Are We “Good Stewards?”

“May your grace, O Lord, we pray, at all times go before us and follow after and make us always determined to carry out good works.”  These words from today’s opening prayer defines truly what a “good steward” is.  Good stewards are covered and protected by God’s grace so that they can perform good deeds with their time, talent and treasure.  We are called to be the good stewards of the Lord!  As the rich young man of our Gospel, Jesus asks us to put aside what is keeping us from God in order to fully engage with those in need.  Jesus’ question is not whether money is good or bad.  The challenge is what we do with our time, talent and treasure for the benefit of all.   The rich young man from the gospel can’t embrace Jesus’ call to let go of what is so central to his person.  What about us?  Can we let go?  Can we embrace the call of Jesus to share our talents with our community?  Do we have the desire to take few hours a week to share our time with those members of our community in need?  Could we see ourselves giving up some of our wants so we can give more of our treasure to the Church or charity?   Understanding the idea of stewardship is relatively simple, it can be hard in practice.  In terms of time it is good to consider taking on a “spiritual exercise” such as praying a rosary when you normally would have watched a television show.  

Share your talents with our community.  Get involve in one of our many ministries.  Make sure your entire family is involved in it.  Sometimes we let money rule not only our budget but our hearts and spirits as well.  “Spiritualize” the practice of giving to the Church by praying over your donation envelope, either by yourself or with your family.  Teach your children the importance of sharing their wealth with others in need.  Make sure that contributions are understood by the whole family.  Ask your children to place your family envelope in the basket.  I hope some of these ideas will resonate with you.  Let’s always keep in mind that stewardship is spirituality - a way of living our life in the knowledge that everything is a gift from God, and that we have a responsibility to use our gifts for God’s purposes.  

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

         In today’s Gospel reading, we see the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus: “Is it really against the law for a man to divorce his wife? After all Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” Even today, many people question the laws and teachings of the Church. Many people are breaking the law, so why can’t the Church change according to the times? We must always distinguish between those who are law-breakers, victims of the law, and victims of circumstances. We have no right to sit in judgment, to point a finger at others. We are called to be compassionate and understanding of the weaknesses of others.  We have always to distinguish between the person and the law. At the same time we see Jesus speaks clearly and directly. He lays down the law as it is. The Law will not change to suit our notions and fancies or for our own convenience.  Marriage is for life, commitment is for life. We want our marriage relationships to last until death and they will, if we work at them and let God be an integral part of our lives. 

     Perhaps the last part of the Gospel gives us one way in which we can make our relationships work: Jesus let the little children come to him and blessed them. The child symbolizes dependence on another; their parents. For our relationships to work we depend on God. Lastly, even as we grow and mature we must never lose the sense of wonder that we had as children. One of the things that strike us about children is how they can get engrossed in the simplest of things; they forget everything else and enjoy that moment, that thing, that person. That ability to wonder can keep us going and we will find there is always something to be grateful for in our married relationships and in life itself. 

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

We are God’s beloved!

This weekend’s readings show how much God cares, and how much we, too, should care for one another.  We hear that God dwells within all people, from our earliest ancestors in faith, to all of us in this present day and age.  Since the days of Moses, this is a divine mystery that we all too often forget.  In the first reading Moses realizes that God’s spirit cannot be constricted by human limitations or expectations; God was deeply in all of the chosen people, not just a few.  Moses offers thanks and prays that all God’s people might become “prophets” of justice and mercy.  Are we “prophets” of justice and mercy?  

On the second reading James reminds us to treasure the wonderful blessed things in our lives; material possessions will fade away after time.  What do we consider our true treasures to be?  So often it is in the intangible that we find our true wealth.  The blessed gift of family or a true friend is too often overlooked until they are gone.  To be the most loving person you can be is a true gift and treasure to others.  In our gospel, Jesus seems to encourage a “big tent” approach to religion.  He tells his disciples, “Those who are not against us are for us.”  Jesus taught them to recognize the work of God from within and from outside of the immediate community.  He also exhorted that it is better to lose one’s limb if it leads one to sin.   He asks us to let go of whatever makes us less than what God has created us to be.  Sometimes that means to cut off the sinful hand or tearing off the evil eye, but also letting go those attitudes of self-centeredness, prejudices, and vengeance that destroy our communities. 

