28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa 

Our God is loving and kind by generously providing for our needs. Our readings today compare the Kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah describes the mountain of God, the Holy City as a grand banquet hall full of life and good things. On God’s mountain he has prepared a banquet of rich food and choice wine.  Mourning and death cease, and every tear are wiped away. Shame is dispelled; hunger is forgotten. Thus Isaiah recalls the rich and succulent image of that same banquet of which the psalmist sang, with food prepared in abundance, cups running over, and heads anointed with oil.  

God’s banquet is meant for all, saints and sinners alike, and he invites all to participate. Are we ready and committed to the invitation to participate in this banquet? A young couple had invited many guests to their daughter’s birthday dinner. At the table, the hostess turned to her six-year-old daughter and asked, “Would you like to say the prayer?” “I don’t know what to say,” the girl replied. “Just say what you hear Mama say,” the mother answered. The little girl bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these many people to dinner?” Today’s gospel speaks about an invitation too, but the host in the parable was not regretting that so many came but rather nobody came. In Jesus’ parable, the king (God) had made elaborate preparations for a wedding banquet and then invited guests, but they all begged off for more “important” matters: One went to his estate, another to his business. Jesus refers to the wedding banquet as God’s kingdom (heaven).

Christ’s parable is a thinly veiled accusation against the Jewish people of the day who had been invited by God to be his Chosen People, but they contemptuously refused. Today the parable serves as a warning for us Christians as the new Chosen People who are invited. The Church is that banquet hall full of life and good things, to which everyone; both good and bad are invited.

The good news is that those of us here in Church, have not ignored God’s invitation; otherwise we would not be baptized Christians and would not be fulfilling our Sunday obligations. However, the Lord requires that we accept his invitation whole heartedly by wearing a wedding garment.  The Lord loves us so much that he provides us with the wedding garment. We received the wedding garment of sanctifying grace in Baptism, and we receive additional graces to retain it through the other Sacraments. Jesus nourishes us in the Church through the proclamation of God’s word and through his own body and blood in the Holy Communion.

We need to keep wearing the wedding garment of holiness and righteousness, the state of grace, all the time. We need to participate in the Eucharistic banquet with proper preparation by repenting of our sins and by actively participating in the prayers and singing     during the Holy Mass.  We are still on our way to the great banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem.  Participating in Holy Mass is the best preparation and source of power for our future participation in this Heavenly banquet.

Finally, we need to be grateful to Christ for freely and gratuitously inviting us to the Heavenly banquet and providing us with the wedding garment of sanctifying grace. Instead of remaining marginal members of our parish community, we have to be good stewards of god’s gifts by bearing visible witness to our faith.         

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Scripture passages from both the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew are about ingratitude.

Like the vineyard owners in the readings, God has treated us as “his cherished plant,” lavishing on us his constant, generous and loving care. He gives our life, good health, parents to take care of us, gifts of intelligence and talents, gifts of time and treasure; opportunities to grow as persons and as Christians, people who love and take care of us and many more. But in our materialistic, secularized culture, how many of us even notice our multitude of everyday blessings, let alone acknowledge them as the gifts from God that they are? And how many of us give appropriate thanks? What would it take to get us to pay attention? Or to humble ourselves and give thanks?

Fortunately, Jesus has left us with a charge to celebrate a banquet of thanks and praise in the Eucharist. We gather together, Sunday after Sunday, to be reminded in word and sacrament just how blessed and cared for we are. United with and supported by one another, we remember the truth about God, about Jesus, about the Good News. And as we ought to do, we give thanks — and we are then fed with the living body and blood of Christ. When the Mass ends, we are sent forth as members of the Body of Christ to be messengers as well as instruments of God’s caring for others.

