St. Bernard Catholic Church

Wabash, Indiana



"Unity, Not Sameness"

In a dream, a man enjoyed a tour of heaven with St. Peter. The experience was deeply shocking. The first section was deafening with music and dances, including outbursts of shriek sounds from strange tongues. When asked, Peter replied: “they are the Pentecostal brethren.” The second section was loud with spontaneous biblical quotations. The man could easily predict that they were the Evangelicals. Moving further, a soft melodious tune from a large choir greeted them. They were the mainline Protestants. Then a radical turn to the right landed them at the final section. Its solemn atmosphere doubled the curiosity of the man. Before he could utter a word, Peter silenced him: “Sh..hh!!! Here are the Catholics in perpetual adoration. So, don’t disrupt their silence because they think they are the only ones in heaven.” Could this mosaic be the true meaning of UNITY intended by Jesus?

Given the emerging multiplicity of Christian denominations and the exponential sprouting of doctrinal and practical differences, how far could anyone prove that the Father answered the Unity prayer(s) of Jesus? Worse still, the numbers of the books of the Bible have not stopped provoking unresolved debates among believers in Christ. Have Christians failed Christ? Do non-Christians still take Christians seriously? By the way, why the concern about the Unity prayer on a Pentecost Feast, rather than concentrate on the challenging theology of the Holy Spirit?

At the intersection of Ascension and Pentecost lies the fundamental basis of Unity. Unity was the Last wish of the first advocate of humanity. Jesus prayed more than once for the Unity of his followers and their prospective converts. He defined this kind of Unity with the relationship he shares with the Father. Indeed, the Father and the Son are one, but distinct persons. Inferentially, Jesus prayed for a Unity that includes distinctness; definitely, not sameness. Distinctness flourishes in diversity, whereas sameness chokes it.

Jesus laid the foundation of the structure of Christianity by teaching and praying for Unity, as his Last wish (Jn. 17:21-23). Last wish is supreme, even to written will. In accord, the Holy Spirit kicked off his mission, as the second advocate, by demonstrating that the Father approved the Unity prayer of Jesus. With a powerful harmony of languages, the dramatic descent of the Holy Spirit reveled a Unity of understanding without dissolving the distinctions of native tongues – each person heard Peter in his native language (Acts 2:8). This proof is entirely different from the gift of speaking in tongues. Only those who have the gift of discernment could understand the message content of tongues. The manifestation of the Unity of languages was a unique event with a global understanding.

It is no coincidence that the most ancient name of the Spirit is ru’ah (wind). As wind, the Spirit functions through a borderless universe. She can neither be contained, nor restricted. As Christianity was founded under one head, so is the church of Christ spirited under one indivisible Holy Spirit. The underlying problem rests on Christians, who lack openness to the indiscriminating diversity of the Spirit. Evidently, division among Christians is a mental construct begging for a radical deconstruction. So, come Holy Spirit and enlighten the faithful on the necessity and true meaning of Unity. Archbishop Fulton Sheen says it all:

“How God will judge my life I know not, but I trust he will see me with mercy and compassion. I am only certain there will be three surprises in Heaven. First of all, I will see some people whom I never expected to see. Second, there will be a number whom I expected who will not be there. And – even relying on God’s mercy – the biggest surprise of all may be that I will be there. When the record of any human life is set down, there are three pairs of eyes who see it in a different light. 1) As I see it. 2) As others see it. 3) As God sees it.” In God’s house all are welcome!!!
God bless you. Fr. Levi.


JESUSISNOWHERE is a cluster of words that forms two sentences when spaced out properly. Did you first see: JESUS IS NOWHERE or JESUS IS NOW HERE? The good news is: both sentences are very correct. The bad news is: they have different theological implications. In general, both sentences shed amazing light on today’s Feast of Ascension of Jesus. By the way, for pastoral reasons Ascension is celebrated on the 7th Sunday of Easter in America, except these six provinces (New York, Newark, Boston, Hartford, Omaha, and Philadelphia) that still maintain its traditional celebration on Thursday (40th day, after resurrection).

How does JESUS IS NOWHERE relate to Ascension? Jesus was seen, while he lived and worked among the Jews and their surrounding neighbors. At the completion of his mission on earth (thousands of years ago), including proper mentoring of his disciples, Jesus returned to the Father. On that very event, his disciples stood gazing but he was NOWHERE to be seen (Acts 1:11). It was difficult for these disciples to accept Jesus’ non-(physical)-presence. We cannot blame them because they missed Jesus more than many of us missed beingin the church for Masses. At least, our unpleasant isolation experiences could enable us to relate to the frustration of the disciples at the departure of their beloved master, teacher and friend.

Lost in their gaze as they pondered the NOWHERE of Jesus, reminisced the feeling of insecurity that overwhelmed them at the news of “the empty tomb,” 40 days back. For the second time, their hope waned. Ascension seemed more confusing to these men of Galilee than the resurrection. After resurrection, Jesus visited with them couple times, which strengthened their hope. Ascension rather highlights a departure that initiated his absence or seen NOWHERE. Lifted up into the sky unaided, flattened the same laws of nature, Jesus chose to obey in his lifetime. His disciples in their bewilderment might have lost this last display of Jesus’ supernatural power.

Extremely stretched, JESUS IS NOWHERE could be interpreted as a proof of his non-existence. Agnostic atheists might use it to deny or at least doubt the validity of the divinity of Jesus. But for believers, JESUS IS NOWHERE makes a complete sense when read together with JESUS IS NOW HERE.

JESUS IS NOW HERE is absolutely consoling. From the anxiety of being seen NOWHERE, Jesus is NOW HERE with us. He has transformed from a physical geographic presence to being ubiquitous or everywhere. Is this good or bad news? “As each person wants it” is the best answer. Surplus oxygen in the atmosphere does not mean that people have equal ability to inhale it. That America trashes surplus food, does not deny the fact that some Americans have limited access to food.

