Mystery of the Resurrection

Christ is Risen! Indeed, he is risen! This ancient greeting is still used today among Eastern Catholics and Orthodox Christians. During the season of Easter and indeed every Sunday and every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we recall the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the center-piece of our Christian faith. But what does the resurrection mean to us?

In the first place it is a mystery that we cannot understand. In the Gospel passage of this Sunday, the disciples are in a closed room when the Risen Lord simply shows up in their midst. They are startled and terrified. You and I would have reacted in the same way. How is it possible that the same Jesus who was crucified, died and now is right there in their presence. “Peace be with you.” He said to them. He then challenged their misbelief, but also helped them to gradually understand that they were not seeing a ghost as they imagined. What Jesus says to the disciples is very down to earth. “Touch me and see me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones.” “Have you anything here to eat?” He wants the disciples to make use of all their bodily senses of touch and seeing. He asks them to see the wounds on his hands, his feet and on his side, in order to realize that he is indeed the same one who died on the Cross, but now alive. Perhaps what convinces the disciples even more is the fact that he asks for some food and eats right in their presence and then proceed to open their minds to the scriptures for them to understand that all what has happened to him had already been foretold in the scriptures.

We accept and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ not only on the grounds of eye witnesses, his disciples, but also by our own faith, which is a gift from God. During the rest of the Easter season, we live as people of the resurrection, knowing that Christ’s victory over death and the power of evil is also our victory.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda 

What is Divine Mercy?

The Second Sunday of Easter has been designated as Divine Mercy Sunday. What do we understand by Divine Mercy? From the diary of Saint Faustina, a special devotion began spreading throughout the world in the 1930s. That message was nothing new, but a reminder of what the Church had always taught through scripture and tradition: that God is merciful and forgiving. Consequently, we too must show mercy and forgiveness. But in the Divine Mercy devotion, the message takes on a powerful new focus, calling people to a deeper understanding that God’s love is unlimited and available to everyone, especially the greatest sinners.

The message of mercy is that God loves us, all of us, no matter how great our sins when we repent. He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy. The message of Divine Mercy is threefold: 1) Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world. 2) Be merciful. God wants us to receive His merciful forgiveness and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. 3) Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive God’s mercy. In brief, God’s name is Mercy! God’s mercy is greater than the total sum of our sins.

Divine Mercy devotion here at St. John’s will be Sunday, April 8 beginning at 3 PM with the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Come and join us.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday

Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday are interwoven because what we celebrate this morning is the mystery proclaimed at the Easter Vigil. It is important therefore to see the two moments as continuous. Easter Vigil recalls and re-enacts the mystery of God's salvation for us in the resurrection of Christ. Easter Sunday not only focuses our attention on recalling the resurrection of Jesus and its impact on the first disciples, but also on the meaning of this event for our own lives and for our faith. On this day, we joyfully proclaim and witness our faith in the Risen Lord among us.

Proclamation and witness are the two central themes running through Easter Sunday readings. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter speaks about his own experience and shares that experience with the listening crowds. Because of his experience of knowing with utter conviction that Jesus is alive, Peter is so filled with the joy of it, that he simply must share that joy with others.

Similarly, the experience of the resurrection by Paul leads him to advice that we keep focused on the risen Christ, since Christ is our life. For Paul, we know that his experience of the Risen Lord brought a total revolution in his life and gave him a total new vision of things and especially of the meaning of Jesus' life and message.

In the Gospel, we have the experience of the empty tomb as a sign that Jesus is risen, He is not there. This first day of the week is full of emotions and commotion. The discovery of the empty tomb by Mary of Magdala leads to her running back to tell Peter and John that the Lord's body is not in the tomb. That experience was the compelling evidence that Christ is indeed risen as he had said. John the apostle as eye witness and writer of the Gospel, tells us that he entered into the empty tomb, “he saw and he believed” that the Lord is risen indeed. That very evening, the Risen Lord confirms their faith in appearing to the gathered disciples. That appearance experience strengthened the faith of the disciples and completely transformed their lives. The message we take home on this Easter day is that we too like the disciples be moved to proclaim the resurrection of Christ in our lives to others without fear. Christ is risen, Alleluia!

 

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Making Sense of the Holy Triduum

In the bulletin of last Sunday, we outlined the coming celebrations of the Holy Triduum also known as the Sacred Triduum. Basically, the Sacred Triduum is one continuous festival commemorating the last three days of Jesus’ life on earth, the events of his Passion and Resurrection, when the Lamb of God laid down his life in atonement for our sins.