If we do these things, we can live in trust and in hope. As Paul reminds us, in the second reading, we must “have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, [we can] make [our] requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard [our] hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” 

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world.  The readings of this Sunday focus our attention to God’s call to radical conversion and our response. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel tells the Jews in exile that a virtuous person must remain obedient and faithful always. Likewise, a wicked person always has the opportunity to turn back and receive God’s forgiveness. If the righteous person sins he or she will be punished and if the wicked person repents will be rewarded. In today’s Second Reading, we have one of the most beautiful passages about the mystery of God’s love through Christ in the entire Bible. St. Paul exhorts us to embrace radical obedience to God after the example of Christ, who though was God, became a human being and a slave for our salvation.  Such radical obedience to God leads to becoming like Christ – genuine Christians, who talk the talk and walk the walk.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks to the Chief priests and Elders. In his address to them, he uses a very clear example in the parable of the two sons. The central point of the story is to invite us to radical conversion. Jesus challenges us to be transformed like the second son who says “no” and then undergoes conversion of heart that leads him to say “yes.” We know that faithfulness to Christ and to his message can only be expressed through a radical change of heart that leads to living out faith fully. The chief priests and the elders who listen to Jesus spoke much about God and the observance of the Law, but only paid lip service. They could see the spirit of love, compassion, caring and forgiveness of Jesus, but that never led to any change of heart. Jesus tells the chief priests and elders point blank: “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven before you.” Tax collectors and prostitutes had said “no” to God’s invitation. Upon meeting Jesus, they experienced a radical conversion in their lives. They listened and responded positively. The chief priests and the elders on the other hand only paid lip-service to God’s invitation.

We are called to be faithful disciples and stewards of Jesus, by embracing a radical way of life. We are invited to share Christ’s vision, mission and purpose. If we are to be filled with that same spirit that Jesus had we would have no fear of radical transformation. That is the point of Jesus’ message. Let us open our hearts so that we may be transformed into saying “yes”, to being faithful to Jesus Christ, to his Church, to our family vocation and above all our baptismal promises.

 

God calls us to be laborers in His divine vineyard!

Many of us spend a lot of time concerning ourselves with what we believe to be fair in life.  We are quick to demand our share of things when we perceived things are not done fairly.  St. Mathew’s community was not much different.  They, too, were faced with concerns of what was fair and just.  Unfortunately, they, like many people today, tended to see things from a personal point of view rather than God’s.  They measure most things from the perspective of “How will I be affected?”  Over the last two weeks, we have been confronted with two notions that run counter to general opinions.  First, God will hold us personally accountable for cautioning those around us for their potentially sinful ways.  The general opinion is that we should stay out of people’s private affairs.  Second, we heard that we must forgive those who wrong us 70 times 7.  There is no excuse for a failure to forgive another.  The general opinion here is that some people do not deserve forgiveness.  The gospel of Matthew’s challenges us to examine our notions of justice and mercy.  The general opinion is that if I have stayed the course longer, my reward should be greater in heaven.  The Gospel tries to shake this notion out of our heads and hearts.  We can’t buy our way into the kingdom of heaven – we must work our way into it!  This parable invites us to think of work in a different way: by our labors we are building up God’s kingdom, spreading God’s reign in our world, “earning” our salvation.  God calls us to be laborers in His divine vineyard - a call we first answer at baptism and then continually answer throughout our lives each time we say yes to the divine call, reach out to others in imitation of God’s goodness and generosity, and cooperate with all God asks of us.  God uses us to bring salvation to the world.  In today’s gospel, the vineyard owner says, “I am free to do as I please with my money, am I not?”  We are likewise free.  As Christian stewards, are we generous in returning our “first fruits” to the Lord in response to His many blessings and are we just in our dealings with others?  Recognizing that God will never turn away anyone who comes to him, let us gather pray around the table of salvation as one family united by God’s love and generosity.

 

Peace! 

