if you still believe in the power of prayers, that is, if you still have faith in God, then this is time to increase your prayers. God has rescued his children from worse things than what we are facing today. It may seem as if God is sleeping but we know that He cannot sleep. Let us pray until something happens. Let us pray until Jesus gets up to say to the storms around us: “Be Still.” Let us pray like that woman who kept going back to the judge demanding justice until she got an answer. (Cf. Luke 18:1-8). Let our faith be large enough to swallow our fears.

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Jesus lived his entire life on earth as a poor man. He was born in a manger and buried in a borrowed tomb. He was so hungry one time that He and His disciples had to go into a corn field to pluck heads of grain and eat even though it was a Sabbath. Jesus was often invited to dine in the homes of the rich but He never sought to enrich himself.

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The purpose of our calling as Christians and especially as God’s ministers is to incarnate Christ in our world. As Elijah handed over to Elijah, even the strongest among us would need to be replaced someday. Let us encourage our young ones to respond positively to God’s call. How dark would our world be if there are no ministers or no authentic Christians anymore? However, the truth is that God will never force his calling on anyone. We must also avoid forcing our children into the seminary just for the sake of making a name for our family. It has to come from them. Anyone who has agreed to respond to God’s call must learn to trust God completely and no longer depend on material provisions. This is the symbolic meaning of Elisha’s decision to sacrifice the entire oxen he was working with. And finally, we all have been called to live by the spirit rather than gratifying the desires of the flesh. The minister who fails to practice bodily purity is nothing short of a scandal to the Christian faith preaching one Gospel on the pulpit but preaching something different by his actions.

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Mary had a PURE heart. It is as a result of Mary’s outstanding sinlessness that we refer to her heart as IMMACULATE. It was this purity of heart that made God so fall in love with her as to choose her to be his mother. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us a secret; “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8). Only a heart so pure can contain God as Mary did. As we reflect on Mary’s Immaculate Heart, let us look at our own hearts. Is my heart like that of Mary? What efforts am I making to guard my heart against all defilements of evil?

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The heart of Jesus is first sacred because it is the heart of God. It is also a typical shepherd’s heart, a heart so full of love and concern for the good of humanity who are His Sheep.

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Names are not merely means of identification; names are spiritual. A person’s name can affect his or her life. Our Gospel passage today is a record of the naming ceremony of John the Baptist. The people were planning to call him Zechariah after his father or “Junior” because they felt he would re-live his father’s life. But Elizabeth and Zechariah knew that this child had a destiny different from that of his father so they both opted for “John” instead.

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Avoid shallow Christianity. Be a doer of the word. Let it not be that the only reason you are a Christian faith is simply to receive miracles, breakthroughs and prosperity. If this the case, you will not be able to withstand the rains, floods and winds that would come your way. If you are simply an Amen-I-receive-it-Christian, you would soon fall away when trials and difficulties come.

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Jesus wants us to be wise, to look before we leap, to realize that it is not everyone who addresses himself as a prophet that is there for our good. Some are agents of the devil sent to wreak havoc on gullible Christians. Jesus even said that on the last day many would come claiming to have worked miracles in His name but He would say: “I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!” (Luke 13:27). Shine your eyes, there are workers of iniquity out there. Watch out for their fruits.

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Do you firmly believe that with prayers, we can solve the problem of insecurity bedeviling our nation? If you do, then you are among the very few still following the narrow path of salvation that Jesus spoke about in today’s Gospel passage. Sure, it is not easy to be different in a world like ours. It is not easy to genuinely let your light shine in a world so full of darkness. As Jesus would say: “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to salvation.” Don’t get tired of the difficulties you are facing in your walk with Jesus. It was never meant to be a smooth ride. Do not give up.

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When next you feel a strong urge to correct someone, post a condemnatory video on social media, cry out about an act of injustice, or even gossip about someone to a friend, please examine your conscience thoroughly. Examine your heart, correct yourself, point the torchlight inwards so you can see the log, then remove the log first before you go ahead to judge or criticize. Maybe, while removing your log, you will discover why it has been so difficult for others to remove their specks. Maybe, the lessons you learn will help to refine how you condemn. Maybe, in the end, you will realize there is just no need to condemn anyone at all but to simply begin to do that which you desire to see in others.

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Jesus has given us His own flesh and blood, it is because He knows that as our bodies need food to survive, our souls also need the Eucharist to survive. The more we strive to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, the more we strive to live a sinless life and the more we receive Jesus, the more we become strengthened with more grace and power to be holier Christians. Do not stay away from communion, it is your ticket to eternal life.

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From the miraculous birth of children to barren women to the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea by the Nation of Israel when the Egyptians were chasing after them, to the miracles of Jesus in the New Testament such as the feeding of five thousand with just five loaves and two fish, God continues to teach us a lesson in PROVIDENCE. The problem with us humans is that we don’t want to learn, we don’t trust God.

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