It is called the "Paschal Mystery" because it is the ultimate fulfillment of the ancient Jewish Passover (or Pasch), which was a memorial of how God brought the Jews out of their slavery in Egypt.  The spotless lamb of slaughtered at the Passover meal and consumed, and that night the destroying angel "passed over" the homes marked with the blood of the Passover Lamb, and the people in those houses marked with the Blood were saved.  This was the Old Testament prefiguring of Jesus' work at the Last Supper- where he inserted himself as the Paschal Lamb- and Calvary, where he offered himself in sacrifice to save us from our slavery to sin.  

The Paschal Mystery is, therefore, God’s plan of redemption for the fallen human race through the Passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following on the Sacred Triduum:

“Therefore, Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts’, the ‘Solemnity of solemnities, just as the Eucharist is the ‘Sacrament of sacraments’. St. Athanasius calls Easter ‘the Great Sunday’ and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week ‘the Great Week’. The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him.” (CCC #1168, 1169).

Once again, I appeal to all parishioners to participate in this unique event. The entire Paschal Mystery makes more sense when one participates in all three celebrations. Please remember that our parish church seating capacity is limited during these celebrations even with a tent outside. Come early. Invite your friends especially those who do not come to Sunday Mass regularly, as well as Christians and those of no church at all. Have a Blessed Holy Triduum!

 

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

We are celebrating the Easter Holy Triduum

The Easter Holy Triduum is ONE continuous commemoration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. All parishioners are encouraged to come to this special time of prayer, preparation and celebration of Easter.

v Holy Thursday of the Lord’s Supper (March 29): We commemorate Jesus' command to celebrate the Eucharist and to wash one another's feet, a symbol of service.

·        No Mass at 8 am

·        Morning Prayer at 8 am

·        Solemn Celebration of the Lord's Supper at 7 pm

·        Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in silence till 12 midnight.

 v Friday of the Passion of the Lord (March 30): We solemnly commemorate the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus, venerate the Cross of our Salvation and receive Holy Communion. We observe a fast & abstinence in honor of the Passion and Death of Our Lord.

    ·        No Mass at 8 am

·        Morning Prayer at 8 am

·        Celebration of the Lord's Passion at 3 pm

·        Stations of the Cross at 7 pm

 v Holy Saturday (March 31): We keep a Solemn Vigil as we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord by lighting a New Paschal Candle and solemn procession led by the Light of Christ, recalling the Story of our Salvation in the Liturgy of the Word, solemnly initiating new members into our community through Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.

    ·        No Mass at 8 am

·        Morning Prayer at 8 am

·        Solemn Easter Vigil Celebration at 7 pm

 v Easter Sunday (April 1): We celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

    ·        Solemn Mass at dawn at 7 am

·        Solemn Mass at 9 am

·        Solemn Mass at 11 am

      ·        NO 6 pm Mass

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

The Transforming Power of Fasting

Fasting is the third Lenten discipline. It is more than a means of developing self-control because the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God. In the first reading on the Friday after Ash Wednesday, the prophet Isaiah shows that fasting is meant to transform our behaviors and attitudes in order to please God. "This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own" (Is 58:6-7). Fasting therefore is linked to the stewardship of caring for those forced to fast by their poverty, economic injustices and political structures. The savings that come from our fasting is meant to be given to the cause of our less fortunate brothers and sisters otherwise it is of no use at all if we simply keep those savings! Furthermore, fasting is linked to living out our baptismal commitment as disciples and stewards. It helps us to be focused on the vision, mission and purpose of Jesus Christ. Fasting transforms us and supports efforts to alleviate the suffering of those in need.

Abstaining from meat was traditionally linked to the poor, who could seldom afford meat for their meals. It can do the same today if we remember the purpose of abstinence and embrace it as a spiritual link to those whose diets are sparse and simple. That should be the goal we set for ourselves—a sparse and simple meal. Abstaining from meat while eating lobster misses the whole point! While giving up food and drink or eating less in Lent is good, we may also decide to “fast” from our negative addictive behaviors and attitudes towards people and certain things during Lent. This may include giving up certain habits like self-seeking, the desire to be a control freak, gossiping, swearing and pornography. One can also fast completely from watching the TV for 40 days and 40 nights. During this age of electronic gadgets, we might also fast from the use our cell phones and texting, so that we may use that time to “text to God”; to relate to God in prayer.

 

 Monsignor John S. Mbinda 

Prayer Can Transform your Life this Lent

Our Lenten journey of stewardship as a way of life is fueled by prayer, fasting and almsgiving - generosity to our brothers and sister in need.  This article is about prayer. Prayer is transformative. During the Season of Advent last year, our homilies made use of Matthew Kelly’s ideas in his book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. In Chapter 1, Matthew Kelly speaks of the entitled “Incredible Possibilities” God has for each of us to be transformed if we open our hearts. The chapter deals with the principle of transforming people one at a time. A second principle Matthew Kelly uses is “continuous improvement” that seeks to achieve small incremental changes in one’s life.