This weekend we are called to become the arms and legs of Christ.  We need to open our eyes to the good that others are doing to savor the presence of the Spirit around us.  If someone is not part of the group but is still performing the actions of the members of the group, that person is with us.  We need to recognize that the Spirit is moving and active in our own immediate community, in our own individual families, and in our hearts.  

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Today's readings show us two different kinds of wisdom. What we would instinctively call wisdom is very different from what the readings of today present as wisdom.  The world’s understanding of wisdom is seen in our human tendency to look for superior status over others, to seek to dominate and to create pecking-orders. However, as Jesus puts it in our Gospel, the person who wants to be first has to make himself last of all and the servant of all.

Last Sunday, Jesus told his disciples that his mission as a Messiah was to suffer and die on the Cross and asked them to take up their cross and follow him. Jesus repeats his announcement of the Passion, once again with the hint of resurrection. However, the apostles simply did not understand his teaching; and instead of asking Jesus what he meant, they started arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. In this context, Jesus takes a child and places him in their midst, embraces him, and says: “Anyone who welcomes such a little child as this in my name, welcomes me.” At the time of Jesus, children were given no important place in society. A child's opinion counted for nothing.  So one can imagine what a shock it was for the disciples when Jesus placed a child before them and said anyone who wants to be first must embrace a child, which means he must be last of all and servant of all. For Jesus, the greatness of a person, especially the Christian lies in humble service of others, particularly the poorest.

The second reading is linked to this theme because it shows that the root of such evils as envy, hatred and conflicts lie in our refusal to accept the invitation of Christ to serve our brothers and sisters instead of craving for self-serving power in order to dominate others. The desire to control to dictate or manipulate people to get the results we want often leads to unhealthy competitions, and, as our first reading points out, anyone who is perceived as a stumbling block is treated with hatred, hence, the upright are often persecuted. This is also what St. James talks about in the second reading: "You want something and you haven't got it....You have an ambition that you can't satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force, you're praying for the wrong things, asking God to indulge your own desires, and so on. 

To free us from these selfish and corrupt motives and desires, the readings invite us to look within ourselves and to admit the extent to which we're influenced by these desires. They also invite us to treat each other with love, kindness, compassion and consideration. Let us, therefore turn to God and ask him to free us from these desires and to replace them with the spirit of simplicity and a “will to serve” instead.

 

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ B

The readings of this Sunday focus on the identity of the Messiah. This was an ongoing question in the Old Testament times when there were many false “messiahs”. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah calls our attention to the fact that persecution and suffering were the destiny of the Servant of God. “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard….”

 

The Letter of James in the second reading helps us to see clearly what genuine faith is about. James underlines the necessity of corporal works of mercy to the poor as essential to true faith. In other words, it is not enough to tell a hungry person “Go in peace…and eat well.” A parish that has no social ministry outreach program is not fully responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It lacks the compassion and love of Christ as he hangs on the cross.

 

In the Gospel, Jesus sets the stage by testing his disciples to find out if they really know who he is. Jesus cleverly starts by asking who other people say he is. Some say Jesus is a powerful prophet, others a great teacher, still others he is a great wonder-worker. Jesus will have none of that. He doesn't care about public opinion. He doesn't care what the "experts" say. He then asks, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter responds, "You are the Christ." Yes, that's good, but not good enough. That is not the full identity of Jesus. That is why Jesus immediately predicts his own suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. When Peter hears that, description of the Messiah, he reacts from his human perspective. How could the Christ, the Messiah suffer? That is why Peter tries to rebuke Jesus. Peter thought that Christ was a conquering Messiah; that the cross is for criminals, for evil-doers, not for Jesus. In that scene along the way to Jerusalem, Jesus wants to remind his disciples and us too that our faith in him as a glorified Messiah can only be understood in the light of the Cross..

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

God has an incredible dream for each of us. The readings of this Sunday are about that dream and its fulfilment in Jesus Christ who uses just one word in Aramaic “Ephphatha” (be opened) to heal the deaf and dumb person. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah highlights the vision of the return of the Israelites from the Babylonian exile. This incredible vision is about what the Lord in his compassion will soon do for his people. Their broken hearts will be healed and their dignity as a nation restored. Isaiah uses the image of healing and restoration of all creation in God’s justice and care. Thus “streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.” The Gospel passage is clearly the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Christ: opening the ears of the deaf and loosening the tongues of the dumb.