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

By Deacon Romeo Ganibe

This Sunday’s gospel, the parable of the ‘unforgiving servant’ is intended to be a moral address for the Church on the need for forgiveness. To Peter’s question: “How often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? Seven times?” In the Bible, seven indicates completeness (perfection); and yet Jesus goes far beyond by replying: “Not seven but seventy times seven!” Implying that there is no limit to forgiveness because God’s love is a forgiving love. The position of the servant in Jesus’ parable story is absolutely hopeless. He owes the king so much money that even if he worked forever, he would not be able to repay him. This is the strong point of the story. All he can do is plea for forgiveness.

Our situation before God is similar to that of the servant. We can’t win God’s forgiveness. All we can do is plead for it. But God is generous with his forgiveness. We then must be willing to extend to others the forgiveness God has extended to us. To refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us would be to exclude ourselves from receiving God’s forgiveness for our own sins. 

Forgiveness is never easy, it is difficult but not impossible. Resentment and bitterness are dangerous things and we can’t be healed of them unless we forgive. To forgive is, first and foremost a duty we owe to ourselves. We forgive for the sake of our well being. We forgive to cleanse ourselves and to receive God’s forgiveness and become instruments of His peace for others. Forgiveness is one of the highest and most beautiful forms of love. It is a holy task and only God can help us to accomplish it fully.   

Taking the Initiative in Reconciliation

 By:  Father Michael Suh Niba

Initiative, understood as taking the first step for something good, is arguably the most important skill in practically every dimension of interpersonal living. Jesus brings it to bear on perhaps the core value of Christianity: reconciliation, forgiveness. But we instinctively cringe at the thought of approaching someone who hurt us with a view to reconciliation first. Understandably so, as we can build a very solid moral case against such a move. “I am the victim, the wronged party here; it is the responsibility of the guilty to make amends, to come, apologize and ask for pardon;” ”if I make such move I show I am weak; ” “what guarantee is there that the other person is repentant?...”

The huge question is: If such initiative is unfair, what is the alternative? From honest experience the alternative is we brood, feel sorry for ourselves and so wallow in       self-pitying misery; we magnify the victimization. These then slowly turn to rage, hate and revenge for we start to love to hate our offender. With time they take over our lives. The offender and the hurt they perpetrated against us become the thought, the memory, the antiphon that open, guide and close our day, drawing up a new, dark agenda for our lives. Bitterness like poison, slowly builds and then spreads its deadening clamp over our souls. We have run this gauntlet; we know and have met people who hurt. They spill the hurt all around them; even at God. Such hurt wrecks our relationships, even with God. Very often we cannot pray.

 So if we ask the further question: Why take the initiative? Common sense seems to tell us it might be first and foremost to save ourselves from ourselves than from our real or imagined hurter who may or may not even be aware of what they did! It is good to take the initiative because it is good, healthy, sane and salutary first and foremost for us, the victims.

Secondly, to take the initiative is the way of the gospel. Jesus corrects the Old Testament: “But I say to you,” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). He becomes the defense attorney of his crucifiers, pleading pardon for them on the very strong legal ground of ignorance: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” We remember were offenders, when God in Christ took the initiative to reconcile us with himself. (Romans 5:8). That is why the forgiveness of Mehmet Ali Ağcais perhaps one of the most memorable examples of gospel witnessing by Pope St. John Paul II. 

Lastly, we should take the initiative then for the sake of the other. But we also know that the weight of guilt; of fear of retaliation can make the offender miserable. Guilt and fear can numb into inactivity. We do unto others, what we would want done to us. What is good for us is good for others. We have been in that zone before.

This in no way takes away the responsibility of the offender to do everything to seek reconciliation, for the condition for an acceptable offering in Matthew 5:23-24 is         reconciliation. As J. Randall O’Brien puts it: No Christian is ever in the position of privilege, wronged one or wrongdoer, where he or she is excused from the responsibility of working for reconciliation.

The other may be the problem when there is conflict. The Christian is always the         solution when there is reconciliation. That is why beyond excommunication of a sinner, we still owe them a debt – that of love: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We only need remember the question and answer to the question: “And who is my neighbour?” here.

