was a curi­ous con­junc­tion of plan­ets, oth­ers take it to be a comet. These are pos­sible interpretations.

Family bond

Ordin­ar­ily, a bond is a con­nec­tion that fastens things togeth­er. In sci­ence, it is an elec­tric­al force link­ing atoms. In our con­text, a bond is a con­nec­tion based on kin­ship, mar­riage or com­mon interest. As a verb, bond means to bring togeth­er in a com­mon cause or emo­tion. There­fore, a fam­ily bond is a strong con­nec­tion between fam­ily mem­bers. Such con­nec­tion cre­ates a strong cohe­sion among mem­bers of the family.

Fam­ily cohe­sion has been defined as the emo­tion­al bond­ing that fam­ily mem­bers have toward one anoth­er.[2] Such fam­ily bond and cohe­sion pro­mote fam­ily sup­port and suc­cess. In this sense then, fam­ily bond or bond­ing is the intense attach­ment that devel­ops between par­ents and their chil­dren. It makes par­ents want to shower their chil­dren with love and affec­tion and to pro­tect and care for them. No doubt, par­ents’ respons­ive­ness (or lack of it) to a child’s sig­nals can affect the infant’s social and cog­nit­ive devel­op­ment. There was a strong bond between Mary, Joseph and their child Jesus. And such bond affected pos­it­ively the life of the child. Anoth­er reas­on this fam­ily is rightly described as holy fam­ily. In this fam­ily, God was the found­a­tion and the reas­on the mem­bers of this fam­ily lived. Mary who aban­doned her­self to the will of God (cf. Luke 1:38). Jesus who did everything pos­sible to pro­tect and save Mary and the child Jesus from danger (cf. Matt 2:13–15). And finally, Jesus him­self who did noth­ing but the will of God as wit­nessed in the Gospels.


The bond that exis­ted in the holy fam­ily is the kind of rela­tion­ship that should exit in every fam­ily. A fam­ily where fath­er, moth­er and chil­dren know their respect­ive roles and adhere to it without wait­ing to be reminded, rep­rim­anded or policed about. The chil­dren of this gen­er­a­tion have so much abused free­dom that they are now vic­tims of their own free­dom. Chris­ti­an fam­il­ies should use the occa­sion of the holy fam­ily Sunday to review and reflect on their vari­ous fam­il­ies. Make your fam­ily the best. Remem­ber, the best fam­ily is not neces­sar­ily the richest fam­ily. It is that fam­ily where each mem­ber of the fam­ily knows his or her respons­ib­il­ity and executes it. It is that fam­ily where God is the found­a­tion and the point of ref­er­ence for every activity.

Hold firm to your fam­ily bond. Rejoice for God loves you. And may God bless you and your fam­ily. Shalom!


  1. Tra­di­tion gives their names as Mel­chi­or, Cas­par and Balthas­ar.
  2. Cf. Olsen-Rus­sell-Spren­kle, 1982.


Read­ing Time: 8 minutes

(Ref. Texts: 1Sam 1:20–22.24–28; 1John 3:1–2.21–24; Luke 2:41–52)

I describe fam­ily val­ues as respons­ib­il­ity towards oth­ers, increase of tol­er­ance, com­prom­ise, sup­port, flex­ib­il­ity. And essen­tially the things I call the silent song of life-the con­tinu­ous pro­cess of mutu­al accom­mod­a­tion without which life is impossible” (S. Minuchin).


Once more, happy Christ­mas and com­pli­ments of the sea­son! The Church in her wis­dom ded­ic­ates the Sunday in the Octave of Christ­mas, that is, the Sunday fol­low­ing the Christ­mas Day to the fam­il­ies, rep­res­en­ted by the Naz­areth fam­ily, com­posed of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. That is, fath­er, moth­er and son. Some­times, it is dif­fi­cult to present this fam­ily as a mod­el for oth­er fam­il­ies. The reas­on is that this is a fam­ily where the super­nat­ur­al dom­in­ated and greatly influ­enced the human dimen­sion. That not­with­stand­ing, this was a fam­ily were fath­er, moth­er and child feared God and walked in God’s way. It is on this aspect that it is presen­ted as a mod­el of every Chris­ti­an fam­ily. It was a respons­ible and godly fam­ily. The super­nat­ur­al dimen­sion does not in any way oblit­er­ate the nat­ur­al respons­ib­il­ity of par­ents and fam­il­ies. Hence, Luke spe­cifies that when Jesus went down to Naz­areth with his par­ents, he was obed­i­ent to them. And Jesus grew in wis­dom and matur­ity, and in favour with God and the people (cf. Luke 2:49–52). This means the par­ents played their roles as parents.