Isaiah’s prophecy predicts happier and better times to come, when God will destroy all barriers: the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame leap like lambs, and the dumb will speak. While both Isaiah and the Gospel point to physical healing, the ailments listed are also symbolic of interior suffering, consisting often of blindness to the needs of the neighbor, the inability to hear God’s voice or to speak words of praise and compassion. While walking through the Ten Cities Region (Decapolis), people bring to Jesus a deaf and dumb person asking him to heal him. The point of the miracle becomes a metaphor for the healing of all God’s people without exception. The deaf and dumb person, like the people in the gospels who are brought, or who come to Jesus for healing, represents each one of us and poor suffering humanity as a whole. That image of Jesus standing alone with the person, holding his face between his hands to heal him, is an image of God embracing the whole of creation in his tender touch, gazing with profound compassion into the eyes of each of us, longing to heal us all of our deafness and our speech impediment.

We are therefore challenged to follow the same example. James in the Second Reading challenges us when he speaks with irony of people who welcome the well dressed with gold rings, while ignoring the poor man, who is only in the eyes of this world but rich before God who makes no distinctions.  On the contrary, God breaks all barriers and calls all to the universal table of fellowship of the kingdom.  The questions we need to ask are:  do we in our parish community have wounds of division that need to be healed?  Do we have members who feel excluded?  

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

“Having a pure heart!”

Our readings this weekend demands that we examine our lives, lest we fall into the trap of trivial worries that amount to scrupulosity and a loss of sound relationships to others.  The letter of James points to the heart of what our religion must be: caring for the poor and widows while keeping away from worldly values.  Caring for those whom society deems the least constitutes following God’s commandments, as Moses said in Deuteronomy, without adding nor subtracting anything from them.  Love of God and love of neighbor should be our core values, out witness to the world.  To be faithful to the intent of God’s commandment requires one to have a pure heart. 

In the Gospel Jesus speaks about how we should place more importance to what matters of the heart and not the small stuff.  He talks about attitudes we (his disciples) should develop and live, every day of our lives.  He makes clear that who we are, what we believe, how we respond to life’s challenges begin within our hearts, the place where God dwells inside every one of us.  Equally, the evil we are capable of, the hurt we inflict on others, the degrading of the world that God created also begin within our hearts – when God is displaced by selfishness, anger, greed, hatred.  Jesus challenges us to look into the depths of our hearts to realize exactly what we feel passionate about, what we truly believe, what we are called to do with this life God has given us. 

Finally, Jesus call us to worship God with the integrity of our hearts, to live the words of the prayers that have become rote in our lives, to embrace the true gospel "traditions" of compassion, mercy and forgiveness.  Words and rituals help us express our faith - but faith begins within ourselves, in our beliefs and perspective of the world and our attitudes toward others.  Faith is centered in our hearts, in that most personal of spaces where God dwells inside of us.     

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time~B

Five weeks and nearly seventy verses later we’ve come to the end of our journey through the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.  Jesus has been doing a lot of talking --- saying a lot of things that are really tough to understand, difficult to wrap our minds around with. ‘I am the bread of life’ and ‘unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life in you’.

“These sayings are hard; who can accept them?

In today’s gospel, we are invited to once again examine our commitment to being a follower of Jesus . We’re asked to take a long hard look as to whether or not we are really ‘buying whatever it is that Jesus is selling’. And this “re-commitment” is not something we only need to do rarely.  Rather, it’s something we must engage in over and over and over again.  We just saw an example of that in our First Reading in which Joshua, after leading the Israelites across the Jordan and into the Promised Land, wants to make sure their hearts and minds --- their very selves --- are still committed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It had been a really long and difficult journey.  Joshua wanted to make sure that the people he helped lead hadn’t given up on their God.

What about us, have we given up ?

That’s a tough question, but one whose answer makes all the difference in the world. Is it too hard to forgive the unforgivable?  Is it too hard to give a lot when we have a little?  Is it too hard to reconcile with those who have wronged us? Is it too hard to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, lay down our lives for others?

May we have the faith and courage and wisdom to not only echo what Joshua said long ago --- “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” --- but mean it too.  