By:  J. Randall O’Brien, Forgiveness:Taking the Word to Heart” in http://www.baylor.edu/ifl/christianreflection/ForgivenessarticleOBrien.pdf.  

Perseverance in Difficult Times!

We should not be surprised that we get discouraged or even complain when we face trials in our Christian vocation.  Our faith, however, can give us the motivation and strength to move beyond the pain into acceptance and sacrifice.  The prophet Jeremiah suffered for his prophetic words and mission, and wanted to quit his call to be God’s prophet.  But God’s word continued to burn within him, compelling him to speak again in God’s name.  Likewise, we as followers of Jesus will be tempted to quit our baptismal call in face of the demands of dying to self.  St. Paul encourages us to offer our very selves as a living sacrifice to God.  This will make us holy and pleasing to God.  He invites us not to conform to the ways of this world, but to embrace a brand new way of thinking that seeks the ways of God.

 

In the gospel Jesus proclaims to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly, be killed, and on the third day be raised. As followers of Jesus, we can expect no less in our own lives.  But Peter will have none of what Jesus predicted.  A suffering, dead Messiah is a contradiction in terms.  It cannot happen and it will not happen.  Jesus responds to Peter with a curse aligning him with Satan.  The very same Peter, who last week Jesus calls “the rock” in which his Church will be built and was granted the keys to the kingdom of heaven, is now declared an obstacle to Jesus’ mission.  Talk about an identity crisis!  Who, really, is Peter?  Who, really, are we?  Are we also obstacles to Jesus’ mission.  We are called to link our own sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus; to follow Jesus along the way of the cross.  It is only when we do this that we can share in Jesus’ risen Life and in his saving mission.  

 

Peace!  

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

By : Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

The Hebrew people had a deep conviction of the importance of names. Changing a name in midlife signified a new purpose in life given to that person. In today’s Gospel Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter – Petros in Greek, meaning a rock because Peter has just been selected to be the foundation stone upon which the Church is to be built (cf Mat 16:18).

It is, however, amazing that Christ picked Peter to be the leader of his Church. Peter was everything but rock-like. At times he was very brave. At other times he was very cowardly. The reason why Christ still chose Peter lies in what St. Paul teaches us in our second Reading of today. Paul bows before the authority of God, whose ways are inscrutable and unsearchable but full of wisdom. Christ did so because he obviously saw potential in that weak and fragile Peter. Jesus saw in Peter a person of stable and unshakable faith. Despite all his failures and weaknesses, Peter never gave up. Christ saw in Peter one who was humble and open to God. Jesus proclaims that this man who is blessed by God will become the foundation stone of a new community of believers. 

Hence, Christ dealt with Peter patiently and helped him grow into the man who was ready to lay down his life for him, and who eventually did. Christ involved him in his work; praised him when he did well; corrected or rebuke him when he was wrong. He understood that when Peter denied him, he did not so much out of evil as out of weakness. He allowed him the space to learn from his failure. He forgave him and gave him the chance to begin again.                                            

The thread which runs right through their relationship is this: Peter knew that Christ believed in him and loved him. Love is the climate in which people can grow. This was the rock in Peter’s life. It was only when Peter regained his faith and reasserted his love that he was put in charge of the flock.

Like Peter, we are all called to play our part in building Christ’s church. As St. Paul says “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).  Christ himself is the builder. Our role is to allow Christ to use us. In a way Peter’s story is our story too. We are so much like him. We too blow hot and cold in our loyalty to Christ. Sometimes we are strong, and sometimes we are like a reed shaking in the wind. But we should not be afraid to look at ourselves to see if we are growing as Christians; to see if we are becoming more attached to Christ. Without a warm relationship with Christ, such as Peter had, we are only on the fringes of Christianity. We can learn so much from Peter for our own relationship with Christ.

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By: Father Michael Suh Niba

The first theme that unites all the readings of our Mass is that God saves all – Christian, Jew, Gentile and Pagan and Atheist alike. In answer to a question that I think we have all asked ourselves at some time and which has been asked all through the history of Christianity - Who Can Be Saved?- Avery Cardinal Dulles writes:                                                           

 Adherents of other religions…  Even Atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God’s saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted. But that same grace brings obligations to all who receive it.