The feast of the holy fam­ily of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is part of the Christ­mas peri­od. The Gos­pel of this Sunday should be placed and read in the con­text of what Luke’s report about the birth of Jesus. The Gos­pel con­tin­ues to cla­ri­fy the iden­tity of Jesus which Luke tries answer­ing with the stor­ies of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. With the Gos­pel of this Sunday and the stor­ies of John and Jesus, Luke keeps answer­ing the ques­tion “Who is Jesus?” It has no par­al­lel in the oth­er Gos­pels and it is the con­clu­sion of Luke’s Infancy Narrative.

The family attends the feast

Now every year his par­ents went to Jer­u­s­alem for the fest­iv­al of the Pas­sov­er. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usu­al for the fest­iv­al” (Luke 2:41–42). This par­ti­cip­a­tion in the annu­al feast shows the reli­gious com­mit­ment of the holy fam­ily. Accord­ing to the Jew­ish tra­di­tion, at least thrice in the year, every male was expec­ted to appear before the Sov­er­eign Lord. Such occa­sions were at the Feast of Unleavened Bread (includ­ing the Pas­sov­er); the Feast of Weeks (or of Har­vest); and the Feast of Tab­er­nacles (or of Ingath­er­ing).[1] In oth­er words, every male must travel to Jer­u­s­alem dur­ing the major annu­al feasts. As a human fam­ily, the holy fam­ily obeyed the law of her reli­gion. It was after one of these feasts (pre­cisely, the feast of Pas­sov­er) that Jesus’ par­ents for­got him in Jer­u­s­alem. Or bet­ter, it was after this feast that Jesus stayed back while his par­ents thought he was lost. As obed­i­ent and law abid­ing par­ents, and with Jesus their son, Mary and Joseph par­ti­cip­ated in the annu­al pil­grim­age to Jer­u­s­alem for the feast of Pas­sov­er, an event shared each year with fam­ily and friends. The feast of the Pas­sov­er was the open­ing feast of the feast of the unleavened Bread that las­ted sev­en days (cf. Lev 23:5–6). It is always good to keep and obey the laws of our vari­ous communities.

Jesus stays behind

When the fest­iv­al was ended and they star­ted to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jer­u­s­alem, but his par­ents did not know it. Assum­ing that he was in the group of trav­el­lers, they went a day’s jour­ney. Then they star­ted to look for him among their rel­at­ives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jer­u­s­alem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sit­ting among the teach­ers, listen­ing to them and ask­ing them ques­tions” (Luke 2:43–46). When Jesus is found, Luke describes him as seated in the Temple in the midst of the Jew­ish teach­ers. Although he is young, Jesus seems not to need teach­ing about his Jew­ish tra­di­tion prob­ably because his par­ents espe­cially, his fath­er taught him well. In his dia­logue with the learned teach­ers in the temple, Jesus astounds them with his insight and under­stand­ing. Jesus is a child of Israel.

At first sight, this story of Jesus’ par­ents for­get­ting their son appears funny and doubt­ful. If it were today and in a civ­il­ized soci­ety, they would have been accused of care­less­ness and child aban­don­ment. How could Joseph and Mary travel back home without look­ing for their child pre­sum­ing he was with oth­er rela­tions? Why should they pre­sume? After all, this is not the first time they are tak­ing him to this feast. Why is it that it is at the twelfth year that this happened? This cer­tainly, is a nar­rat­ive tac­tic deployed by Luke to under­line and por­tray the per­son­al­ity of Jesus and his mis­sion. In oth­er words, Jesus stay­ing back was not a mis­take as Mary and Joseph thought. It is part of his being the Immanu’el. It is part of the divine arrange­ment. His answer to Mary con­firms this. When Mary his moth­er finally saw him and told him how wor­ried they have been, Jesus said to her “why were you look­ing for me? Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). In oth­er words, he was not lost. His stay­ing back was part of his salvif­ic mission.

At twelve years, Jesus is without doubt an adult, accord­ing to Jew­ish cul­ture. Hence, he can now begin to pre­pare for his mis­sion by sit­ting in the midst of the doc­tors of the Law and experts in Scrip­ture and listen­ing to them as they read and inter­preted the Torah and the entire word of God. To find Jesus, the par­ents must return to Jer­u­s­alem, not among his rela­tions. Jesus’ place is not among his rel­at­ives, but in God’s house, and among the experts in the Word of God. Some­times, we look for people or for some­thing in the wrong places. It is true that Jesus said seek and you shall find (cf. Matt 7:7), mind you, he means, if and only if you look for the right thing or per­son and in the right place and at the prop­er time, else, you will not find any­thing. Look­ing for Jesus among his rela­tions is like look­ing for the liv­ing among the dead, or the dead among the liv­ing. Jesus can only be found in Jer­u­s­alem study­ing and med­it­at­ing on the Word of God to com­pre­hend the sense of his mission.