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The book of Proverbs tells us that Heaven exists in the quest for Divine wisdom, that is, the quest to discover Yahweh's presence in everything and everyone. In our First reading (Proverbs 9), Wisdom is depicted as a gracious hostess inviting the people to a fine banquet. This is an imaginative way of speaking about God as the wise host who invites all of humanity to learn from his wisdom. "Wisdom" becomes the symbolic image of the search for God's will.

Like Woman-Wisdom Jesus invites us to come and eat of his bread, but unlike Woman-Wisdom he declares himself to be that bread and that wine. More specifically he calls on us to eat his flesh and to drink his blood. This was one of Jesus' most difficult teaching. His language of eating his flesh and drinking his blood was a shock to the crowds. Indeed, Jewish law prohibited the eating of human flesh, and as blood was considered to be the actual life of a living being, drinking of blood, was also prohibited in Judaism (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:10, 12, 14; cf. Acts 15:29). Hence, we can sympathize with those who object, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ However, while Jesus was speaking on the level of spiritual realities, the crowds were still on the physical level, and could not get the point.

We cannot hear this language without thinking of the words of Jesus to his disciples at the last supper when, he took bread and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body’, and took a cup of wine, saying, ‘Take, drink, this is the new covenant in my blood.’ He gave himself to his disciples, his body and blood, under the form of bread and wine.  So, the banquet of wisdom, to which the first reading invites us, is the banquet depicted in today’s Gospel. The early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. They regarded the Eucharist as Wisdom’s banquet, where they shared in the Divine Wisdom now present in Jesus.

The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), invites all to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”  Jesus invites us to his table and he puts himself before us as food and drink. In a language that is very daring he declares himself to be our food and drink, the one who can satisfy our deepest hungers and thirsts, our hunger and thirst for life. In today’s Gospel passage, he declares, ‘anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. "Eternal life" is complete and lasting happiness, satisfying our deepest longings and realizing all our dreams. Our participation in the Eucharist also concretizes and energizes our relationship with Christ and with one another.

In conclusion: 1) Every human being is blessed with an insatiable longing for God. We want God as our Father to hold us gently in His arms, keeping us safe throughout the dangers we face. But often we use substitutes as an escape from that need: fast living, fast food, fast cars, needless luxuries, unrestricted sexual fulfillment.  But let us remember the truth that unless we keep the hunger for God strong in our hearts, we will eventually realize the emptiness of our lives without Him.  2) We come to the Eucharist hungering and thirsting for life, and the Lord feeds us with his word and with the bread of life. We in turn, need to allow our body to be broken and our blood to be shed for others as Jesus did; to be channels of that life, of that love, for each other. That is why, at the end of the Mass, we are sent out from the Eucharist as life givers, as agents of God’s life and love within our homes, our society, and our world.

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The proverb, “familiarity breeds contempt” becomes true as we read the first reading and the gospel this Sunday. The First reading from the Book of Kings Elijah is threatened by the king’s wife and Elijah flees to Mount Horeb. While there, God sends a messenger with bread and water. This gives Elijah the strength to walk to the mountain. The bread given to Elijah seems to foreshadow the Eucharist and its power to keep us faithful on our personal journey to God. Just as the Lord drew Elijah to the holy Mount, we too are drawn to the mountain of the Lord (the Church) where the Lord strengthens us with the living bread from heaven, namely, the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Sunday's Gospel begins with the Jews complaining about Jesus' claims regarding his identity. They knew his family: that he was born of Mary and that he was the son of Joseph. How could he then have come down from heaven? Jesus responds to their complaints by saying that those who listen to God will recognize that Jesus is the one sent from God. Those who believe will have eternal life. Jesus concludes with the central teaching on the Eucharist. He promises that the bread of life will bring eternal life to those who partake of it. Jesus tells us that the bread of life will be his own flesh, given for the life of the world. In today's Gospel, we hear Jesus repeat the words of last Sunday Gospel, that he is the bread of life.  We also hear Jesus add that his is the living bread.  Both of these statements help us understand better the gift that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist.  We celebrate this gift of Jesus each time we gather for Mass- the Eucharist.  We take Jesus with us when we sent to become what we have eaten- Jesus Christ.  In a deeper way we become the bread of life, broken for others to eat.  We can only do that if we encounter Jesus more deeply.  The bottom line is that hasty familiarity with the Eucharist can be an obstacle to such a deeper encounter.  

