Fr. Jacob Dankasa – My Blog

Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

We celebrate Pentecost to commemorate the action of the Holy Spirit as He stirs the people of faith and removes their fears in order to empower them to live out their faith with pride. As people of faith, when we allow the Holy Spirit to stir us, we fly without wings to become His instruments, to allow Him to use us to stir others to holiness. To live out our Pentecost answers a call to take action and live out our faith. As we celebrate Pentecost this weekend, I want to re-share these updated thoughts of mine.

There are various ways to live out our faith in the spirit of Pentecost. Here, I will recommend one way to demonstrate our faith particularly — using the social media, a refreshing trend that is changing the face of our society today. The social media today are one of the largest platforms for finding and interacting with thousands of humans within the shortest period of time without regard to geographical boundaries. Hence, there is arguably no better platform today for a broader outreach in evangelization than the social media. Whether you succeed in evangelizing a soul or not is another issue. But never underestimate the power of trying!

Sharing pictures is one of the activities users engage in on social media for different good reasons, though there are some who tend to be uncomfortable when people frequently share their pictures and activities on Facebook. They criticize them as just trying to show off. I wonder why there is such criticism when one of the chief purposes of Facebook is to encourage sharing (I add: decent sharing). If you’re uncomfortable with people who share their pictures and stories on Facebook, then I think you probably are in the wrong place.

Having said this, if you’re a person of faith, here is another good reason for sharing. I want to invite you to bring into social media an experience of Pentecost. As part of living out our Pentecost experience, I recommend that people of faith consider developing a practice of taking photos of themselves at beautiful locations around their church facilities as they attend weekend masses (or worship) and post these photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any social media they belong to. Let the world know that you are at church. This is not hypocrisy, this is not mere showing off — this is evangelism. The world should know how much you cherish your faith and how proud you are of the God you serve. No shame, no regrets! If there is anything to show off, let your God be first.

If we’re all convinced of who we worship, then we must demonstrate that we belong to Him. And no place can be more appropriate for showcasing this today than the social media. One thing is certain: I may not be able to see the inside of your heart, but what I see from the outside can either cause me to move toward God or away from Him. You cannot know how much influence you have on others and what the Spirit can do through you on social media. Don’t undermine the work of the Holy Spirit, because He lives — even on social media! You never can tell how many people will begin to go to church because you do. Pictures speak a thousand words — never underestimate the power of an image. Many people don’t have the courage to publicly demonstrate their faith, but that is what the Holy Spirit has come to help us with: to burn away our fears and our shyness, and — as He did for the pre-Pentecost apostles — fill us with courage to “renew the face of the earth.”

So, when next you go to your place of worship, let the world know that there is a God that you dearly serve — show him off! As we celebrate Pentecost, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to bring decency and civility into our relationships and interactions with one another on social media.  #HolySpiritInvadeSocialMedia

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We must learn to be ourselves. But we must also strive to improve over our defects. We shouldn’t give reasons to accept that our weaknesses are permanent parts of us. “If a man is rude and impatient, it is not because these are an expression of his best self; it is rather that they are an expression of behaviors that have been practiced. Personality tendencies and talents should be accepted, but character defects should be challenged. God loves you as you are – but he loves you too much to let you stay that way” (Matthew Kelly, “Perfectly Yourself,” p. 6).To be ourselves doesn’t mean remaining comfortable in our weaknesses. We must learn to celebrate our strengths however small they may appear to be.

When I was growing up in Nigeria, soccer (popularly known as football in the rest of the world) was the ultimate sport. I flipped channels each time I saw American football played on ESPN because I didn’t understand it. After I came to America, it took me some time to understand American football. But once I began to understand it, I found it very interesting. As a Catholic priest, I was even more drawn to it when I heard about the “Hail Mary” pass. I like the concept of the Hail Mary pass, now figuratively used in American football. In fact, I was fascinated by it. Unfortunately, it rarely happens. I tried to know more about how the concept of the Hail Mary pass was popularized in American football. According to Wikipedia (citing other sources):

“A Hail Mary pass, also known as a Shot Play, is a very long forward pass in American football, made in desperation with only a small chance of success. The term became widespread after a December 28, 1975 NFL playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings, when Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach … said about his game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson, widely believed to have pushed off, ‘I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.’”

Wikipedia added that the use of the expression goes back to around the 1930’s, and is used to describe “a long, low-probability pass…attempted at the end of a half when a team is too far from the end zone to execute a more conventional play, implying that it would take divine intervention for the play to succeed.”