As indic­ated above, when even­tu­ally his par­ents found him in the Temple, and told him how they have been search­ing for him, Jesus said to them: “Why were you look­ing for me? Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). If any child today should respond to his par­ents in this man­ner, that child would be scol­ded. Prac­tic­ally, Jesus tells his par­ents that they should not both­er them­selves look­ing for him because he must con­cern him­self with the affairs of his Fath­er. In oth­er words, they should stop dis­tract­ing him. This was not in any way, a form of dis­obedi­ence and dis­respect on the part of Jesus. It is put­ting things aright. In fact, as Luke noted, imme­di­ately, Jesus went home with his par­ents and was sub­missive to them, grow­ing in wis­dom and matur­ity, and increased in favour with God and the people (cf. Luke 2:51–52). This is a great chal­lenge to the con­tem­por­ary par­ents. How do they train and edu­cate their chil­dren? What kind of form­a­tion do they give to them? Do they have time for them at all or do they use their whole in pur­suit of wealth alone? Chil­dren must be trained and prop­erly too.


Read­ing Time: 6 minutes

‎(Ref. Texts: Prov 9:1–6; Eph 5:15–20; John 6:51–58)

In the Lord’s dis­course on spir­itu­al nour­ish­ment, we hear Him says: “Do not labour for the food which per­ishes, but for the food which endures to ever­last­ing life” (John 6:27). He then con­tin­ued by talk­ing about the true bread from Heav­en, the bread of God, and the bread of life (John 6:32–35). Here, Jesus appeals to the soul for its nour­ish­ment and our thoughts to the spir­itu­al way so as not to occupy our minds with the body and its needs” (Pope Shen­ouda III of Alexandria).‎


Beloved read­er, this week, we con­tin­ue our reflec­tions on ‘Jesus the liv­ing bread.’ In the first part of our reflec­tion (last Sunday), the Jews reacted neg­at­ively, when Jesus told them he was the liv­ing bread and the bread of life that des­cen­ded from heav­en. In this Sunday Gos­pel read­ing, their reac­tion is even more intense as Jesus con­tin­ues to enlight­en them on the true mean­ing of his words. Jesus as the liv­ing bread, came down from heav­en, that is, from God. And any­one who eats this bread, will live forever. Such bread in fact, is the flesh of Jesus. That is, his body. This sounds crude, isn’t it? There are series of mis­un­der­stand­ings in the Gos­pel accord­ing to John. Often, Jesus says one thing, but the Jews under­stood anoth­er thing, and they judged and related to Jesus accord­ing to their mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­con­cep­tion of the words of Jesus. One of such mis­un­der­stand­ings is found in this Sunday Gos­pel read­ing. Jesus teaches spir­itu­al truths by refer­ring to mater­i­al things or phys­ic­al objects, and people fre­quently mis­un­der­stand him by tak­ing everything lit­er­al (cf. also John 3:4; 4:15).

Background of John 6:51–58

We hear the con­clud­ing verse of last week’s Gos­pel repeated in this Sunday Gos­pel read­ing: Jesus him­self is the bread sent by God; Jesus’ flesh is the bread that is giv­en for the life of the world. As already noted, on this 20th Sunday, we con­tin­ue with the sixth chapter of the Gos­pel accord­ing to John. This Sunday Gos­pel elab­or­ates fur­ther on the teach­ing that Jesus began in last week liturgy. In that read­ing, the crowd wondered about how Jesus’ say­ing that he had come down from heav­en. This is because they knew Jesus’ fam­ily back­ground. That is, that he is the son of Joseph. In this Sunday Gos­pel, the Jews have dif­fi­culty with Jesus’ teach­ing that he is the liv­ing bread appoin­ted and sent from God. Recall that Jesus had told them that just as God gave the Israel­ites mater­i­al bread to sus­tain them in the desert, so now God has sent spir­itu­al bread that will give etern­al life to the world. We must hearken to Jesus’ invit­a­tion to eat the bread of life. This is the voice of Wis­dom (cf. First Reading).

Amen, amen, I say to you….