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Do not work for food that perishes...

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus told to the crowd

 “Do not work for food that perishes . . .”

It’s hard to not work for “food that perishes”.  And of course, that phrase is meant to include all of our earthly needs and all of our wants too.  There are many things that we need in this life: food, water, shelter, money, medical care, etc. . .  Is God really saying that we shouldn’t work toward these things?

I don’t think so.  It seems that Jesus is trying to make sure we have the proper relationship between God and these other things, that we don’t relentlessly pursue the things of this world at the expense of our relationship with God.  In other words, the way we purse these other needs, the choices we make and the attitides we possess while doing so, matter.  It's a kind of spiritual trap to try to use any means possible and go to any length to try to meet our earthly needs.  When we do that, we are essentially saying to God and the world, that our hope ultimately lies with the fruits of our own efforts.  And yet God knows that these things simply don't last.  They are not eternal.  We, however, somehow seem to forget that.  And the hunger persists.   

What are the things in our life that have all our attention and motivation and focus?  What are the “perishable foods” we are pursuing --- worldly things that ultimately cannot satisfy?  Where are the areas of our life in which God seems to be almost irrelevant, an afterthought?  Put simply --- what or whom can we live without? 

Our God wants to be real food for us.  He wants to feed us with every good thing, satisfy us in ways that only he can.

What are we filling ourselves up with instead?

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

For Jesus there is no small gift that cannot be transformed to benefit a multitude. Thus there is a great lesson we learn from the Gospel story of the little boy who gives away his lunch. That gift was so insignificant to God the creator of the universe, yet the Son of God takes it and multiplies to feed five thousand. One lesson that Jesus wants to teach us this Sunday is that material needs are relevant to the work of evangelization. Jesus' own example of sensitivity to the immediate situation of human need is an important pastoral approach. He takes human need seriously. What does the story of the multiplication of loaves and fish mean in the context of our parish where we are currently focusing on ecclesial lay ministries? The story of the boy giving away his lunch may be compared to our smallest gifts, talents and treasure. 

 

 

We all have many small but beautiful gifts we can offer.  Who in our parish cannot afford to offer a few minutes of prayer to God each day?  Some possess talents for services like reading during Mass on Sunday, some are cantors, others play the piano, we have catechists, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, lectors and ushers, to name just a few.  The time you give for these ministries may look insignificant, but the Lord takes your small gift and multiplies it to nourish us all daily and on Sundays.  Your free will donation in the collection basket is another example of your offering to the Lord.  When the Lord takes your gift, He multiplies it to nourish our spiritual hunger in many ways.  The prophecy of Elisha and the multiplication of loaves by Jesus is fulfilled right in our eyes.  We all get enough and some left over!  I would like to imagine that probably the little boy was given some of the left over to take home.  What a blessing when we give our small gifts!  

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Leadership after the example of Christ

Leadership is very important in every human society, and good leaders are those who truly have the welfare of the people at heart. 

  

In the first reading today, we heard about God's disappointment with the shepherd-leaders of his flock.  Jeremiah has some harsh words for the leaders of Israel, both religious and political:  In Jeremiah's time the kings were often called shepherds because they had a pastoral duty to look after their people in God's place.  Jeremiah has some harsh words for the leaders of Israel, both religious and political:  "Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered."  This is because the leaders were not up to their calling and as a result had scattered the sheep committed to their care by God.  

 

But God will not leave the flock unattended. The responsorial psalm, speaks of God as shepherd, who will act as guide for the faithful who walk in the darkness. And at the end of the first reading, we hear God promising that he, himself, would raise up a wise and honest king to rule them in justice and truth. That prophetic promise was, of course, realized in Jesus the great shepherd-king, whom the Father sent to be the wise and honest Leader of his people.

