Homilies

  • 30 December 2018 General Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo
    Personal Opinion of Rev. Father Jean-Marie Kuzituka Did’ho

    The political crisis that has longed gripped the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was fully revealed to the world when the country’s Constitutional Court upheld the presidential victory of Felix Tshisekedi, a result that was called into question by the leaks of compelling evidence alleging that Martin Fayulu was the true choice of Congolese citizens. The Roman Catholic Church in the Congo deployed more than four thousand election observers throughout the country. Their compiled result and that of other bodies attest the victory of Martin Fayulu with 62% over Felix Tshisekedi and Ramazani Shadari.
    As a Congolese citizen and a Catholic priest serving in South Africa, I am angered. It is not that I am a fervent supporter of Mr. Fayulu, or that I harbor disdain for so called former President Joseph Kabila. Nor am I angry at the Constitutional Court: though one may question their decision, the court was playing its role as foreseen in the constitution. Whether that court was bias or captured by Kabila’s regime or not, all we know as Congolese people is that there is not a single institution in the DRC which is not captured and serving the interest of the kleptocratic regime of Kabila.
    Rather, I am angry because the December 30, 2018 presidential election has demolished any notion of actual democracy in the DRC. Congolese have long known that the country’s political elite eschewed democracy long ago in exchange for money and power. But this election has bared this ugly reality to the entire world. My country is not the Democratic, but the Kleptocratic Republic of Congo.
    People may say that priests should not speak about politics. But as a Christian, it is my fundamental duty to stand with anyone who faces injustice and persecution. And how can I, or anyone else, do this without becoming involved in politics? Pope Francis, during a homily he delivered in 2013 at the church of Santa Marta in Vatican City said, “Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good.”
    It has been long since any elected leader in DRC has shown concern for the common good of the 81 million souls who suffer from a never-ending political, economic, and social crisis. Since independence, my Congolese brothers and sisters have faced wars, rebellions, unemployment, and poverty; a lack of schools, hospitals, even roads. A Congolese child is born to suffer in a country that is rich with natural resources. It is the cruelest of ironies.
    As a Congolese, I am relieved that Mr. Kabila will no longer be president. He and his cronies have impoverished my country. But I cannot remain content – and nor should anyone in Africa be content – just because Mr. Kabila is out of office. The so called elected President Felix Tshisekedi will come into office not just on the shaky foundations of his election victory, but to the reality that Mr. Kabila’s political party is still a dominant force in DRC’s parliament, in the senate house and in the governance of provinces. Despite any of our reservations about Mr. Tshisekedi’s legitimacy, we as Congolese must take on the hard labor of reviving our democracy. We cannot afford even one more day of the rampant profiteering that has marked the last 18 years of Mr. Kabila’s destructive rule.
    Nor can the rest of Africa afford it. I frequently encounter Congolese refugees in South Africa. They all have horrific stories that defy imagination. Continued instability in DRC will force more Congolese to seek refuge in South Africa and other countries in the region. Left unresolved, the political crisis that haunts my country can easily turn into deadly armed conflict.
    This is a crucial time in the history of my beloved Congo. Whether we like it or not, Mr. Felix Tshisekedi is president today although contested by the majority of Congolese people. Political and church leaders throughout Africa, especially in South Africa my home by adoption, cannot now look away and hope things will resolve by themselves. They must become more closely engaged so that the change DRC experiences is not just in the name of its president, but in how it delivers for the common good of its citizens. South Africa and the whole SADC leaders and the so called African Union never decried the biasness of the DRC elections and seek the truth of the polls.
    Firstly, the South African Bishops’ Conference must stand in strong solidarity with Congolese citizens and especially with the Congolese Bishops’ Conference, CENCO, who has been tireless in its prophetic mission to denounce the wrongs wrought by our politicians and to side with the people. South African bishops should immediately send a delegation to DRC to show support for CENCO, and to engage in a dialogue with all relevant church and political stakeholders to ensure the next chapters of DRC’s future happens in peace and reconciliation. The country is in the brink of collapsing. Mainstream Medias do not always broadcast the full and true reality in the ground. What is happening currently in the ground as a result of bias and rigged elections is not reported in media.
    Secondly, South African political leaders, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, must understand that they have backed a person whose presidential election victory is seriously questioned by compelling evidence to the contrary. President Ramaphosa and his colleagues must continue to engage in DRC by helping to catalyze political dialogue and taking actions to incentivize peace and democracy in the DRC, and not more bloodshed and corruption.
    Congolese people seek the solidarity of their fellow Africans. If we close our eyes and ears to the cries of Congolese, then nothing will change in the DRC. And if nothing changes in the DRC, then we all will face the terrible consequences. Congolese people ourselves too need to rise and claim our destiny as other Africans have done in the light of Algeria and Sudan recently. May God bless the Democratic Republic of Congo and Africa.
  • Fr. Jean-Marie Kuzituka Did’ho

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Year C-2019

FIRST READING Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8

SECOND READING 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

GOSPEL Luke 5:1-11

 

My Encounter with God

The central theme of the Liturgy of the Word this Sunday is about the Encounter with God. The First reading from Isaiah 6:1-8 and the Gospel text Luke 5:1-11 describe to us the encounter of two individuals with God, and what happens to them in that encounter.