 

One thing that is common to those who recognize God in any way, is that God is a God who provides;  who answers prayers.  This is the second theme.  The Gospel reading of today brings together these two themes - The God who saves both Pagan and Christian alike is a god who answers the prayer of Pagan and Christian alike- on one condition.  That the person who asks, does so with faith; with persistence.  Jesus’ conversation with the woman gives the impression that Jesus was not willing to answer her request because she was a Canaanite. But she was not one to give up easily. In the end, Jesus recognizes and rewards her faith.  

The woman has the last word. Beggars may not have choices. But some beggars who perceive that their dignity might be abused give up.  Not this woman. Her faith must have helped her realize that Jesus’ reference to her as a dog bore no abuse, no racist undertones. So she bears him no resentment or anger. Both need and faith give her a sharpness of tongue that surprise Jesus. Bottom line, this woman tells Jesus, those who eat from the table and those who pick up the scraps eat exactly the same thing. When it comes to you, she seems to be telling Jesus, beggars have rights, because you allow them to eat what the children eat. In the person of Jesus, distinctions according to race, lose all meaning. The Jesus of this woman’s faith has no favorites. Bottom line, all animals are animals and even if some fool themselves, they are more equal than others, the Lord of all animals knows differently. Jesus is that Lord. In short this woman tells Jesus, even if I am a dog, I’d prefer to be your dog for I know you’ll treat me kindly. I know you’ll give me more than scraps. You’ll let me feed from the table. She does not change her request. In not changing her request, she demands no more, no less than what she knew he was capable of and had done for the Jews. She does not repeat her request but she is telling him: “Cure my daughter as you cured the leper after you came down from the mountain (Matthew 8:1-4); as you cured the Centurion’s servant (8:5-13); as you cured Peter’s Mother-in-Law (8:14-17); as you cured the Gadarene Demoniacs (8:28-34); as you cured the paralytic (9:1-8). If the same person, using the same powers over the same reality of sickness with the same results does not speak of equality, nothing else will. This woman’s faith has a lot of common sense to it.

 How I wish, I could approach Jesus with the same faith when I am confronted with the challenges that life throws at me. 

Avery Cardinal Dulles SJ., Who can be saved? https://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/02/001-who-can-be-saved-8. Accessed on Monday 14th August 2017 at 11 am.

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By: Deacon Romeo Ganibe

 

Our gospel reading this Sunday, presents to us the boat where the disciples were being battered by the waves, and amidst the disturbance came.  Jesus silently walks on the violent waters to assure them that in their fearful and unstable present environment, He is there to calm them and to assure them that everything would be all right for He is there to save them all.

 

What happens to Peter in today’s Gospel happens to all of us at one time or another:  We panic.  We don’t trust ourselves to know what the right thing is or our ability to do it.  But, somehow, God reaches out and catches us — if we’re willing to put aside our fears and try to do as Jesus would do, trusting in God’s grace to realize the good. 

 

We are oftentimes being tossed upside down by our worries and problems that generate fear and disturbance in our hearts.  We are being disturbed by fear of sickness, losing our job , getting old and there are countless more fears that may come our way.  

 

But in the middle of all these fears and disturbances in our lives, Jesus silently comes into our hearts. To assure and calm us that everything will be alright, to say to us that we need not fear, and to remain strong in our faith.  Jesus promises that in every storm that batters us, his hand is extended to us in the hand of those we love and trust, and he calls us to be the hand that would reach out to others.

 

Where do you see yourself in the boat? Are you huddled in the bottom? Clinging to the rail?  A Spectator? Or one who is reaching out to others, to those who are drowning in poverty, to those experiencing marriage and family relationship issues, to someone who lost a love one or a friend, and praying for healing for the sick. 

 

We can all walk on water if we have an unsinkable faith and trust in the Lord.