So how can we see Jesus, who, ordinarily is seen NOWHERE, and still, is NOW HERE? Jesus knew about this paradox, when he told his disciples: “A little while, you will not see me, a little while, you will see me,” (John 16:16). This statement of Jesus illumines and validates the possibility of this paradox: seen NOWHERE and still, seen NOW HERE. Jesus also knew that relying on our own strengths, we would be stuck in the perplexity of the paradox. So, he promised: “I will not leave you orphans (John 14:18).” “I will ask the Father and he will give you another advocate, to be with you forever,” (John 14:16). That Spirit of Truth will explain to you all things, and will remind you of everything I have told you (John 14:26).

Next Sunday, Pentecost, the Spirit will arrive. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern the presence of Jesus in our daily lives. Because Jesus is now ubiquitous, he is available to be found among the poor, the needy, the hungry, the sick, the homeless, and the imprisoned. This is one reason, in Matthew 25, the criterion of the Last Judgment is centered on rendering services to Jesus disguised in various human forms of the needy. Most importantly, Jesus is found spiritually within us, and sacramentally in his Word and his Eucharist. For mystics like St Francis of Assisi, Jesus is even seen in nature’s flora and fauna. Let us therefore, rejoice and be glad as we celebrate the feast of Ascension because JESUS who seemed to be NOWHERE for the disciples, is NOW HERE, with us. May the coming of the Holy Spirit open our inner eyes to see Jesus, HERE and NOW.
God bless you. FR. Levi


"Love Act"

The one mission of Love, initiated by the Father, and accomplished by the Son, has a continuity plan being inspired by the Holy Spirit, till the end of time. On this penultimate Sunday, it is fitting that the readings anticipate the continuity of this Love mission. This provokes my reflection on the Love activity of the Holy Spirit, in view of a deeper discourse on Pentecost day.

Love is so commonly used that it means different strokes for different folks. A broad line divides love into: egotistic and altruistic. “My gain” or “the gain of the other,” motivates each side of the divide. A third position (a balance of the two) is rarely possible. Overall, giving characterizes a true lover, as testified by the Holy Spirit. Altruistic love best explains the love acts of the Holy Spirit. But before showing that, let us imagine a bit of altruistic love in the family setting.

My pick is the love of mothers for the last child. I would have picked an only child, but remembered that one (as quantity) occludes comparison. In other words, a mother’s predilection for a favorite child can best be seen in comparison with the siblings. I am unsure whether my proposition is culture-specific or a universal fact. Rather than worry about that, let us assume the accuracy of this proposition for informative purposes. So, how altruistic could mothers be toward the last child?

In general, most mothers boldly favor the last kid, at the envy of the older siblings. The last child (even as an adult) is jealously treated as a kid that must be excused and protected. Such protective mothers double as the advocate, whose weapon of defense stems from emotions, rather than logic. For not washing the dishes, the last child would still go unpunished. In defense, the mother would hurriedly do the dishes, and then make excuses for the favorite kid. Often she apportions blames among the older children for being insensitive to the feelings of the last child. Cuddling her, she would say: “Sweetie, you don’t look okay!!!” Really? This same child was super active playing before the mother returned. Notwithstanding the bias, the older kids had to learn to tolerate the partiality or the illogical treatment of their mother. Moreover, the mother would reserve the choicest part of her own meal for her last kid. Most times, this mother could be overly obsessive on the concerns of her last child. Despite the complaints of everyone else in the family, the mother practically lives for her last child.

Like the obsessed mother, the Holy Spirit loves to a fault with untold giving (7 gifts and 12 fruits). Her activities transcend the principles of logic because the Spirit blows wherever she wills (John 3:8). In the Spirit, love is an end, not a means. As an end, love effects perfect acts, while as a means it impacts imperfect acts. Love is perfect when its acts are for the pleasure of the lover. The love of the Spirit is other-directed. The Spirit lives and acts for the wellbeing of others (the beloved). Living for the beloved guarantees the joy and happiness of the lover. Jesus affirms: “If you love me, you would keep my commandments” (John 14:15-21). This love pattern contracts legalistic obedience. Obedience in order to avoid punishment is different from obedience born out of love. When urged by love, we act for the sake of the lover by overcoming the risks involved, even if it entails flattening the rules of logic.

Think of the Holy Spirit as the Love that proceeds from the Father and the Son, gifted to the world for the lavishing wellbeing of believers (including non-Christians). Yes. That is why she is the Love of God. This personified Love unceasingly showers love, and lovingly urges us to live out love. Jesus, before ascending to the Father, disclosed to his followers that only in love would the keeping of his commandments be possible. Specifically, he dramatized this point with Simon Peter (his chosen vicar) when he emphatically identified the success of shepherding his flock in the undying love for him (John 21:15). It is the Holy Spirit that inspires and consolidates this undying love for Christ. The Holy Spirit, therefore, is an embodiment of shared Love.

Besides her distinct personality (as the 3rd person of the Trinity), the Holy Spirit exclusively retains nothing for herself. She is known by her love acts such as: Advocate, Sanctifier, Comforter, Intercessor, Paraclete, Spirit of Truth, the Dove, and the presence of God. Even her name is equally shared. To be holy is to be Godly (a quality shared by both divine and human beings). Similarly, all ethereal beings are spirits. Ultimately, her name validates the truth of her activities because the Holy Spirit is the quintessence of altruistic Love. As we anticipate the Ascension of Christ, which ushers the love activities of the Holy Spirit, let us be mindful of Peter’s instruction: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,” (1 Peter 3: 15-18). Cooperating the Holy Spirit is our hope.
God bless you. Fr. Levi.


"You Will Do Greater Works"

Last Wednesday I presided a funeral service of a parishioner, fondly nicknamed “Miracle man,” by his family. It was recounted that this “miracle man” experienced certain miracles in his lifetime, and so, found God, and boldly shared his faith from the perspective of God’s mercy through miracles.

Simple put, miracle is understood as God’s purposeful intervention in the logical progression of things in the world. God occasionally interfereto right the negative consequences of human activities in the world, when called upon in prayers or when humanity has lost leadership control and derailed from the plan of God. Although as “cosmic priest,” humanity is endowed with freedom and rationality to lead the entire creation safely back to the creator by following the Way or examples of Christ, still God, like a caring mother, mercifully intervenes out of compassion to save the logical consequences of the recklessness of humanity. When this happens, miracle has happened; notwithstanding whether acknowledged or not.