 

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus fulfilling this role as shepherd of the people. Jesus and his apostles are portrayed as being so taken up with ministering to the crowds that they had no time even to eat.  Jesus sees that there is need of rest from such turmoil.  But the crowds anticipate him and come to his place of rest even before He and the apostles arrive.  Then the gospel pictures Jesus as a compassionate shepherd. When he got out of the boat and encounters their need (their thirst and huger for God), he shows enormous pity and love for them, because "They were like sheep without a shepherd," and he begins to teach them.  By choosing the texts from Jeremiah and from Psalm 22 to precede the mention of "shepherd" and "sheep" in the gospel, the liturgy deliberately evokes the entire tradition of the "shepherd" in the history of God's people.  Jesus is thus implicitly presented as the definitive Good Shepherd.  And how does Jesus come to the aid of His sheep?  By teaching them 

 

So, Jesus teaches us, what it is to be a true leader – a true leader is one who has true compassion for the people he has accepted to lead. The compassion that Jesus felt for his people was much more than just a mere human feeling or emotion. It impelled him to do everything possible to relieve their suffering by totally committing himself to them and to their needs.   

                                                                                                                                       

So the heart of a true shepherd and a good leader is also what God expects of all those called to lead by example: civil and ecclesiastical (church) leaders, above all bishops (the successors of the apostles), priests, deacons, religious, but also of all of us, the people of God. We think especially of teachers and parents, those who hold ministry in the Church – parish councilors, Eucharistic ministers, lectors and catechists etc. etc.; all of us who are in any way are called to help build up the Body of Christ, the Church.

 

One of the great deficiencies of our contemporary Catholic world is the great ignorance of so many Catholics of their faith.  The Church and the world urgently need informed Catholics who are able to witness to God's plan of unity for the world in the person of Jesus Christ (Ephesians.)  On the one hand, the faithful need to express their thirst and hunger for God.  On the other hand, to be true leaders after the example of Christ, we the leaders also need to have time to regularly sit at Jesus's feet and allow him to instruct us so that we can truly be relevant to those we are called to lead. 

 

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings of this Sunday invite us to reflect on the missionary vocation of the Church. The Church is called not only to proclaim the Good News of salvation realized in Jesus Christ and offered to all, but also to boldly confront the evil forces of this world. In the first reading, the prophet Amos is sent by the Lord to Bethel to preach against the evil lifestyle of the priests and leaders because they misled the people by worshiping a golden calf. In this reading the Lord told Amos, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” He is called upon to speak the word of God as a prophet. People of the time were aware of the role of a prophet.

In the Gospel episode Jesus sends the twelve with authority over unclean spirits. He sends them to proclaim a message of repentance. Repentance is a sorrow for our sins - a recognition that my sins have hurt me, other people and God. Repentance opens up the doors of God's loving mercy and forgiveness. When people listened and repented, the Apostles could then drive out demons and cure illnesses by anointing the sick with oil. When we repent and pray, wonderful things can happen in our families, our parish and our world. This message of repentance is urgent. To underscore the urgency, Jesus “instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money” in their wallets, with sandals and without a spare tunic. In other words, they belong to Christ and thus they must be totally dependent on divine providence. What is the message? 1) Just as God sent Amos with a severe message to the priests and leaders of his day, the Church through us is sent to confront today’s worship of false gods. 2) Just as Jesus sent his apostles to proclaim repentance and to heal the sick, Jesus sends us into our communities to bring about God’s loving mercy, compassion and healing. 3) Through our Baptism, we are called and sent on this same mission that must be accompanied by boldness through prayerful faithfulness to Christ.  

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

 This past 4th of July celebration marked our nation’s 242th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The most famous sentence in this declaration is, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ARE unalienable rights from God. And the order in which they are mentioned are critically important.

However for some people the pursuit of happiness can become a debauched value that can be more important than the values of life and liberty. And we see this play out in our experience and in our readings this weekend. The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel, who is a man of God, show us that his values are in proper order. God had given him the gifts of life and liberty. And he defined his happiness by doing the will of God, which meant being sent to proclaim the word of God to the “hard of face” and “obstinate of heart”. If we define our pursuit of happiness like Ezekiel as doing the will of God in whatever difficult circumstance we find ourselves in, we may have the grace to persevere through difficult situations, and over time be surprised that we are happier people for it.

The second reading of St. Paul is from a letter to the Corinthians who were an early Church community that were famous for fighting with each other. Paul speaks about “a thorn in the flesh” that keeps him from being elated. What was that “thorn”? I think it is safe to say, every person in Corinth and every one of us has something that qualifies as Paul’s thorn in the flesh that keeps us humble. We can be successful at so many things in life but there is that one thing in our life that is like a brick wall. A profligate pursuit of happiness might contribute to the pain of this thorn in the flesh. But not for St. Paul who despite his trials his happiness was rooted in Christ rather than his ego.