Sunday Gospel Reflection- The Transfiguration of the Lord

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa 

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, an event in which Peter, James and John had a very special privilege of seeing a glimpse of the glory of Jesus. It was also a preview of the glory we all hope to share in heaven. They also saw Moses and Elijah appear to them, and conversing with Jesus. Something else of great importance occurred on the mountain: They heard the voice of God the Father say, “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him."  Just before this event Simon and Peter had declared that Jesus was the Messiah, but when Jesus began to explain that he must undergo suffering and death and on the third day be raised to life, the Apostles could not accept such a Messiah. So Jesus brings these three apostles to the mountain so that they would experience a glimpse of his heavenly glory in order to prepare them to experience with him the agony of the passion, so as to come with him to the joy of the resurrection. God the Father also knew that in order to fully understand and accept the teachings of His Son, the disciples needed to give him all their attention by listening to him.

It is not that they were not listening to Jesus. They did listen to him, but it was “selective listening”; they took what they wanted to hear or what they felt Jesus ought to be according to their thinking. For example when Jesus told them about his impending suffering and death they did not understand what this meant, but instead of asking to know, they rather argued about who among them would be the greatest (Luke 9:45-47). James and John also came asking for high places in his kingdom (Matt 20:17-24). They never heard of his suffering; it was the joy of the kingdom that mattered to them. 

Many times we too practice the art of selective listening.  We pick and choose the words we want to hear and gloss over the others. We listen to Jesus when he says things that are uplifting. We like Jesus who promises healing, love, and peace and prosperity. But when Jesus says things that are contrary to what we want to hear, such as the need to love our enemies, the need to forgive, the need to deny ourselves, we turn a deaf ear to him. Likewise, we find it unacceptable and turn against God, when we face difficulties in life. 

Jesus at the transfiguration tells us that his suffering and death is not the end of the story; it is a means to a fruitful end, a glorious end. But it is a necessary means to that end. He wants us to listen to him even in the ordinary events of life and accept the sufferings that we bear as we serve him as his followers. We can listen to Jesus more intently and hear him more clearly by learning to listen to each other; by making up our mind that we would allow the will of God to be done in our life; by opening our mind and heart and allow Jesus talk to us as we read the scriptures and hear him in homilies that touch us, in the recesses of our heart. Most of all let us make an effort to sit at Jesus’ feet daily and listen to him in prayer, and ask for the grace of God to apply his teachings in our life.

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By: Monsignor John S. Mbinda 

 

The kingdom - a treasure of great value - and letting go in order to possess it, are the phrases that help to capture the central message of this Sunday. This Sunday, Jesus uses three parables to help us discover how we could move from life without Christ to life in Christ by living the values of the kingdom. In other words, Jesus gives us concrete examples on personal commitment and resolve to posses, the treasure of great value.

 

 In the first two parables, Jesus uses familiar images and commercial values of his time, which are still valid today. In the first parable, Jesus shows us that once we have discovered the value of the kingdom, we should sell all we own, in order to possess it. We are challenged to give up everything we value most, in order to be part of this kingdom. Therefore, it is not so much the treasure, but our personal commitment and resolve to do all we can to live the values of the kingdom. The decisive question for us is whether we are prepared to let go of our treasure for the sake of possessing the treasure of great value – Jesus Christ - in order to live in accordance with the values of kingdom. Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of heaven is much more valuable than anything we possess. That is the treasure that Jesus reveals to us. Therefore, there is great wisdom in trying to possess it.

 

In the first reading from the First Book of Kings, Solomon asks for wisdom and discernment. Wisdom is much more than just possessing a lot of things or a long life. It gives someone discernment on what really matters most in life. We know what mattered most in St. Paul’s life. Writing to the Philippians Paul says, “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have accepted the loss of all things, and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8)

 

Our One Community Center is like the treasure of great value in the gospel. We have found that treasure and there is no turning back! We are all challenged to go forward like the man in the parable by letting go of our treasure in order to accomplish our goal.