Millions of miracles happen in a lifetime, but only a few like the “miracle man” recognizes and appreciates them. Majority of the modern minds would rather explain away awe-intriguing experiences as mere luck. We often hear: “Oh, he was the only lucky survivor of a highway fatal auto crash,” or “she is a great fighter to h

Up until the emergence of COVID-19, God was pushed away from secular spaces. In some countries, it was highly offensive to display one’s faith in public. Star players were suspended either because they celebrated their goals with religious signs or exposed “Thank you, Jesus,” written on their undershirt. Such tide of atheism was pilling high. Boomers or the millennial kids would easily imagine a world without God than one with God. In fact, the God of our time became the stone rejected by builders that proved to be the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-9).

Today, the narrative is gradually changing. For more than ten weeks human intelligence has technically surrendered to the menace of COVID-19. Suddenly, scientists, virologists, great leaders, technocrats, intellectuals, prophets, including the high and the low, have lost the claim of certainty on the knowledge of things in the world. Instead, they have humbly adopted the language of uncertainty towards finding solutions to contain corona virus. Many have returned to the rejected stone (God). It is common to see several videos from different nations, where health workers gather in prayers before and after their daily routine. Infected patients are not left out in holding on or attributing their miraculous healings to God. Rediscovering God as the last resort might not pass for a healthy faith, but it could also form a remarkable turning point.

If the world would pay heed to God at this time of the pandemic, be it discovery of vaccine, or healing of the infected, would happen like another miracle of life. If we believe the words of the scripture, Jesus assures us: “Do not be afraid. You have faith in God, have faith also in me,” (John 14:1-12). In conclusion, Jesus assured: “whoever that believes in me, will do the works I do, and will do greater ones.” Now that the world is in a desperate situation to win the war against COVID-19, is it not wise to effectively double efforts by turning to God for miraculous assistance.

The history of Christianity shows that God has been providing for those who call upon Him in truth and in faith. The first reading (Acts 6:1-7) recounts the ability of the apostles to assure the wellbeing of all, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They attended equally to both the spiritual and the temporal needs of Christ’s faithful. By so doing, none was neglected. Similarly, none of us would be neglected, if we earnestly backup the laboratory efforts of scientists with effective prayers. As a result, the duration for approved cure or vaccine against COVID-19 would happen sooner than expected (miraculously). “Lord let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.”
God bless you. Fr. Levi


"Robbers or Shepherds?"

One of the ageless ingenuity of Thomas Aquinas in Moral Ethics is his discourse on the determinant role of Intention in human act. Indeed, Intention separates good act from evil act. It is intention that separates murder from manslaughter. It is also intention that separates philanthropy from the clutches of indebtedness. Still, it is intention that separates a good shepherd from a pilfering-herder.

Not every “help” is born from philanthropy. Most favors are more than what meets the eye. Such comes as an invisible trap into indebtedness. Because indebtedness increases vulnerability, the debtor is reduced to a defenseless victim of the whims of the magical donor. In other words, robbers in shepherd’s cloak simply manipulate the gullibility of their flock in order to take undue advantage of them. Jesus vehemently condemns such hypocrisy and invites shepherds to learn from his selfless example.

A good shepherd stands out from the crowd of self-enriching shepherds. Even though no one is good except God (Luke 18:19), still, there exist disinterested shepherds, whose efforts are pleasing to God. Despite its high demands, shepherding is a metaphor of Christian mission. Invariably, to be a Christian is to emulate the shepherding model of Christ.

How did Christ shepherd? He did the ultimate by laying down his life for his sheep, in order that they might have the fullness of life (John 10:10). His example overturned the indifferent shepherding standard of his time. Jesus as well challenged his faithful followers to adopt his own disinterested standard of shepherding his flock. By so doing, we come to the knowledge that both the shepherds and the flock are of great importance to Jesus, the good Shepherd.

A good shepherd enters through the gate (John 10:2). His activities are not shady. He cares, feeds, and nurses the sheep, thereby “smelling the smell of the sheep” (Pope Francis). In return, the sheep know his voice, recognize him, and follow him (John 10:3). He leads and the sheep follow. A good leader is preoccupied with the interests of the sheep — leading them to greener pastures, to running streams, and ever ready to defend the vulnerable sheep.

Every Christian is relatively a shepherd. While some are shepherds of one, three or five sheep, others shepherd a hundred fold and above. The gospel of today calls for inward search, especially pastors, bishops, overseers that pillage the flock of Christ. Even at the heat of COVID-19 lockdown some men and women of “God” still emphasize tithing and monetize prayers — milking dry their flock. Nevertheless, it is comforting to appreciate some shepherds of the flock who are donating foods, medical supplies, and stipends, to cushion the disastrous impact of COVID-19.

Besides ministers in churches, parents and guardians are also shepherds. As custodians of minors, what is it that motivates your support towards them? Could it be indebtedness or leader-service? The flock, like dependents, shows mental or physical vulnerability or both. According to Jesus, any intended act of taking advantage of the flock under our care defines us as thieves, who avoid the gate, and leech the flock, through the backyard (John 10:8).

Jesus is not only the good shepherd; he is also the Gate to the sheepfold (John 10:7). As the Gate to the sheepfold, all shepherds are to pass through him by emulating his selfless or his leader-service model. Whoever therefore that aims at being a good shepherd should pay attention to the beautiful words of Kevin Craw, as he summarizes Aquinas’ good intention: “If your heart is pure and your goal is right, you can’t go wrong.”
God bless you. Fr. Levi


"Fear of the Unknown"

Fear of the Unknown is a disgusting experience that has persisted in human history. This invisible enemy uses death to spook everyone. Daily, the traumatic torture of the unknown leaves its victim gasping. FEAR can mean: “Forget Everything And Run” or “Face Everything And Rise.” People have dealt with this unknown differently. While some were crushed, others were victorious. The victorious faced the unknown spiritually.