Jesus said to them, truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). To Jesus’ words that he is the liv­ing bread from heav­en; that who­ever eats this bread will live forever; and that the bread he will give for the life of the world is his flesh (John 6:51), the Jews reacted and argued among them­selves. They wondered and ques­tioned, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52). This is anoth­er instance of mis­un­der­stand­ing in which, the Jews take Jesus’ words lit­er­ally (cf. also John 3:4; 4:15). Jesus makes use of phys­ic­al objects to teach spir­itu­al truths. How­ever, the mater­i­ally inclined and mere car­nal per­son can­not under­stand this.

How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” When in John 6:35 Jesus said he is the bread of life, the same Jews mur­mured (cf. John 6:41). Now, he fur­thers his dis­cus­sion and cla­ri­fies that the bread he will give is his flesh, the Jews got angry and star­ted arguing among them­selves. Their ques­tion (“how can this man give us his flesh to eat?”) must have been accom­pan­ied by anger. How can this be? Does this man (Jesus) take us to be can­ni­bals? They must have reasoned this way. For them, this is a big insult. As I said last week, because the Jews were not spir­itu­ally dis­posed, there is no way they could have under­stood Jesus. As Jesus told his dis­ciples, “It is the spir­it that gives life; the flesh is use­less. The words that I have spoken to you are spir­it and life” (John 6:63). Since the Jews lacked the spir­itu­al dis­pos­i­tion, there was no way they could have under­stood Jesus. They under­stood only that which they wanted to understand.

What are the mean­ings of eat­ing the flesh and drink­ing the blood of Jesus? After the feed­ing of the crowd with five bar­ley loaves of bread and two fishes, the crowd went in search of Jesus. When even­tu­ally they found him, Jesus made it clear to them that they were not look­ing for him because they wanted to listen to his teach­ings, but because of the bread, they had eaten. Then, he advised them to cease from work­ing for eph­em­er­al food, and to work, instead for the food that gives etern­al life. Con­sequently, the crowd inquired from Jesus what they must do to do the work of God. To save them from every mis­un­der­stand­ing, Jesus explained to them that the work of God is that they believe in him whom the Fath­er has sent (cf. John 6:22–29). Doing the work of God is not work­ing mater­i­ally. Instead, it is a spir­itu­al work. It is faith and faith­ful­ness in the anoin­ted One of God. The crowd how­ever, did not under­stand this.

Jesus the living bread

Eat­ing of the flesh of Jesus and drink­ing of his blood are theo­lo­gic­al and salvif­ic expres­sions. But undis­posed and unspir­itu­al Jews, took them lit­er­ally. As is his cus­tom, Jesus uses mater­i­al things to teach spir­itu­al real­it­ies. And only the spir­itu­ally inclined (dis­posed) can under­stand this. We must trust and believe Jesus espe­cially, as he offers his life for human­kind (eat his flesh). Again, we must also believe in his aton­ing death (drink his blood). Eat­ing of Jesus’ flesh and drink­ing his blood also have a par­al­lel theme to the Lord’s Sup­per. This is because, the receiv­ing of etern­al life through being united with him (Jesus) is rep­res­en­ted in the Lord’s Sup­per, where and dur­ing which Jesus’ fol­low­ers sym­bol­ic­ally ate/eat his flesh and drank/drink his blood (cf. 1Cor. 11:23–32).


Read­ing Time: 9 minutes

‎(Ref. Texts: Gen 3:9–15; 2Cor 4:13–5:1; Mark 3:20–35)

Any­one who has viol­ated the law of Moses dies without mercy “on the testi­mony of two or three wit­nesses.” How much worse pun­ish­ment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, pro­faned the blood of the cov­en­ant by which they were sanc­ti­fied, and out­raged the Spir­it of grace?” (Heb 10:28–29).


Since Novem­ber 26, 2017 (the 34th and Last Sunday of Year A), the Church has cel­eb­rated series of mys­ter­ies of human sal­va­tion. Dur­ing this Last Sunday of the Litur­gic­al Year, the Church cel­eb­rated, pro­claimed and com­mem­or­ated the Feast of Christ the King. On this day, the Church cel­eb­rated and renewed her faith­ful­ness to king­ship of God. God remains the only lov­ing, faith­ful and cred­ible King of the entire uni­verse. To this mys­tery, fol­lowed the pre­par­a­tions for the cel­eb­ra­tion of the mys­tery of incarn­a­tion. Through the Advent, the Church rejoiced and thanked God for His paternal love for His chil­dren and for the entire cre­ation. This love is mani­fes­ted in the gift of Jesus, the Christ, the only begot­ten Son of God. As John explained, God so much loved the world that He gave His Only Son, so that every­one who believes in him may not per­ish, but have etern­al life (cf. John 3:16). From the cel­eb­ra­tion of the mys­tery of incarn­a­tion, the Church began pre­par­a­tions for the mys­tery of mys­ter­ies, the mys­tery of the mis­sion, suf­fer­ing, death and resur­rec­tion of Christ. After this, or with­in this mys­tery were enclosed the mys­ter­ies of the Ascen­sion of Jesus into heav­en; the mys­tery of the gift of the Holy Spir­it; the mys­tery of the Most Holy Trin­ity; the mys­tery of the Body and Blood of Christ. The mater­i­al and espe­cially, the spir­itu­al well­being of the people of God are enclosed and con­tained in these mys­ter­ies. With the con­clu­sion of these mys­ter­ies of sal­va­tion, the Church returns to anoth­er sea­son in the spir­itu­al jour­ney of her chil­dren – the Ordin­ary Season.