 

 May God bless you all. 

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By: Fr. Michael Suh Niba

A story is told of an old woman who prayed to the Lord in this fashion: “Lord, please weed out all bad people from society”. Her daughter-in-law overheard her and remarked: “Will she be spared?” None of us will be spared. “Who is well?” Nobody is spared the daily assaults and defeats of the devil.

There is no doubt that the forces and reality of evil can be so overwhelming sometimes that we are forced to asked: Where is God in all this?” As someone has asked: “Where is God, when bad things happen to good people?” No one can doubt that such questions can cry out of real life situations of our personal moral failures and sinfulness and of pain, anguish, endless forms of senseless and innocent suffering and death in and around us. To accuse anyone of faithlessness or cynicism when sometimes faced with what I call the existential mystery of evil, can be naïve and insensitive. There are no easy answers to the problems that evil in all its forms raises.

But if we are not to fall into despair, discouragement and disillusionment, we must turn to God who speaks to us in the first reading. God is in charge. He has the power to punish the perpetrators of injustice .But he wouldn’t. “Who is well?” Wishing  that he rain every possible misfortune on the wicked, would include us. Just as making a perpetrator hear from our attorney can be a subtle and civilized way of seeking revenge. Those are not the prayers of the Spirit. But his power is so great that he can also show mercy, “clemency”, as we heard. This gives us hope, hope that with time, we, the world,  can change, change for the better. The important thing is not when the weeds in our lives and in the world are defeated. The important thing is that they be defeated. The certainty is that they have been defeated by Jesus. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us: In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Heb. 12:4.  In so far as we still have life we also still have a lot of fight out there and in us. Giving up and giving in to defeat are not an option “And if God is on our side, who can be against us?” Rom. 8:31. And so we should consider our sinfulness and failures, the injustices and other ills in our society only as lost battles in a drawn out war. Those losses  should therefore take nothing away from our commitment, from our war effort, from our courage. 

Dear friends, we do win lots of times. And even if evil were to win most of the battles in our lives, with in and through Jesus we are more than full-blown optimists. We win. We win the war. For he assures us: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jn. 16:33.

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By: Deacon Romeo Ganibe

This Sunday, the gospel reading is about the parable of the sower and the soil. God is the sower and we are the soil - the ground on which the seeds of God’s message fall upon.

 In this parable, the sower challenges us to see how deeply the word of God has taken root in our lives, how central God is to the very fabric of our day-to-day existence.

 Christ invites us to embrace the faith of the sower: to trust and believe that our simplest acts of kindness and forgiveness, our humblest offer of help to anyone in need, our giving of only a few minutes to listen to the plight of another soul may be the seeds that fall “on good soil” and yields an abundant harvest.

 Jesus also challenges us to be both sower and seed: to sow seeds of encouragement, joy and reconciliation regardless of the groundon which it is scattered, and to imitate the seeds total giving of self that becomes the harvest of Gospel justice and mercy.      

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

By: FR. Joseph Ayinpuusa

Sometimes, life can be very burdensome. People experience all kinds of burdens—worry, bitterness, guilt, illness, disappointments, unemployment, difficult relationships, addictions etc. Sometimes we even meet stumbling blocks as we strive in our efforts to be faithful to our Christian calling. How can we deal with these burdens that sometimes crush us to the ground?

The Readings of today’s liturgy offer us a way out from our burdens. They make it clear to us that our God is a liberating God. In the first reading, the prophet Zechariah consoles the Jews who were living under the oppression of Greek rule, promising them a “meek” Messianic King, who will give them rest and liberty. In the Gospel we see Jesus as this liberator who offers rest to those “who labor and are  burdened” if they will accept his “easy yoke and light burden.” 

At Jesus’ time a yoke was a wooden crossbeam that joined two oxen at the neck, enabling the oxen to pull a plough or other farm implements. The yoke was carved and made to fit so well that it would not rub sores on the ox’s shoulders. It also allowed the two animals to pull together, to work as a team.