A reliable way of dealing with the unknown is the religious approach. The Christian faith walks on two legs along the journey of life: Intellectuality and Spirituality. On the intellectual level, we seek the knowable in the believed or the visible in the invisible. On the spiritual level, we seek the symbolized in the symbol (Prof. John Egbulefu). Faith can be that unfailing tool to deal with the confusion of the unknown.

The flight to Emmaus by the two disciples of Jesus was a radical reaction to fear of the unknown —the killers of their master were on the prowl. Complicated stories escalated their fear, and they sought a safe zone. Our time of COVID-19 posits greater fear of the unknown. The entire world trembles. Most people have fled the roads, avoiding social gathering, but seeking refuge in the seclusion of their homes.

Like the time of Jesus, media propagandas have continued to intensify the existing pessimism. The way out is to recognize the invisible presence of Jesus at this time of fear.

After Jesus’ resurrection, his proof of identity changed from his physical look to two indelible symbols. Blurred with uncertainty, his transformative look confused his disciples (including the eleven) such that they needed proof to recognize him. Last Sunday, Jesus showed his five wounds at the request of Thomas. These five wounds were peculiar to him, as the same Jesus, crucified, and pierced on the side with a lance, but alive in their midst.

Today, Jesus enlightened the confused minds of his two disciples at the Emmaus encounter. Preceded with a heartwarming breaking of the Word, Jesus revealed his second proof by breaking the bread. Emmaus experience undergirds the structure of the Mass; finely divided into the liturgy of Word, and the liturgy of the Eucharist. Most importantly, the Emmaus experience also proved the Real presence of risen Lord at every Eucharistic celebration. At the very moment of consecration: Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to the disciples; immediately, “their eyes opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight,” (Luke 24:30-31). Jesus vanished because his divine nature abhors duplicity. God is one and simple. It was therefore logical that the physical presence disappeared for the symbolized Real presence to enliven the two disciples back to Jerusalem, their mission territory.

With the ongoing restraint from sacramental communion, Christ’s faithful like the two disciples, can still encounter the risen Lord in the mystery of his real presence. The truth is: whether sacramental communion or spiritual communion, the same Jesus is received. We all need such a renewed faith in order to overcome the fear of the unknown, which previously blinded the eyes of the two disciples. We need to allow our eyes to be opened to the new ways of recognizing Jesus through spiritual communion with him, when the physical is absent.Being stuck to familiar modes blinds our eyes from recognizing the real presence of the risen Lord. Let us therefore pray for more graces to accept the things we cannot change as a protective gear to minimize the anxiety of the unknown.
God bless you. Fr. Levi


The resurrection of Jesus was a transformative event in human history. Its uniqueness and relevance explains why Jesus did not allow it to stay as a mere faith option. Rather, he spent extra days on earth to provide substantive proofs for its reality. Ordinarily, Jesus accomplished the mission of the Father within his 3 years of detailed proclamation of the gospel in words and deeds, which culminated in the ultimate sacrifice of the self on the cross.

Why did he spend 40 days before ascending to the Father? The answer is simple: His apostles almost suffered despair at his death, and in fear hid behind locked doors in the upper room. They literally perceived the burial of Jesus as the dead-end of their calling. They lacked the hope to continue the gospel message. So, Jesus knew their collective weakness and took time to prove that he was alive in order to rekindle their hope and refocus them to the gospel mission. It took about five different encounters to restore the lost hope among the apostles. Thomas’ own was the last but the most dramatic.

Thomas’ dramatic insistence turned into a great theological enrichment. His insistence for empirical proof was so important that Jesus had to repeat his earlier visit to the ten apostles, a week after. Thomas’ thorough examination of the post resurrection Jesus instantly erased the suspicion that he could be either a ghost or a magical impostor. As a curious mind, apostle Thomas verified the peculiar identity (the 5 wounds) of the crucified Jesus in his risen (glorified) body. Overwhelmingly convinced, he adored Jesus and addressed his divinity: “My Lord and my God,” (John 20:28). Thomas’ faith declaration might be the only time in the Christian scripture, where Jesus was explicitly called God. What a revealing testimony!!!

Certain that his apostles had regained their hope in his proven resurrection, Jesus reemphasized their full participation in his own Mission: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” After imparting peace on his apostles (“Peace be with you”), Jesus invoked the Holy Spirit upon them: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Only then did he hand on to them the authority to forgive sins: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain, are retained,” (John 20: 21-23). Because the one mission of Christ was designed for all times and to all peoples, the accompanying authority to act in the person of Christ, and forgive sins, is alive in the Catholic Church, through the unbroken chain of apostolic succession. In God, to love is to share. The imperative to be merciful/forgive one another, when wronged, is for all Christians, whereas the specific authority to forgive sins against God is reserved to those who share the ministerial priesthood of Christ.

Today, the Church celebrates this amazing gift of Divine Mercy, which is graciously available to all that needs it, through the instrumentality of priests and bishops. The dual authority to bind and to loose validates the efficacy of the auricular confession. Since God is pleased in having his vicars act as valid channels of mercy, the instruction of Jesus to the lepers: “Go show yourselves to the priest,” (Luke 17:14) reechoes the call to take auricular (ear related) confession more seriously. Sinners are spiritual lepers.

However, why border confess your sins, when Jesus already died for them. As demonstrated, auricular confession derives its authority from the risen Christ. This is the reason the two sacraments (Baptism and Penance) that have direct link with sins (sacrament of the dead in sin) were not instituted until after resurrection. So, if we imagine Christ as the ocean of mercy, auricular confession is the available means of drawing the mercy of God. A penitent experiences a holistic transformation in just 3 minutes walk, through the sacramental washroom.

Moreover, the authority to forgive sins comes with optimal responsibility: maximum secrecy; the inability of the confessor to forgive himself or his partner in crime; as the authority is conferred after ordination, so can it be withdrawn, when abused.

This simple means to God’s Mercy leaves Christians with no excuses to utilize confession as often as desired. Within its sacramental structure, the visible presence of the priest acting in the person of the invisible Christ confirms forgiveness. Forgiveness is so essential that while obeying the lockdown order, priests are open to appointments for confession. May no situation separate us from the merciful love of God. Amen.