The Gospel reading shows us that even the Son of God isn’t let off the hook. Like Ezekiel and Paul, Jesus encounters a town filled with hard faces and obstinate hearts. It is hard to believe that the most resistance Jesus would receive outside of Jerusalem would be in his own home town of Nazareth with the folks he grew up with. This brings a new reality to the phrase: “No man is a prophet in his own land.”

Sadly the last people to allow us to grow and change are those closest to us. Jealousy drives all of us to prevent others from doing better than us. Worst of all is our own personal refusal to grow and to change. The Nazarenes stood up in the path of Jesus’ ability to preach and do mighty deeds. Sometimes we also can get in God’s way. Many times we find ourselves capable to hamper the power of God. As we leave behind this past week celebrations on another 4th of July, we can ask ourselves, “What is our faith made of?” As we contemplate our rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our families and in our community, how does God fit into the picture? Would it make a difference in how we treat our family members? Would it make a difference in how we treat our coworkers? Would it make a difference in how we treat our classmates, our most vulnerable in society, if God was ever more grounded in our understanding of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? The Good news is: God wants to give us even more than life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In Christ, God offers us the gifts of eternal life, spiritual liberty and therefore real happiness.

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

‘The Importance of Faith’

This Sunday’s gospel reading from Mark, presents us with a practical example of faith in God, especially in difficult and hopeless situations. Here the faith of Jairus and the faith of the woman suffering from hemorrhage becomes a model for all of us.

Every day, we are confronted with situations that challenges our faith in God. Such situations could be job related, family problems, sickness, death, poverty, failure, etc. However, in these difficult moments, let us continue to seek the face of God. Let us seek Him with faith, total dependence, and humility as Jairus and the sick woman did. We need to accompany these dispositions with prayer because it is in prayer that we find Jesus, hear him speak to our hearts and have a deep encounter with him. We need to touch Jesus spiritually by our prayer life and power has to go out of him. This can only be done with a strong faith.

Therefore, we do not lose hope when trials and tribulations come our way. Let us invite Jesus into our problems and be patient to see the final outcome. On the way, Jairus lost his daughter but at the end, she was restored to life. Jesus is here with us. So let us be strong in our faith and see our divine healing on the way for God loves us all. 

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

“A man sent from God, whose name was John (Jn 1:6); who “came to testify to the light” (Lk 1:17). These phrases from the Entrance Antiphon of today’s Mass lead us into the solemnity we celebrate this Sunday, - the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

The Gospel reading is like a drama that unfolds with a mysterious birth and leads to naming a ceremony on the eighth day by relatives not knowing that the child has already been named from above.  His name is John, which means "the Lord is gracious."  The mysterious birth of John reveals the mercy and favor of God in preparing his chosen people for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ.  The Gospel gives us a lead into the mystery of this child, John the Baptist.  "What will this child turn out to be," relatives wonder.  John's life was fueled by one burning passion to point others to Jesus Christ and the coming kingdom.  It was his task to awaken the interest of people on the immanent coming of the kingdom, and therefore the importance of receiving a baptism of repentance.  John's mission was one of leading his listeners to Jesus, the Messiah. 

What do we learn from this solemnity?  What is the significance of John's message for our lives today? 

1) John the Baptist challenges us to embrace his message of true repentance in preparation for receiving Christ when he comes; 2) Like John the Baptist, we too are given the mission of point others to Christ by our life of witness, pointing others the way to Jesus Christ; 3) Let us pray for the gift of true repentance and the grace to be true witnesses of Christ as John the Baptist was to the point of martyrdom..   

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

The Kingdom of God is like a Seed

One of the problems we face in our Christian life and ministry is discouragement; discouragement because of our recurring personal weakness, discouragement because our words of advice and the good example we give to our children do not seem to be bearing fruit, discouragement because our Christian communities are not growing, discouragement because of pervasive selfishness, greed, and conflicts in our world. With all these problems, we often wonder whether there is any hope for our children especially with regard to their faith and whether the church has any future in our country. How about the issue of the sanctity of life?