It’s amazing that one person’s usage of the term “Hail Mary” to publicly show divine intervention in a game has become a concept that’s used today to describe a jaw-dropping and exciting play in American football. For me, as a Catholic, I liken it to the acknowledgement of our Blessed Mother’s intervention role in the lives of her Son’s followers. Intended or not, the Hail Mary pass shows the value of the Hail Mary prayer, because the prayer itself predates the usage of the concept in football. We can always go through our Blessed Mother for a last second victory, not because she is God, because she is not, but because she will intercede for us to her Son, the Son of God.

In the gospel of John 19:26-27 when Jesus entrusted his mother to John and John to his mother, a mutual mother-child relationship was created. The gospel tells us that from that moment “John took Mary into his home.” Like John, Catholics should make devotion to Mary a daily part of their family and personal lives. During this season of Lent – and beyond – we should take devotion to our Blessed Mother into our homes. Twenty-four seconds before the end of a game, a 50-yard ball was thrown, a Hail Mary was said, and a near-impossible playoff game was won. When you are seeking God’s intervention in your life and in your family, consider seeking the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Pray the rosary always. And as St. Pio of Pietrelcina (one of those who understood the greatness of devotion to the Blessed Mother) would say: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.

Friends, Christ threw a Hail Mary pass in the last seconds of his life by giving her to us as our mother. So, catch the Hail Mary pass and take her home for a touchdown of relationship and devotion. It will be a victory like no other.

Our Gospel today (Matt 25:1-13) presents us with the parable of the ten virgins. Five were foolish and five were wise. The wise virgins made deliberate decision to take extra oil in case of unforeseen events but the other five didn’t see the need and, of course, they were embarrassed afterwards when their oils went dry.

In our everyday life, we find ourselves making deliberate attempts to prepare for the unforeseen future. We plan for retirement, put money in our 401k, plan our savings, and some invest in the stock market and are anxious each time the market goes up and down. We do all these planning to be sure that the future is enjoyable for us. It’s truly wise for us to plan for our future.

Our readings today admonish us to also extend this wise preparation to our spiritual lives. As Christians we need to also be deliberate in preparation for our spiritual lives. Like the stock market, we should pay attention to our spiritual lives when it goes up and down. We need to make deliberate arrangements to include prayer and God in our schedules. We wake up in the morning and prepare how to accomplish the tasks for the day, but most times we forget to include prayer as part of the tasks. Finally we get done with our daily schedules so tired that we have no time to pray. This is like running out of oil because we didn’t make prayer as part of our daily plan. 

Christmas is on the way and many of us are making bucket list of what to accomplish this Christmas. Check your bucket list and see if you have a space for how you will live your spiritual life this Christmas. Apart from attending Church services, what else is the place of God in your list? In the light of our Gospel today, I will encourage us to include in our Christmas bucket list something we may achieve to grow our spiritual life: giving to the poor, reconciling with someone you have trouble relating with, spending some time in prayer with your family etc. These are some ways you can keep your oil burning without running out.

One area that needs to have God included in our plans is when people are planning to get married. There are a lot of things that go into preparation for marriage. In most cases, many forget to make deliberate plans to include their spiritual lives in the list of their plans, with the exception of probably going for the wedding service. Marriage is a lifelong commitment and for us to keep the oil of love burning beyond the wedding day, we need deliberate plans on how we will include God in our scheme of things. People trying to get married should not restrict their planning to the material preparation. You should also draw out your spiritual plans, your prayer lives, and the place of God in your family. When we include a space for God as part of our life journey, our oils will never run dry.

Finally, in all that we do and in all our plans, check and see if there is a space for God. He alone can give you the Holy Spirit to Keep your plans burning with Success.

God has bestowed us with various responsibilities as His children. He has positioned some of us to be clergy in order to lead the people of God towards Him. Some are chosen to be parents, to lead families and children to God. Others are chosen as leaders to bring order to structures in society. But for many of us we are called to be Christians to show people the way to God. 

In all these responsibilities, and especially as Christians, our readings today (Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8:10 & Mt. 23:1-12) challenge us to be good role models to those who look up to us. When we preach, teach and demand the right conduct from our parishioners, our children, our friends and from those who are struggling in their faith, or those who do not share our faith, we must also develop the inner holiness to live by example in true humility. Otherwise we will only be exhibiting spiritual superiority that lacks credibility.