Happy Divine Mercy Feast. Fr. Levi


"Because He Lives"

Christ is not dead. He is alive!!! “Why seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).

Christ died that we might enjoy eternal life. Through his death, he paid off the price of our own death. His death exposed his unconquerable power over the clutches of death. By his stripes, the living are healed: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,” (Isaiah 53:5).

By his brief sojourn in hades, the prisoners of death were revived and liberated. He is the victorious lamb, whose meekness defeated the satanic might. His unquenchable light shattered the cloud of darkness. Death can no longer threaten his own body, the church. As part of that mystical body of Christ, we are one with him. As faithful members of his body, we belong to Christ, and no marauding thief can steal us from him.

Christ is the reason for our undying Hope. He is the Anchor of our faith. The memory of him assures hope. Because he lives, we can see tomorrow. That he reduced death to a mere walkway makes him an unmatchable champion. Unlike other founders of religions, held bound by the power of death, our Master and Lord rose triumphantly at the dawn of the third day. Hurray!!! His resurrection has made us candidates of our individual resurrection!!! Indeed, we are children of the resurrection Light that dispelled the thickest of darkness.

Christ’s resurrection is the assurance that not even troubles, worries, anxieties, diseases, including the fear COVID-19, can separate us from the protective hands of the risen Lord. If we believe that he destroyed death, once and for all, then, why worry, when our hope is alive in him? His resurrection beams light on the Anchor of our salvation. At the sight of the anchor, everyone on board understands that the storm is overcome. This reason precisely provokes enduring joy of our hope. Therefore, our hope in Christ can never be in vain.

Rejoice and be glad because our Redeemer is alive. Happy Easter!!! Fr. Levi


"Thank God it is Good Friday"

1) "Ecce Homo (Behold the man)" - Words of Betrayal.
2) Traitor's Kiss - Sign of fake-love.
3) "I do not know this man" - Words of Denial.
4) "I Thirst" - Words of Anguish.
5) "Father forgive them," - Words of true Love.
6) "Consumatum est (It is done)" - Words of fulfillment.
7) What were you doing there? - Words of contemplation.
8) "I did THIS for you; what have you done for Me? - Words of the Last Judgment.

Which of these words touches you, most?
Stay focused & Safe, Fr. Levi


"At the Feet of Jesus on Holy Thursday"

The first Holy Thursday was a practical expression of genuine love. Jesus on the eve of his anticipated execution left us timeless examples of love. He never allowed his impending passion and death to distract him from seeing the needs of his loved ones. He taught us that true love is proven in most difficult times.

Two arms are noticed. Faced with his agonies, Jesus took care of both the physical and the spiritual needs of the people around him. This example of charity opposes spiritualizing physical needs of others. They two though distinct are complementary. Apostle James emphasized the lesson therein: “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” (James 2:16-17).

First, Jesus shared meal with his treacherous apostles. His envisaged knowledge of their abandonment inspired him to love them more. Food sharing (eating from the same bowl) is itself an act of communion. Cultures, who still eat together, avoid their enemies because of lack of trust, and absence of bond. But Jesus practiced the opposite. He never ceased to perform acts of charity because true love worries more about the need of the other, but less of one’s need.

Second, Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist as the ultimate sacrament of love and service. As the victim-priest, Jesus gave his all for the sake of love. He as well instituted the ministerial priesthood for the continuity of his example of love: “Love one another, as I have loved you,” (John 13:34). Finally, by washing the feet of his apostles, he left a timeless example of a servant-leader and mandated them to do likewise (John 13:14).

Staying home is an act of charity. It is frustrating, but also a considerate and compassionate discipline for the wellbeing of others. Every Mass either celebrated in private by the priest, or with the faithful is in full communion of the mystical body of Christ. Christ (the head) and his body (the church) are inseparable.

“You should wash each other’s feet” implies charitable works of reaching out, especially to the sick, the elderly, and the needy, at this period of restriction of movements. While the health workers, and other essential duty agents are out risking their lives, rendering services, those staying home can still practice the love example of Jesus.

Such charitable works can range from simple acts of phone calls, sending cards, to more engaging actions of prayers and almsgiving to the needy and the homeless. Providing food at this critical time to hungry children and families at accessible locations can save lives. It is a timely divine act that communicates love of God and neighbor.

It is timely because in addition to the psychological threats and anxiety generated by COVID-19, its accompanying lockdown order has inflicted more pains and sufferings on the people due to loss of loved ones, ill heath, loss of means of livelihood, financial impoverishment and food scarcity; especially in developing nations where online activities and steady electricity are impossible.

Celebrating our Holy Thursday today in isolation challenges our faith as true members of Christ’s mystical body, to practice the examples of Jesus, as he mandated us on the Last Supper (the first Holy Thursday). Earlier on, Jesus in his typical compassion also commanded his apostles to feed the hungry crowd, from their own meager reserve: “You give them something to eat” (Mark 3:37). This clear and distinct command demonstrates the cliché that a healthy mind or soul cohabits a healthy body. Therefore, spiritualizing other people’s hunger is unchristian. The beautiful words of Mother Theresa of Calcutta say it all: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Let us rise and do likewise. Welcome to the Triduum (the 3 holiest of days).
God bless you. Fr. Levi.


"Celebrating Holy Week in Isolation"

In a lifetime, Christians, especially Catholics, are faced are forced to celebrate Easter, the epicenter of their faith in Jesus Christ, differently. In April 2020, the rich Christocentric spirituality of Easter, finely articulated in the Holy Week and climaxed in the Triddum (the 3 days of the redemptive acts, before resurrection), has turned out to be a celebration in isolation. Thoughts of wonder besiege believers on how satisfying a celebration in isolation would be, due to the global social distancing, prescribed as a protective measure against the peril of COVID-19.