 

With the help of the three readings of this Sunday, we are encouraged. The readings are centered on the idea of the seed. In the seed there is power. Once sown in the field, there is little the farmer can do but wait patiently for it to sprout and grow. The issue of sprouting and growing is not the farmer’s work. It is God’s. It is true that the farmer prepares the field and defends it against animals and thieves. But most of the work is God’s. First of all the power in the seed to germinate, grow and produce fruit is made possible by God. Secondly, it is God who supplies the necessary ingredients for this process to work - He sends the rain and the sunshine, which the plants need to grow. The farmer spends several hours in the field and retires at the end of the day but God is at work at each tiny plant at all times.

 

Jesus in the two seed-parables for instance, addresses the human tendency to believe that human fulfillment comes mostly through our plans and efforts. As a result, when things do not turn out as we have planned and worked to achieve, we become discouraged and lose hope. Jesus reminds us that the coming and growth of God’s reign is the work of God’s love.  So, these two parables tell us three things: First, Jesus tells us to hope. There are occasions when our faith is put to test. It seems that our faith is useless. Let us keep on hoping. Second, Jesus tells us to be patient - patient with ourselves, our children and others. Third, Jesus tells us to trust God. God planted the seed of His Kingdom inside us. He understands what is happening in our heart even if we don’t, so we should trust.         

                                                        

What Jesus is telling us today is that God’s life in us is like a seed planted in the ground. The success of the Kingdom of God both within us and in the world is more of God’s work than ours. God himself planted the seed of faith through the word of God preached to us. No one can stop this seed from growing. Our duty is to   hopefully nurture it, trustfully and patiently, by reading the word of God and by praying and receiving the sacraments. Like the farmer we need to cooperate with the grace of God by doing our best to make our Christian lives, our families and our communities what God wants them to be. Do we effectively prepare our hearts? Do we avail ourselves to be taught by God? Do we participate very well in the sacraments? Do we make the faith available to our children and lead them to understand as they grow? Do we truly trust in God and pray to him at all times?

 

By:  Fr. Joseph Ayinpuusa 

Sincerity and living our faith!

The reading from Genesis shows how Adam and Eve, exercising their free will, have gone against God’s intentional will that God’s creatures should live in innocence, harmony with creation and peace with each other.  Their sin is about being exposed before the Lord.  They were revealed as proud; they wanted to be like God.  Their desires were more important than God's will.  It is sad, but in many occasions we can look into the depths of the ‘original sin’ and see our own refusal to submit to God's will as well as our own rationalization for the things we do wrong.  Because of sin we do hide in fear causing a separation from God and our most intimate loved ones.  It becomes difficult to say “I’m sorry.”  We don’t even want God to find us and so avoid quiet moments for prayer.  But we need to remember that God wants us to turn to him, stand before him without fear and allow him to transform us and bring something good out of whatever we have botched up. 

In the second reading, Paul exhorts the Corinthian community and us to remain focused on the things of God and not of the earth, to remember that faith ultimately triumphs over misery, sin and death.  We should look at everything we do here as a preparation for our eternal life.  We live in hope that by virtue of our faith we will share in Jesus’ Resurrection.  The God who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us and bring us into his presence.  Finally the Gospel speaks about how Jesus is rejected by the scribes and his family.  He has been preaching and healing and he has just selected his twelve disciples.  But he is misunderstood; his family, the scribes and even the disciples do not yet recognize that he is truly the Son of God.   Jesus’ response is to redefine family and restore our original blessing; our connection to his father and each other as children of God.  His words are words to us today – he looks around at us and sees us as his brothers and sisters. This will make a difference as to how we see each other.  

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Today, we celebrate the Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as the Church.

This Sunday’s Gospel is Mark’s account of the Last Supper.  At the Passover meal marking the First Covenant, Jesus, the Lamb of the New Covenant, institutes the New Passover of the Eucharist.

Jesus refers to his body being "given up" and his blood being "poured out" for his disciples.  We are invited to enter into these very actions of Jesus: to give up and to pour out our love and compassion for others; all in imitation of Jesus' words and actions at the last supper.

What an incredible challenge that is.  We do the "giving" and the "pouring" of ourselves primarily in response to God's gift in the person of Jesus who accomplishes these actions by his death and resurrection.  As we are nourished by Our Lord's actions of giving himself over for the salvation of all, we are challenged to respond similarly to others: that we be nourishment for them as Jesus nourishes us with his life, death and resurrection.

“See you all in the Eucharist!”

 

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

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