In the Gospel text of today, God in the person of Jesus encounters Simon in the place of his work. Jesus often meets us where we are, just as he encountered Zacchaeus on top of a tree (Lk. 19), the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 4), and Cleopa and his companion on the road (Lk 24). Jesus always meets us wherever we are. I do not know where did Jesus meets you? One thing is certain is that Jesus meets us wherever we are even in hiding.

Having fished the whole night and caught no fish, Simon and his companions were tired. They decided to wash their nests and make it ready for the next night. Here comes Jesus, a carpenter by formation or training. He tells them to go deep in the waters and cast their nests. You can imagine the feeling they had and their hesitation to cast the nest especially daylight.

What follows then, my dear brothers and sisters, is a theophany: a revelation of God. A great catch of fish at an untimely hour. The fisherman knows what it implies. This is not a coincidence. It is a miracle. Miracles are signs. After all this is not just a Carpenter. He is divine! This experience shakes up Simon. God overwhelms him.

It is not different from the God-experience of other men in the Old Testament. Abraham encounters God several times (Gen 12:7-9; Gen 18:1-33). Jacob encounters God in the wilderness (Gen 28:11-18) and in his wrestling with the ‘angel’/God (Gen 32:25-32). Moses encounters God in the burning bush (Ex 3:1-6), and again on the mountain (Ex 33:18-34:35).

In the first reading of today (Is 6:1-8) we heard the narration of the encounter between the Lord God and the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah insists that this experience was historical with his reference to the year (Is 6:1): “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord God…”

The encounter with God helps us to know our selves, to accept ourselves and to be transformed. Hence the three stages which help us to encounter God are:

1. Self-awareness: due to the action of the Grace of God in me I begin to see who I am in the depth of my being. There are many ways of knowing myself – through psychology, for instance. There is a whole battery of tests that you can take to know what type of personality you are, and what psychological disorders you suffer from. These are still very peripheral. The self-knowledge that is possible in an encounter with God is deep. It is about the core of my self – in terms of your intentions, feelings and tendencies. This knowledge is direct and undeniable. This self-knowledge calls for humility, yes! But not discouragement and depression, because I can hear God telling me, “Do not be afraid. I am with you. I am going to make someone out of you.” Know yourself who you are, your weakness and your strength.

2. Self-acceptance. The Grace of God gives me the strength to own up my true self. This is what we hear from St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (15:9) as we heard it in our 2nd reading: “For I am the least of the apostles and am not really fit to be called an apostle…”

We need to accept ourselves first before accepting others. After knowing who we are, we need to accept ourselves. This builds the self-confidence in us.

3. Alchemy is the transformation of a lower element to a higher element. At this level, Abram becomes Abraham (Gen 17:5). Jacob becomes Israel (Gen 32:29). Saul becomes Paul (Acts 13:9). And Simon becomes Peter (Lk 5:8; Mt 16:18). This transformation in prayer is not like a New Year resolution. But it is a conversion. A metanoia! Again we hear St Paul telling us in the 2nd reading (1Cor 15:10): “…but what I am now, I am through the grace of God, and the grace which was given to me has not been wasted. Indeed, I have worked harder than all the others — not I, but the grace of God which is with me.”

We shall never encounter God and remain the same. Life needs to change for the better after encountering God.

2nd Sunday of the Year C – Ordinary Time

Where there is God, there is abundance! (Jn 2:1-11)

 What I have always admired in wedding feasts is the spirit of abundance!  There would be a lot of noise, plenty of food, and overflowing drinks. Of course, singing and dancing would not be wanting.

Today we begin the Sundays in Ordinary Time of the liturgical year.  This year, generally we would listen to the gospel readings from the Gospel of Luke.  However, this Sunday we read from John – as is the case on the 2nd Sundays every year.  And the gospel text narrates to us a wonderful and dramatic story of a wedding.  What a way to begin this season of the year!  And what an amazing way in which Jesus himself begins his public ministry!  In the gospel text of today I clearly see two distinct parts – two epochs, in a sense: one, Before Christ; and another, After Christ. The first scene that John paints for us is one of emptiness, and the second, on the contrary, is marked by abundance.  And what brings about the difference between two phases is the intervention of Jesus.  I would like us to reflect on these two epochs, and see where we ourselves are!