In truth, celebrating in isolation can never be the same with the well organized and enriching community experiences of Easter liturgies. Rather than drain our emotional energies, wallowing in regrets, or shut down the oasis of our spirituality, is it not fair enough to ask God for the serenity to accept the consequences of COVID-19, as one of the few things in life, we cannot change. Is learning to deal with the era of COVID-19, without being crushed, not wisdom? As the world battles against this awful pandemic, staying positive and safe is required. A good start would be to make a departure from the memories of public celebration and discover the hidden lessons of isolation.

How positive could Easter celebration in isolation sound? In contrast to isolation being considered as a total disruption of worship of God, Isaiah admonishes: “Go, my people, go to your private room, shut yourselves in. Hide yourselves a little while until the retribution has passed” (Is. 26:20). Could there be any known retribution of our time, more fitting than COVID-19? It doesn’t matter much whether the retribution has divine, human or cosmic origin. In essence, this period of isolation can speak different meanings to us.

Have you imagined celebrating the Holy Week in isolation? Think of how Jesus celebrated the first Easter; definitely, not with pageantry, but in utter isolation. Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of the Holy Week. We are all called to celebrate the holiest of weeks of the entire church year in Isolation. Step by step, let us follow the isolation path of Jesus by reimagining his painful hours and days of sufferings and death, as the missing light for this period of stay home.

Let us identity elements of isolation on the first Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, more than other days of the Holy Week, ends in anticlimax. Jesus’ humble ride on a colt into Jerusalem (Mt. 21:1-11), climaxed to bitter isolation. Since the meanest form of isolation is that inflicted by loved ones, Jesus swallowed the nastiest part.

The crowd that welcomed Jesus with branches of olives and palm, amidst shouts of joy, spreading their clothes, was not different from the unanimous hooting: “Let him be crucified” (Mt. 27:22). His perfect humility and obedience were taken for granted. Apostle Judas, after dinning with him betrayed him. Peter, his chief of staff, denied him: “I do not know this man” (Mt. 26:74). Suddenly, the Master was labeled a stranger. Even the three members of his inner caucus: Peter, James and John, rather abandoned Jesus than keep an hour watch with him. The crowd that Jesus fed and healed chose the release of Barabbas, the criminal, but rejected him. Suspended on the cross, Jesus heavily wearied by the weight of humanity’s isolation lamented the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46).

Celebrating Holy Week in isolation enables us to capture the true presence of the events of the passion and death of Jesus. Therefore, our current state of isolation could as well enlighten us to experience a sincere participation in the passion and death of Jesus. If well taken, our awful experiences in isolation could ultimately turn into improved attachment to Jesus, during this Holy Week and beyond. Welcome to Holy Week.
Fr. Levi


"Our Hope Shall Not Be in Vain"

Dear friends: May the peace of Christ, which the world cannot give, be with you! I address you as friends in the comradeship of Christ (John 15:15). The existing fear calls for renewed friendship and companionship centered in Christ, in order to resist the aggressive fatality of COVID-19. Unmanaged apprehension can be deadlier than the global pandemic, itself.

The trauma of uncertainties makes it extremely difficult to find the appropriate words of consolation. Actually, words at this challenging time might sound empty without the sacraments or effective COVID-19 vaccine. How much longer shall the suspension last? And how convincing would it sound to say: I still feel your presence in your absence? To assure you that your physical absence is complemented by your spiritual presence? Faced with the torments of the unknown, consoling words seem to sound unreal. However, the feebleness of my words is strengthened in the veracity of the Word of God.

Today, more than ever, I found reassuring hope in the prophetic words of the scripture. It couldn’t have been mere coincidence that at the peak of a global lethal threat to the most beautiful gift called life, God speaks to us in a language of reassuring hope. I believe that, if not all, as many as would personalize these words would recount the fulfillment of God’s promises, when the raging tide is calmed. Hear, then, the promises of the Chief Shepherd for us His vulnerable flock: God said: “I will put my Spirit in you that you may live” (Ezekiel 37:12-14). Imagine these beautiful reassuring words that sound like – I will enliven you. I am your life insurance. I will optimize your immunity.

Are you unsure of being part of the flock of Christ? “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:8-11). Are you scared that your friendship with God has been compromised? The Psalmist echoes consolation: “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption,” (Responsorial Psalm 130: 7).

Sin constitutes a strong barrier between God and us: “Those who are in the flesh (carnality) cannot please God,” (Rom. 8:8); except they purge themselves of sins, and then live in the Spirit. Fortunately, repentance attracts God’s mercy. Mercy wipes clean sins and reconnects us to God’s friendship.

Perchance, infection occurred, believe the words of Jesus: “This sickness will not lead unto death…” (John 11:4) – Jesus did it to Lazarus. He would do it for you or your loved one. Just believe like Martha and Mary did.

Worst scenario: The Gospel acclamation reminds us that, “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will never die” (John. 11:26). In the process, whoever dies in friendship with Christ will eternally be alive. Courage, friends! You are not alone: “When Jesus saw her (Mary the sister of Lazarus) weeping, and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled… And Jesus wept” (John 11: 1-45). Jesus shares our anxieties and pains. Please try to overcome isolation by believing that we are in it together with Christ.
God bless you. Fr. Levi


"Impaired Visibility"

Impaired visibility is no proof for lack of presence. Rather, distorted visibility misleads to inaccurate conclusion. The reality of presence remains unchangeable but concealed until a change in direction or mental deconstruction happens. Physical shifts and mental adjustments can provide appropriate lenses for visible clarity. Imagine a sudden realization that reality has been perceived through poor visibility. Imagine also the immeasurable joy, and expository humiliation, that follow clarity of vision.

Suppose COVID-19, the most dreaded pandemic, is here to taunt the impaired visibility of our global society? Could it be that the world has existed blindly for thousands of years? Is it possible that COVID-19 came as a global warning?

Poor visibility is as bad as settling with symptomatic feelings. Settling for regular symptoms in a patient conceals the true nature of contagious virus, thereby exposing the public health to higher risks. The marauding COVID-19 arrived as unknown fast-killer with its concealed (window period) virulent fatality. Through impaired visibility, it was mistaken as a novel brand of the common flu. Likewise, the biblical Samuel focused on external features as clue to identify the chosen king of Israel. His visibility was blurred with manliness and good looks, present among the older 7 sons of Jesse, but lacking in the minor (son), David. On the contrast, neither age nor stature mattered as much as David’s shepherding virtue, which Samuel was unable to discern (1Sam. 16:1b, 6-7,10-13a). So, reality stays hidden under poor visibility.