 If prayer is going to be a way of life, one needs a daily routine of prayer. In Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, Kelly discovered that only 7% of Catholics have a daily commitment to prayer. The other 93% of Catholics don’t pray? Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. A routine of daily prayer can transform our lives this Lent. To do that we need a purpose driven plan for our prayer life.  Let’s admit we are all busy people.   However, using the principle of continuous improvement, baby steps are possible. The first step is to set aside 1 minute a day for prayer. Prayer no matter how brief, will start our day off right. It keeps us more focused, and our attitude will be marked by that prayer during the day. To cultivate a habit of prayer, try 1 minute each day. Then move to 2 minutes and so on, until you reach 10 minutes each day. Believe me, 10 minutes a day will change or enhance your life in ways you can’t imagine. God has incredible possibilities for each of us, only if we open our hearts to his invitation.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Almsgiving can Transform you this Lent

Almsgiving has the power to transform you this Lent. In the Gospel reading of Ash Wednesday, Jesus highlights the three Lenten disciplines of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. However, almsgiving is really the key to understanding and practicing the other two. Let me offer a few thoughts on this point. "When you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, to win praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Mt 6:2-3). Jesus here does not say IF you give alms, but WHEN you give alms.  Like fasting and prayer, almsgiving is non-negotiable.

The first Christians knew the importance of almsgiving. "There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need" (Acts 4:34-35). That was the living embodiment of a basic principle of Catholic social teaching, what tradition calls "the universal destination of goods." The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it succinctly: "The goods of creation are destined for the entire human race" (# 2452).

We often think of almsgiving in terms of financial contribution and giving to the less fortunate. But we can also give our time, our talents as well as our treasure both in the parish and in our neighborhood. The gifts that God has given us are meant to be shared. Here is a concluding thought on almsgiving from St. Basil the Great (330-379 AD): “The bread which you do not use is bread for the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is garment of him who is naked; the money you keep locked away is money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.” 

 Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Deeper Meaning of Lent

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten Season. On Ash Wednesday we receive the Ashes that are made from burning the previous year’s palms. There is therefore continuity from one year to another. But the deeper meaning of Lent is found in the words that the priest or the minister of the ashes uses.

There are two formulas. The first one is the ancient formula: “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:19). A woman who had been away from Church for many years came for Ash Wednesday and as she received the ashes when she heard those words of the priest she was in shock. After Mass the priest heard the woman complain to another woman saying, “why would the priest say such a terrible thing!” So the  priest went over and explained to her that these words are taken from the scripture and that is the truth, that God created us out of the dust and some day we shall die and return to our maker. Ash Wednesday reminds us that the time God has given us here on earth will come to an end. Life is short and we need to be prepared.

The second formula helps us to prepare ourselves. “Repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:15) These words of Jesus underline the urgency of preparedness; to repent of our sins and believe in the loving mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ who is always ready to receive us and forgive us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Relativism and individualism have set in so much that the sense of sin seems to have no place in us. That however, does not do away with our sinful condition. Ash Wednesday invites us back to normalize our relationship with God through the Sacrament of Confession. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.” (1 Jn 1:8) “Behold now is a very acceptable time; behold now is the time of salvation.”

In the coming weeks we shall reflect more as we look on the three pillars of the discipline of Lent: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. So stay tuned.  

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

The OCC will Benefit us all

The question I keep hearing with regard to the capital campaign is: “How will the One Community Center benefit me and my family?” Thank God, we have a majority of parishioners who know how this works. When it comes to offering our treasure for God’s work, we do that not just for ourselves, but as we say in the prayer for our capital campaign “we fully invest ourselves in attaining the goal of our capital campaign with loving generosity for You and future generations.” When completed, the One Community Center will serve as a space where you and your family will be nourished spiritually and made more powerful witnesses of the Gospel; a placed that will serve as an over flow during our major feast days like Christmas and Easter; a place for our parish event celebrations; a place where workshops and retreats will be conducted, all for the benefit of all parishioners. In brief there are many benefits for you and the whole parish. The OCC will benefit us all. So, get involved.

The parishioners who built our present magnificent place of worship invested a lot for themselves and us of today. Some of these parishioners are still with us and proud to have made their contribution for the building of our present worship space. These are the parishioners who understand how it works. I must add that there is another category of parishioners who have come forward without hesitation. These are parishioners with below middle-class income supporting the capital campaign mainly out of gratitude for what God has given them. To these we are most grateful.

For those who still hesitate for one reason or another, our leadership including myself are available to respond to your questions. Some parishioners have given good suggestions for capital campaign options, for example envelopes at the back to put in their weekly One Starbucks Coffee equivalent or more. We are exploring this and other possibilities and we will get back with clear proposals. Meanwhile I urge those who still have pledge cards to complete them and place them in the box at the back of the church or mail them or drop them into our parish locked mail box.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

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