The readings challenge us against spiritual superiority that is not backed up by inner holiness. Such superiority turns us to spiritual police that are only concerned with the rights and wrongs of other people while inside of us we lack the spiritual discipline to apply same standards of holiness to ourselves. 
True holiness is not achieved by merely applying your Christian standards on other people. True holiness is achieved by applying the Christian standards to oneself first. When we apply our christian standards to ourselves and live by them, we become the pathway through which others will learn to be holy. True spiritual leadership should begin with me living the life of holiness. True spirituality should teach me to be humble. When I become truly spiritual, I will learn to see my imperfections which will lead me to acquiring the humility to see how best I can help others to grow alongside me in achieving true growth in holiness.
Unfortunately, many of us spend time dissecting what is wrong or right about other people’s lives and applying standards to others which we don’t live by (“They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” Mt. 23:4). This type of manufactured spiritual leadership is not healthy for personal growth in holiness and is not effective in changing other people’s lives. Oftentimes, we find ourselves fighting over whose religion is the best, whose church is the best or whose faith is the best. Meanwhile, we personally neglect to live by those very standards that define a person who professes that faith which we externally fight for. 
When we truly live by the standards of our faith we will not need to fight over whose faith is the best. Already, the best can be seen by our very lives. When we live by the standards of our beliefs our credibility to explain to others what we believe will be like no other. People will walk the rain and snow to hear and learn from us. Achieving inner holiness is a lifelong journey. Let’s walk it together.

In my church community (St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Richardson, Texas), we have a small gathering place called the ‘forum’. People meet, relax and study in the forum, with coffee, donuts, cookies and free Wifi. But my most impressive moment is what takes place at the forum among some of the older members of our church everyday of the week after our morning masses.

Every morning, many senior citizens of our church community gather together in the forum after the morning mass and share their time together. This is an informal gathering where they have some coffee together and share stories. The joy that radiates from these older members of our community knows no bound. They talk and chat with strength that is unimaginable of people their age, and express their inner happiness in laughter that is so infectious. Sometimes they celebrate their birthdays. Some among them may be struggling with illnesses or the weight of old age, but none of these deters them from this magnificent communal expression of joy which is seen from the energy they exude. Certainly, they have found their strength in their faith community and their joy is unstoppable. Their expressions of happiness and sense of life-fulfillment give me hope that old age is not a burden but a gift. I admire them, I love them and I envy them. May God bless their hearts.

I have talked to a few of them and asked them about the gratification they derive from coming together every morning. The answers I received were amazing. They expressed how they go to bed at night always hoping to be gathered in the morning; they feel stronger when they listen to the stories of others and share theirs; and they find comfort in one another. For some of them, it takes away loneliness and isolation, and makes them feel that life is worth living.

What else can someone of that age ask for than to live life in happiness feeling the sense of a family. This is what the church community is and this is what it should provide. The very elderly in our communities should find a second home in their faith communities, they should feel loved and welcomed. I invite more older members of our community to come share this joy and live life at its best. Make your 80’s feel like 20’s again!

I dedicate my blog post this Holy Week to all senior citizens in our various faith communities. May the Passion of Christ strengthen and brighten your days.

Go and find a home in your faith communities!

The sacrament of reconciliation or penance is a very important sacrament of the Church. The Catholic Church in its teachings encourages the faithful to utilize this sacrament as a free gift of God’s forgiving grace. Going to confessions to receive absolution and forgiveness heals the soul of the penitent. In a state of mortal sin, confession is required before reception of Holy communion, except a grave reason prevents one from approaching the sacrament. In a state of venial sin, however, a good act of contrition can be said before reception of holy communion.
However, as important as the sacrament of confession is, it must not be used as a pretext to remain in the very acts that cause one to sin. One should not feel too comfortable in perpetually committing sin simply because the sacrament of penance exists. Efforts are needed! The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1451) states that “among the penitent’s acts, contrition occupies first place. Contrition is sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” If you find yourself going to confessions every day or every week, or at any opportunity of seeing a priest, then you may also need to examine yourself if you are making enough effort to stay away from those sins that take you to confessions all the time.
Our efforts to stay away from sin is very important. As we seek the gratuitous mercy of God and are encouraged to approach the sacrament of penance this season of Lent and in this year of mercy, let us also make a renewed effort to abstain from occasions of sin.


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