The pandemic anxiety shaking global foundations and economy today can be compared to the dark world of the man born blind in the gospel of John. Within such precarious situations, questions like: whose sin caused the man’s blindness from birth was as unnecessary as asking today, by whose oversight is COVID-19 terrorizing the entire humanity? “Who sinned” sounds like “whose fault caused COVID-19”? And which country is responsible?

Instead, the corrective answer by Jesus could be inspiring: He is not blind due to any sinful act, but that “the work of God might be made visible through him” (Jn. 9:1-3). As we eagerly await the availability of COVID-19 vaccine, certain contemplations can be pertinent. Could God be speaking in the midst of the menace of COVID-19? Has the fear of death silenced the rowdiness of a busy world? Has COVID-19 forced people of the world to contemplate life and its purposes more than ever before? Has it proven that tight work ethics, economic growth, vacations, partying, going to games, can be forgone, whenever life is threatened? Who thought that stay-home order was possible?

Could it be that through impaired visibility the loosening of family bonds were unnoticed or ignored? Was it the case, that shared faith prayers, and the visibility of God’s presence, were restricted in the church buildings?

Could any positives be learned from COVID-19? The obvious is that life at its best lies in the sacredness of each human life, regardless of nation, race, religion gender, age or color. Could the stay-home order create more bonding in the family, especially for kids, who had struggled with insufficient time from working parents? Has COVID-19 panic caused a radical turn to God in prayers?

Humility is the way out of this killer virus. Cultural pride would prolong its devastations. Cultural pride like the Pharisaic conspiracy is the worst form of blindness because of its contradictory defenses. Cultural pride means being blind, but still denying it. Such blindness, according to Jesus is incurable, whereas the acceptance of blindness (or impaired visibility) summons divine healing – “that those who do not see might see and those who do see might become blind” (John 9:38-41). COVID-19 has proven that recklessness toward human life at any level can generate a pandemic.

Now is the time to emphasize family as the first church. Staying home with God would strengthen family bond and faith. The true church is Christ and his faithful, not the buildings. May God be our protection against this raging COVID-19, Amen.

Amen. Father Levi


"Irresistible Thirst"

It is assumed that water only is capable of sustaining human life for 3-4 weeks. Water is one element that can sustain life across the desert, until stored energy is exhausted. Dehydration kills faster than hunger. And so, extreme thirst represents a periculum mortis (in danger of death) condition, which bends the rules. This vital importance of water beams its connection to life.

Thirsty of natural water in the wilderness, the Israelites desperately cried out against Moses. In their lament, these Israelites preferred slavery (in Egypt) with drinking water to freedom in the wilderness without water. Their desperation underscores the imminent threat to life induced by thirst. In order to survive the choking grip of thirst, these Israelites did not mind putting God to the test at Massa and Meribah (Ex 17:3-7). God in turn, reassured them of his omnipotence by using Moses to provide water from the rock – an improbable feat.

At the well of Jacob, similar force of thirst drew Jesus and his disciples into an enemy territory (John 4: 5-42). Traditionally, Jews and Samaritans harbor mutual hatred against each other. But the force of thirst shattered the cultural barrier. Like at Massa and Meribah, inhibitory territorial laws gave way to lifesaving actions. Oddities were also surmounted. While the Samaritan woman overcame her oddity of talking to Jesus, a Jewish male, at an odd (lonely) time of the day, Jesus overlooked the negative impression of conversing with an immoral woman. In other words, the raging force of thirst paved way for a successful dialogue that culminated in Christ oriented conversion.

Whenever barriers are broken, reality unveils. At the encounter of Jesus, the Samaritan woman, initially in need of natural water became thirsty of the living water (Christ), which wells up to eternal life. After her transformative experience, she ran into the city, and with her testimony predisposed the minds of her fellow Samaritans, and then invited them to meet Jesus at the well. With a burning thirst for Jesus, the Samaritans looked beyond his Jewishness and believed his teaching. Thus, they told the woman: “we no longer believe because of your word; for we heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world” (John 4:42).

These two biblical instances support the very fact that if thirst for natural water could lead to relaxation of regular rules and inhibitions, the equivalent force of thirst for things of Christ would reasonably produce amazing faith as it did among the Samaritans. In essence, the stories demonstrate that it takes an irresistible thirst for natural water to elicit the brand of faith that thirsts for the living water or eternal life in Christ. In this third week of Lent, Christians are called to thirst for Christ, the way they thirst for natural water on a scorching day.
Good luck and God bless you. Fr. Levi.



Uncertainty defines every promise. This is not only true between human beings, but also appropriate between God and human persons. In both aspects, trust is inevitable. On the one hand, the degree of Trust is determined by the trustworthiness of the promisor. On the other hand, the trustworthiness of the promisor could be underrated by the doubtful mind of the promisee. In essence, it takes the trustworthiness of the promisor and the credulity or the childlike trust of the promisee in order to experience the fulfillment of a promise from God. Since, the credibility of God, the promisor, has been proven, it is reasonably correct to assert that the “Missing Arm” for the fulfillment of divine promises is the childlike trust or childlikeness of human persons.

Childlikeness can best be understood theologically as self-forgetfulness. It is natural for humans to be forgetful of things but ever conscious of the self. Self-forgetfulness is a complete reverse of this natural tendency. At the natural level, self-consciousness is the goal. But at the supernatural level, self-forgetfulness is the goal. Self-forgetfulness is the total dependency on the trustworthiness of God in order to have a successful engagement of the vagueness associated with divine promises.