Before Christ: Emptiness, Chaos and Gloom

“And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used…” The marriage feast had ground to a halt!  Wine is a symbol of celebration, happiness and mirth.  They ran out of wine:  they had no joy.  There was gloom!  The mother of Jesus discerns this situation. “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3), she informs the New Adam.  The mother of Jesus is presented here as the New Eve. The first Eve found herself in a situation of abundance in the garden, but she initiated a breakdown of that paradise. The New Woman (Jn 2:4) seems to reverse this situation.  She is here in Cana at the beginning of the new creation, she will be there again at Calvary at the climax of the new creation (Jn 19:25).

Back in Cana, “There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons” (Jn 2:6).  The stone jars had tremendous capacity, but they stood empty.  The old religion carried a great promise, but it stood empty.  The number of stone water jars was six – one short of seven. Six is a symbol of chaos, imperfection and evil (Rev 13:18).  Such was the situation at the wedding feast in Cana.  Fortunately, for them and for us, Jesus also there (Jn 2:2) and his mother discerns that his hour had come (Jn 2:4-5).  The New Eve believes in the Second Adam!  She recognizes him as the Son the God!  So Jesus takes over.

After Christ: Abundance, Cosmos and Celebration

Jesus asks the stewards to fill the empty jars with what they have – water.  “And they filled them to the brim” (Jn 2:7).  There are signs of fullness, but the miracle is not yet. They drew some out and offered it to the president of the feast, “he tasted the water, and it had turned into wine.”  In a sense, the transformation takes place as the president drinks the liquid.  And it was the best wine!  The celebration can resume!  There is abundance, order and celebration.

We could attempt to estimate the amount of wine that was there in the six jars at the wedding in Cana:  Thirty gallons [times] six jars [times] 3.8 litres = 684 litres!!! A standard bottle of wine in most countries these days is 750 ml.  So, in contemporary rendering, that would add up to about 900 bottles of wine! Remember, wine is a symbol of joy, mirth and celebration. And there was plenty of it.

When Jesus would multiply bread on the shores of Galilee, there would be a similar situation (Jn 6). They begin with a situation of scarcity: Philip is realistic, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough to give them a little piece each” (Jn 6:5).  Andrew is able to identify five loaves and two fish (that adds up to seven) and the miracle happens.  And they gather 12 baskets full of left-overs!!  Elsewhere, Jesus declares: “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10).

Yes, the presence of Jesus makes all the difference: at the wedding in Cana, at the shores of Galilee, in our own lives! The word of God on this Sunday, at the beginning of the year, invites us to recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives.  It invites us to recognize him as the Son of God!  Then we will be able to share in the fullness of life: “These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name” (Jn 20:31). Always believe in Jesus and you will remain in abundance both spiritual abundance and physical abundance.

3rd Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Good News to the poor

Jesus in Today’s Gospel gives us his personal vision for life. In other words, He gives us his manifesto or his mission statement.

The gospel text of today, specially edited for the occasion, begins with the prologue of the Gospel in which Luke addresses Theophilus and states the purpose of his writing: “so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received” Lk 1:4.

Then the gospel text in today’s liturgy jumps to Luke 4:14, enumerating the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus.  Jesus officially begins his mission on earth.  He begins with a manifesto.  Jesus borrows his mission statement from the Prophet Isaiah (chapter 61): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….”  But he personalises those words.  In fact, there is a big difference between the words of Isaiah and that of Jesus, as Jesus makes an addition to the proclamation in his ‘homily’ that follows: “This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening” (Lk 4:21).   Based on this statement, let us reflect on the core of today’s gospel text, which, I think, was also the core of the mission of Jesus here on earth: “To bring the good news to the poor.”

Let us reflect on two questions: 1. who are the poor?

  1. What is the good news?  I would rather rephrase these questions in a bizarre manner:  What does it mean to be poor?  And, who is the Good News?

What does it mean to be poor? 

The expression ‘poor’ occupies a central place in the Gospel of Luke.  Luke’s understanding of the poor is not much different from that of the Old Testament, where the word ‘poor’ was often elaborated as ‘the stranger, the orphan and the widow’ (Deut 24).  Yes, the poor are the materially deprived, the destitute, the afflicted – the most vulnerable people of any given society.  In line with the repeated theme of the book of Psalms, Luke wants to portray Jesus as one who hears the cry of the poor (Ps 22:24).  He has Jesus deliver his ‘Beatitudes’ from the plains (Lk 6:17), and he would have Jesus admire the little offering of the widow (Lk 21:1-3).

Luke also goes beyond the material understanding of the word. Situating himself in a traditional society, he sees women as poor.  The Gospel of Luke is full of stories of women.  He would balance almost every man’s story with that of a woman: annunciation to Zechariah is followed by the annunciation to Mary (1:5-38). At the presentation of Jesus in the temple, Luke would bring in two elderly people: Simeon and the 84-year old Anna (Lk 2:25-38). In Chapter 8 Luke has a list of women disciples; in Chapter 15, the story of the man who lost his sheep is followed by the story of the woman who lost her coin.  These are but a few examples.