This Sunday is the 10th Sunday of the year. It is the Sunday imme­di­ately after the solem­nity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The read­ings of this Sunday are meant to make us look inwards to find out if were are still in the grace of God. Sounds strange! Yes! It is strange to think if people who have just con­cluded the above mys­ter­ies are still in the grace of God. The Ordin­ary Time is the peri­od to put into prac­tice the fruits of the mys­ter­ies of our salvation.

Where are you?

After Adam and Eve devi­ated (that is, sinned. Sin is noth­ing but a devi­ation from the laid down norms) in the Garden of Eden, they became ashamed and temp­ted hid­ing from God. God called out to Adam: hK’Y<a; – Ayehka – Where are you? (Gen 3:9). On a purely ration­al level, God’s ques­tion makes no sense. Why? By vir­tue of being God, God already knows (or should know) where Adam is. M. Buber resolved this conun­drum (prob­lem) by cit­ing Rabbi Shneur Zal­man of Laidy. Accord­ing to Zal­man, “Ayehka – Where are you? “is the ques­tion God dir­ects to every per­son in every gen­er­a­tion who is try­ing to hide from God.” How does one hide from God? You hide from God when you are try­ing to impose on your­self a life or spir­itu­al­ity that does belong to you. That is, when you are doing everything pos­sible to force your­self to becom­ing what you are not meant to be, know­ing fully that you are not meant for that. You hide from God when you slug­gishly par­ti­cip­ate in the activ­it­ies of the com­munity and when you indol­ently carry out your respons­ib­il­ity. You hide from God when you expect someone to remind you of what you are sup­posed to know or do (cf. Jas 4:7). You hide from God through so many oth­er ways. God asked Adam this ques­tion because Adam changed his dom­i­cile or res­id­ence. Since God could no longer find Adam where He kept him, Adam should him­self tell God about his new residence.

To the ques­tion “where are you?”, Adam answered God “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen 3:10). Instead of Adam say­ing where he is, he ended up say­ing how he was. Hav­ing lost the grace of God, he could no longer identi­fy his loc­a­tion. Hav­ing lost his inno­cence, he now feels guilty and hides when no one is pur­su­ing him. Of course, his sin is now pur­su­ing him. In his quest to be like God, he lost his pos­i­tion in the pres­ence of God. He now becomes con­scious of his naked­ness. Before eat­ing the for­bid­den fruit, Adam had been naked. But imme­di­ately after going con­trary to God’s instruc­tion, he became ashamed of his naked­ness. His naked­ness which reflec­ted his inno­cence and spir­itu­al­ity, now becomes motive of sin and shame.

The unforgivable sin

Truly I say to you, people will be for­giv­en for their sins and whatever blas­phemies they utter; but who­ever blas­phemes against the Holy Spir­it can nev­er have for­give­ness, but is guilty of an etern­al sin” (Mark 3:28–29). In bib­lic­al Greek, the word amēn has many uses. How­ever, when it is used with the verb to say or to speak (legō), it indic­ates emphas­is, mean­ing what fol­lows is a sol­emn declar­a­tion of truth (cf. also John 1:51). There­fore, “truly I say to you…” means “…people will be for­giv­en for their sins and whatever blas­phemies they utter; but who­ever blas­phemes against the Holy Spir­it can nev­er have for­give­ness, but is guilty of an etern­al sin” is a sol­emn declar­a­tion, hence, it must be taken very ser­i­ous. Fol­low­ing Jesus’ declar­a­tion, there is a par­tic­u­lar sin that can­not be for­giv­en. What does this imply? Does it mean or imply the per­son will also not be able to enter the king­dom of God? In 1John 5:16, John says “if any­one sees his broth­er com­mit­ting a sin not lead­ing to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life to those who com­mit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” Con­tinu­ing in 1John 5:17, the same John cla­ri­fies that “all unright­eous­ness is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” If blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it is among those sins that lead to death, and which can­not be for­giv­en, then,