Is self-forgetfulness an impossibility? Interestingly, many human beings engage in self-forgetfulness in their interpersonal daily interactions. Top on this list are new lovers and airplane passengers. These two groups of people exhibit more of self-forgetfulness than self-consciousness. Like new lovers, most airplane passengers worry less about the risk of lives they put at stake boarding an airplane with manageable conditions and inexperienced pilots. In fact, the slightest worry disappears completely when the airplane has been delayed for couple hours. Such situations automatically transform people’s options for self-consciousness to total dependency on another person (self-forgetfulness). So, if it is possible to occasionally practice self-forgetfulness, how often do we apply it to God?

Two biblical models of self-forgetfulness are given in today’s readings: Abram from the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament. Both are great personalities with natural virtues. Each however, had his own struggle along the journey of faith. Both wonderfully answered their divine calls with impressive sense of self-forgetfulness. Abram was asked to abandon his homeland and all its prospects, with a (vague) promise to become a father of great nation (gen. 12:1-4). Peter too, had to abandon his fishing business (and family tie) for a (vague) promise to become a fisher of men. His request at the scene of transfiguration attests to self-forgetfulness – “Lord, it is good that we are here,” than elsewhere; therefore, let me “make three tents for You, Moses, and Elijah” (Matt 17:1-9); but not even one for James, John and himself). None had clarity of vision concerning the fulfillment of his promise. Still, they struggled to substitute their self-reliance with absolute reliance on God.

Being humans, their trust in God wobbled with time and life challenges. At the moments of their failures, both sacrificed their self-forgetfulness and total reliance on God for self-reliance. Overcome with self-consciousness (what could happen to me?), both drifted into man-pleasers, rather than God pleasers. To please Sarah, the wife, Abraham was impatient with God’s promise and impregnated Hagar for an heir. The consequence of such impatience has continued to deny the world of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians. Peter was even worse. Self-consciousness of Peter turned into the forgetfulness of the Lord. As a man-pleaser, he denied the Lord 3 times. Like Abraham, Peter at some point lost fear of the Lord and fell into the fear of the people.

Abraham and Peter remind us of our strength and weaknesses as Christians. Whereas their faithfulness in God was strengthened by self-forgetfulness, their failures were caused by loss of fear of God, which culminated in self-reliance. The renowned preacher to popes, Raniero Cantalamessa (OFM), summarizes self-forgetfulness as: “Fear the Lord, and do not be afraid of anything else.” Jesus even in the midst of his passion endorsed self-forgetfulness when he said: “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and your children;” and “Father, let this cup pass me; not my will, but your will be done.” So, if Abram and Peter in their weakness practiced self-forgetfulness, we too can equally do that, so long as we prefer to be God pleasers rather than human pleasers.
God bless you, Fr. Levi


"Why be Tempted?"

Tom, a certain young adult, got a surprise call from his baptismal sponsor. His sponsor travelled abroad a few months after Tom’s infant baptism, and barely communicated. The message was straight: “I returned yesterday, please come to my house and do an errand for me.” Tom obliged. Tom’s sponsor gave him $350 to buy a good phone he would use, while visiting.

In less than 10 minutes, Tom arrived at the phone shop (with nonrefundable policy) but spent another 35 minutes sampling the various phones on display. The entire 45 minutes were not enough for Tom to decide whether to buy a low quality Chinese brand and keep the balance for himself, or be honest and buy the original branded phone with the whole money. Eventually, Tom saw it as a rare opportunity to swindle his stingy sponsor. After all, his sponsor would soon travel back before the phone could develop problems. So, he used $200 to buy a fake brand of phone and falsified the receipt, by bribing the sales girl with $50 (equivalent of the local currency). Smiling home, he handed over the package with the receipt to his sponsor. His sponsor strengthened up, apologized for lack of communications in previous years, and with a passionate hug, gave Tom the package, saying: “Happy birthday, my dear.” Tom didn’t even remember it was his birthday. Overall, it takes a cheat to fall into temptation.

Was Tom tempted, and by who? Recall, he terribly lost $250 by attempting to scam his sponsor. How does Tom’s story resonate with the temptation of the 1st Adam (at Eden garden of plenty) and that of the 2nd Adam (at the barren desert). Understanding temptation as random trials meant to disprove (or prove) our love priority for God exposes who the tempter is. God cannot be the tempter because the same God desires our protectiveness from the consequences of temptations. Neither does God lead us into temptation – a reason Pope Francis has called for the review of the poor translation of Our Father in certain languages. In my native Igbo language the line: “Lead us not into temptation,” reads, “Do not allow us to fall into temptation.” The revision therefore would not affect “Our Lord’s prayer” in my language.The Bible calls Satan, the tempter, in both temptation of Adam & Eve (Gen. 3: 1-7) and in the temptation of Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11). Truly, Satan is the tempter because he is the one that constantly doubts humanity’s faithfulness to the love of God. Satan prows about on a daily basis attempting to prove that God only entices human beings into love, with the claim that humanity would desert God if they were offered competing options not to love God back. It is no surprise therefore that the devil is diabolum in Latin (one who casts divisive barrier between humanity and God).

However, the devil only suggests with enticements. He absolutely lacks control over our wills, but overcomes our resistance by offering us that which we lust for, as irresistible bait. Adam & Eve were victims of the lures of Satan because of their insatiable appetite in the garden of abundance – affirming the Latin saying: Amor habendo habendi crescit (the love of having increases by having). On the contrary, the perfect contentment of Jesus assured his overwhelming defeat of satanic lures. Unlike the garden of abundance, the austere life depicted with the desert region allowed Jesus to focus on nothing but the love of God. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the recommended life jackets.

Should we get rid of temptations? We don’t have to aim at eliminating temptations, partly because we lack the ability, and partly because we lose the good fruit of temptation, which is renewed faithfulness in God. Temptation is no sin – a reason Jesus passed through it. Rather, temptation is a crafty lure to revolt against God. As noticed, temptation does not always lead to sin. Instead, drawing strength from Christ to overcome temptation confirms but also renews our profession of love to God. This first week of Lent, urges us to flee from inordinate pleasures that are capable of casting huge barrier between God and us. Such inordinate attractions are distractions. So, flee for your life!!!
God bless you. Fr. Levi.


"A “Short cut” to Holiness"