People who are vulnerable are poor. The elderly are poor. Children and youth are poor too. In Lk 18:15-17, Jesus would say, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”

People who are afflicted by every kind of infirmity are also poor.  In Luke 7, when John the Baptist sends his disciples to find out if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus tells them, “Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, those suffering from virulent skin-diseases are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

So, who are the poor in our context today? Beside materially poor we can find in our society, the poor are those who are in need of the help of God; those who are open to the plan of God in their lives; those who are simple hearted; the humble. In short, being poor simply means being open to God. It is to those who rely on God that the Good News is proclaimed.  It is to us that the Good News is proclaimed. We are the poor.

What is the Good News or who is the Good News?

Often we simply say, the Gospels are the Good News. True, but not quite! Or we say the message of Jesus is the Good News.  True, but not quite yet!

If we consider the Good News as a message, then, we run the risk of comparing it to other many messages we receive from our telephones or that we listen in radio or watch on television. So Good News is not a set of information.  It is an experience! Again, the Good News is not just an experience in the abstract.  It is the possibility to experience God in the person of Jesus.  Jesus Christ is the Good News. When a person is capable to stand in front of the congregation and testify what Jesus has done in his or her life that is the Good News. That is Jesus Christ being alive in our life.

This is what actually stirred the hearts of those listeners in the synagogue, as Jesus said: “This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening” (Lk 4:21). In other words Jesus was saying, “The times that Isaiah prophesied are here.  It is possible to experience the Good News in my person!” 

Are we ready to be stirred too – stirred to respond to the possibility of experiencing God in the person of Jesus? Let the Good News then become an experience for us today even as we participate in this Eucharist.

 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

 

Believing and Belonging: "We saw someone who is not part of us..."

 

(Mk 9:38, and Num 11:27)

 

Many people believe in God without belonging to a particular institution or religion. Others belong to a particular religion but still don't believe in what the church teaches.

This invites us to ask ourselves – the believers who belong to the Catholic Church - several questions: Why do we belong to this church? How do we look at someone who does not belong – someone who is not one of us? What if this someone-who-is-not-one-of-us believes, shows a greater commitment to Christian values, and even has some visible gifts of the Holy Spirit? Do we exaggerate our psycho-social need to belong by inventing an in-group/out-group rhetoric even in the name of religion and salvation? Do we want to capture the God of the Universe in our little enclosures (both physical and social) and not allow the Spirit to blow as it wills? (see Jn 3:8)

The Liturgy of the Word on this 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time offers us two stories of the struggle between believing and belonging: one from the time of Moses and the other from the time of Jesus. The first story (Num 11:25-29) tells us of two men who had stayed back in the camp while the Lord God descended in the form of cloud on the Tent of Meeting: one was called Eldad and the other Medad. Even though they were not among the seventy elders initially chosen by Moses, the Spirit descended on these two men and they began to prophesy. Moses is magnanimous enough to discern the Will of God here, and add the two to the seventy to make the total number of elders to 72 (six elders each for the 12 tribes of Israel; Jesus in the Gospel of Luke would appoint 72 disciples – Lk 10:1). Through this event Moses is able to recognise the universality of the action of the Spirit. When Joshua wants to see the action of God within the institution headed by Moses, Moses himself has a broader perspective: “Moses replied, 'Are you jealous on my account? If only all Yahweh's people were prophets, and Yahweh had given them his spirit!'” (Num 11:29).

In a similar situation presented in the gospel story of today, when John (an apostle who was close to the heart of Jesus as Joshua was to Moses) says, “Master, we saw someone who is not one of us driving out devils in your name, and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him” (Mk 9:38). Jesus emphatically tells him, “You must not stop him; no one who works a miracle in my name could soon afterwards speak evil of me” (Mk 9:39). Jesus reminds us that his Kingdom is not about territories, it is not about institutions, it is not even about the in-group (the churched) and out-group (the unchurched), but it is about hearts of people. And God has the possibility to work within hearts of people, as He desires. Let us Allow God to be God – even outside the Church we belong to.

In conclusion to our reflection, we could ask ourselves a basic question: what is our attitude towards people who are outside the visible confines of the Church? These people could include those we so pejoratively refer to as “the pagans, the irreligious, the Protestants, and even the un-churched”.

In a sense, who are we humans even daring to say who is saved and who is not saved? What we can meaningfully do is only to keep sharing our own experience of God with others, as we also take time to wonder how marvellously God works even in their lives. Yes, “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right, is welcome to him” (Acts 10: 34-35).

 

 

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