But what is this blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it? First, let us exam­ine what led Jesus to mak­ing this asser­tion. At the begin­ning of the Third chapter of the Gos­pel accord­ing to Mark (3:1–6), we read that on a cer­tain day, Jesus went into the Syn­agogue and there was a man with withered hand. Mark notes that the Phar­isees were care­fully watch­ing Jesus to see if he would cure the man on the Sab­bath day. This they did to find some­thing to charge him with. When even­tu­ally he cured the man, Mark says “the Phar­isees went out and imme­di­ately con­spired with the Hero­di­ans against him, how to des­troy him” (Mark 3:6). This attrac­ted much crowd to Jesus who con­tin­ued to cure those who were afflic­ted with one dis­ease or the oth­er. Even unclean spir­its fall down once they see him, shout­ing “You are the Son of God” (Mark 3:7–12). After choos­ing the Twelve dis­ciples (cf. Mark 3:13–19), Jesus went home and again, the crowd fol­lowed him to the extent he could not even eat. This made his earthly fam­ily rush to take him and even con­cluded Jesus “is out of his mind” (Mark 3:20–21). Besides his oppon­ents, Jesus also had his fam­ily to con­tend with.

Imme­di­ately, the Scribes said “He has Beelze­bul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons” (Mark 3:22). On hear­ing this, Jesus summoned them and made them under­stand that a house divided against itself can­not stand, and that Satan can­not rebel against him­self. It was after this that Jesus made the sol­emn declar­a­tion con­cern­ing the unpar­don­able sin (cf. Mark 3:23–29). In Mark 3:30, the author says Jesus made such declar­a­tion because they were say­ing “there is unclean spir­it in him.” Let us now get back to our ini­tial ques­tion on what con­sti­tutes blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it and why such sin can­not be for­giv­en. There are those who sus­tain that blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it is not offend­ing against the Holy Spir­it in words. This is wrong. It also includes verbal offence. On a stricter note, blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it con­sists in the refus­al to accept the sal­va­tion which God offers to man through the Holy Spir­it, work­ing through the power of the cross. Such blas­phemy is to reject the Holy Spir­it, to refuse rad­ic­ally to recog­nize sin and repent of it, and to block the heal­ing and for­give­ness offered by God. So the sin is not only unfor­giv­able because of its ser­i­ous­ness, but because the sin­ner also lacks the prop­er dis­pos­i­tion to seek for­give­ness and thereby to be for­giv­en. As St. Thomas Aqui­nas said, blas­phemy against the Holy Spir­it “…excludes the ele­ments through which the for­give­ness of sin takes place.” In his Sys­tem­at­ic Theo­logy, W. Gru­dem[1] offers some explan­a­tions con­cern­ing this. For him, Jesus’ sol­emn declar­a­tion indic­ates that Jesus is speak­ing about a sin that is not simply unbe­lief or rejec­tion of Christ, but one that includes: 1) a clear know­ledge of who Christ is and of the power of the Holy Spir­it work­ing through him; 2) a wil­ful rejec­tion of the facts about Christ that his oppon­ents knew to be true; and 3) slan­der­ously attrib­ut­ing the work of the Holy Spir­it in Christ to the power of Satan. In such a case the hard­ness of heart would be so great that any ordin­ary means of bring­ing a sin­ner to repent­ance would already have been rejec­ted. Per­sua­sion of the truth will not work, for these people have already known the truth and have wil­fully rejec­ted it. Demon­stra­tion of the power of the Holy Spir­it to heal and bring life will not work, for they have seen it and rejec­ted it. In this case, it is not that the sin itself is so hor­rible that it could not be covered by Christ’s redempt­ive work, but rather that the sinner’s hardened heart puts him or her bey­ond the reach of God’s ordin­ary means of bring­ing for­give­ness through repent­ance and trust­ing Christ for sal­va­tion. The sin is unpar­don­able because it cuts off the sin­ner from repent­ance and sav­ing faith through belief in the truth. Con­tin­ue.…


Read­ing Time: 8 minutes


(Ref. Texts: Isa 60:1–6; Eph 3:2–3a.5–6; Matt 2:1–12)

The glory of the Lord has set you ablaze with light.”

When we think of God, we are apt to think of Him in human form. In the Epi­phanies of the Old Test­a­ment God revealed Him­self to Joshua and oth­ers in human form. He puts Him­self with­in the com­pass of our highest con­cep­tion, in order that He may make Him­self real to us in His love and sym­pathy and power.” 


Dear friends, wel­come to 2018! Like pre­vi­ous years, 2018 will also be a year of bless­ing for all of us. We thank God for mak­ing us cit­izens of this year. Embrace it with hap­pi­ness. Live it with renewed vigour and enthu­si­asm. King Herod or Herod the Great was appoin­ted king of the Jews under the Roman author­ity. He ruled firmly and at times ruth­lessly, mur­der­ing his own wife, sev­er­al sons, and oth­er rel­at­ives. He was a mas­ter build­er who restored the temple in Jer­u­s­alem and built many theatres, cit­ies, palaces, and fort­resses. While he des­troyed human lives, he built struc­tures. That is the polit­ics of the selfish and god­less. In many instances, the Nigeri­an politi­cians are like King Herod in the sense that they are ruth­less, god­less and fun­da­ment­ally cor­rupt. While Herod des­troyed human lives and built struc­tures, the Nigeri­an politi­cians des­troy the lives of the cit­izens and even des­troy their prop­erty without build­ing any struc­tures. Instead, they build their own per­son­al struc­tures and mansions.

What is epiphany?

Ordin­ar­ily, epi­phany refers to that very moment when a per­son sud­denly feels that he or she under­stands, or sud­denly becomes con­scious of some­thing that is very import­ant. On the oth­er hand, it is a potent reli­gious exper­i­ence. The Mer­ri­am-Web­ster Dic­tion­ary renders it as sud­den mani­fest­a­tion or per­cep­tion of the essen­tial nature or mean­ing of some­thing; an illu­min­at­ing dis­cov­ery, real­iz­a­tion, or dis­clos­ure; a reveal­ing scene or moment. It is the appear­ance or mani­fest­a­tion espe­cially of a divine being. Accord­ing to its Greek ori­gin, epi­phany derives from epi (in this con­text on, upon) and phainō (show one­self, appear). While the verb is epi­phainō, the noun is epi­phaneia (appear­ance, appear­ing, mani­fest­a­tion, coming).

Meta­phor­ic­ally, that is, in ref­er­ence to divine inter­ven­tion, epi­phainō means to give light, shine on or shine upon (cf. Luke 1:79). In our con­text, we can take epi­phainō both in its ordin­ary and meta­phor­ic­al senses. In oth­er words, God shows him­self, appears to man­kind, gives light to man­kind and shines upon the face of the earth to bright­en and enlight­en the way of the people. In this reli­gious con­nota­tion, epi­phaneia refers to Janu­ary 6 observed as a church fest­iv­al in com­mem­or­a­tion of the com­ing of the magoi as the first mani­fest­a­tion of Jesus to the Gen­tiles (cf. Matt 2:1–12) or in the East­ern Church, in com­mem­or­a­tion of the bap­tism of Jesus. For Chris­ti­ans, epi­phaneia has two­fold mean­ing. Firstly, it refers to the tan­gible appear­ance of Jesus on earth at the end of his­tory. Accord­ing to Paul’s descrip­tion in 2Thessalonians 2:1–12, the advent of the law­less man will pre­cede the vis­ible appear­ance of the Lord Jesus. In this pas­sage, Paul asso­ci­ates epi­phaneia and par­ousia. The man of law­less­ness is already at work (cf. 2Thess 2:7), but the Lord Jesus will des­troy him by the splend­our (epi­phaneia) of his com­ing (par­ousia), cf. 2Thess 2:8. Secondly, Chris­ti­ans also applied and con­tin­ues to apply epi­phaneia to the earthly appear­ance of the Saviour in his incarn­a­tion (cf. 2Tim 1:10).

Who is a Magus?

While magi is plur­al, the sin­gu­lar form is magus. A magus is a magi­cian or a sor­cer­er of the Ancient Times. Reli­giously, a magus is a mem­ber of a hered­it­ary priestly class among the ancient Medes and Per­sians. Stated dif­fer­ently, magus refers to a mem­ber of the Zoroastri­an priest­hood of the ancient Per­sians. In this sense, a magus is a non-Chris­ti­an priest. That is, one who per­forms reli­gious cere­mon­ies and oth­er reli­gious duties in a non-Chris­ti­an reli­gion. The duty of the Magi qual­i­fies them as wise.

In the Per­sian and the Baby­lo­ni­an king­doms, it was the cus­tom for the wise men (Greek magoi, plur­al of magos) to refer to priests and experts in mat­ters of mys­ter­ies. This explains the reas­on these magoi went to Herod on their arrival to Jer­u­s­alem. How­ever, by this time, the term magos applied to a range of people whose prac­tices included astro­logy, dream inter­pret­a­tion, study of sac­red writ­ings, the pur­suit of wis­dom, and magic. Their vis­it espe­cially, the reas­on, was not good news to King Herod. The star of the newly born king which the magoi saw recalls Balaam’s proph­ecy in Num­bers 24:17 that “a star shall come out of Jac­ob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.” For the Jews, such star poin­ted to the mes­si­ah. The move­ment of the star indic­ates it was not a nat­ur­al phe­nomen­on. It was a super­nat­ur­al arrange­ment meant to con­tin­ue the divine superi­or­ity and con­trol in and of the birth of the mes­si­ah. It is still the over­power­ing power of the El Shad­dai. The arrival of this true King of the Jews presents a threat to Herod the Great’s throne and to Israel’s cor­rupt reli­gious and polit­ic­al lead­er­ship in Jer­u­s­alem. In many Chris­ti­an coun­tries includ­ing Niger­ia, the memori­al of the birth of the mes­si­ah means an increase in cor­rup­tion and evil both in the civil and reli­gious circles. Instead of seek­ing for spir­itu­al gain and growth, Chris­ti­ans seek for mater­i­al gain. This explains the reas­on for the hike in prices of goods and trans­port­a­tion dur­ing the Christ­mas cel­eb­ra­tion. Oth­er examples abound.

The divine agenda

At the news of the birth of a king, Herod became dis­turbed and imme­di­ately con­voked the chief priests and the scribes and inquired from them where the king was to be born. While the chief priests were in-charge of the temple activ­it­ies, the scribes were the offi­cial inter­pret­ers of the law. Remem­ber, Christ means the ‘anoin­ted one.’ That is, the mes­si­ah. The three gifts: gold, frankin­cense and myrrh are very sym­bol­ic. While Gold is a pre­cious met­al, Frankin­cense is res­in used cere­mo­ni­ally for the only incense per­mit­ted on the altar (cf. Exod 30:9.34–38). On the oth­er hand, Myrrh is sap used in incense, per­fume, and as a stim­u­lant ton­ic. The Naz­areth fam­ily must have left with these gifts dur­ing their flight to Egypt. The appear­ing of the star, the three wise men, the troub­ling of Herod, the three gifts giv­en to Jesus by the wise men and the flight into Egypt, are all part of divine salvif­ic pro­gram, which gradu­ally unfol­ded in the per­son of Jesus through his teach­ings, works, pas­sion, cru­ci­fix­ion, death and resur­rec­tion. Such divine agenda remained incom­pre­hens­ible to Herod and the entire Jew­ish reli­gious author­ity who lacked the interi­or dis­pos­i­tion to under­stand and inter­pret divine pur­poses. Has the situ­ation changed today? Des­pite God’s unceas­ing effort, the Herods in our soci­et­ies espe­cially in Niger­ia, have not allowed the divine agenda to mani­fest itself both in the civil soci­ety and in the reli­gious communities.

Different arrangements

I did men­tion above that “epi­phaneia refers to Janu­ary 6 observed as a church fest­iv­al in com­mem­or­a­tion of the com­ing of the magoi as the first mani­fest­a­tion of Jesus to the Gen­tiles (cf. Matt 2:1–12) or in the East­ern Church in com­mem­or­a­tion of the bap­tism of Jesus.” This means that the same feast is cel­eb­rated for dif­fer­ent reas­ons and on dif­fer­ent dates. While the church cel­eb­rates it to mark the mani­fest­a­tion to the Gen­tiles, in the East­ern Church, epi­phaneia com­mem­or­ates the bap­tism of Jesus. Accord­ing to the Sunday Missal, epi­phaneia is cel­eb­rated on Janu­ary 6 or the Sunday between Janu­ary 2 and 8 Janu­ary. In some places like Italy, it has a fixed date which is Janu­ary 6, regarded also as a feast day which marks the end of the Christ­mas fest­iv­it­ies. Since epi­phaneia is cel­eb­rated on Janu­ary 6 in Italy, the bap­tism of Jesus is cel­eb­rated on the fol­low­ing Sunday. Here in Niger­ia, since the epi­phaneia will be cel­eb­rated on this Sunday (Janu­ary 7), the feast of the bap­tism of Jesus will be cel­eb­rated on a week­day, Monday Janu­ary 8. This is by way of cla­ri­fic­a­tion on the litur­gic­al arrange­ments between the Nigeri­an church and the Itali­an church. Next page.…

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