So when Jesus tells us to take upon his yoke for his yoke he wants us to be “yoked” to him. Actually, the yoke belongs to Christ and He invites us to team up with Him. To take the yoke of Christ is to associate and identify ourselves with Him: our destiny with His destiny, our vision with His vision and our mission with His mission. It is to know that we are not pulling the yoke alone and by our power but we are bearing the yoke together with Christ and by the strength that comes from Him.

SoJesus is asking us to cast away our heavy burdens and take on his yoke. St. Paul talks about two yokes, namely, the “flesh” and the “Spirit,” and he challenges us to reject the heavy and fatal yoke of the flesh and accept the light yoke of the Spirit of Jesus. Christian spirituality, according to St. Paul, proceeds from the initiative of the Holy Spirit and means living in the realm of the “Spirit” as opposed to the “flesh." To take the yoke of Christ, therefore, is to put ourselves in a relationship with Christ as his servants and subjects, and to conduct ourselves accordingly.

Christ invites us to put away our yokes of pride and selfishness and allow him to place on our shoulders the light burdens of humility and his commandment of love and service. The fact is that much as we are yoked to Christ, we are also bound together by our common baptism, which makes us members of the Body of Christ and sharers in a life of faith. Hence, We are stewards of God’s love to one another, to help make the burdens of our brothers and sisters lighter.

May we have the strength of conviction in our faith to be yoked to Christ in great joy, for his burden is indeed light; and may he help us to be true stewards of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness and encouragement to each other.

 

 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By:  Msgr. John S. Mbinda

This Sunday, the readings touch on several themes. Here I would like to focus on hospitality which is one of the overarching themes. This is an important theme in the Old and New Testaments with many clear examples. In the first reading, we find a remarkable example of hospitality given by the Shunamite woman. Her hospitality is rewarded with favors from God. Through the intervention of the prophet Elisha she will get a baby boy, though the husband is advanced in age. The point of the story is that creating space to welcome visitors can indeed unlock God’s blessings and favors. In the gospel passage Jesus underlines the importance of hospitality in the life of his disciples in saying that “whoever receives” them receive him and the Father who sent him. Those who offer such hospitality will be rewarded.

What are the practical applications of hospitality? Here at St. John’s we take our Aloha Hospitality Ministry seriously, mainly because hospitality leads to a sense of belonging and ownership.  When one arrives on our campus, the first thing one notices is a banner that says “Welcome to St. John’s: A Place to Feel at Home!” Our Aloha Hospitality Ministry has evolved to include “Parking Lot Ministry” and “Greeters Ministry” that extend from the Lanai into the Church. We go long ways before Mass on Sundays to greet and welcome all visitors and new parishioners. We offer them leis as a sign of our welcome and hospitality. We realize that when people feel welcome they get a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging leads to being actively engaged in the life of the parish. Engagement opens the door to being equipped and formed for ministry and witness to others. In welcoming new parishioners, we prepare them for witness in their own lives, so that they may be ready to evangelize others.

May God’s grace help us to be more welcoming to visitors and new members in our midst for they reflect the face of Christ and the Father who sent Him.

 

 

Sunday Gospel Reflection

By:  Fr.  Norlito Concepcion

Be not afraid

Jer 20:10-13/Rom 5:12-15/Mt 10:26-33

We Christians live in troubled times surrounded by the dangers and threats of terrorism, accidents, chemical warfare, partisan politics, extreme secularism, and aggressive culture of death.  In the midst of it all, the Lord Jesus today tells us: “Be not afraid!” He himself is the brave man who faced Pilate and all his accusers with a stout heart and a clear conscience, he accepted the verdict of death for the sake of those who have sinned against God. His apostle and disciples, out of fear and cowardice, ran away and left him together with His mother, St. John, and a handful of brave women to walk the path of death on the Holy Cross.

 To exhibit courage, we must consider first how to persevere in the face of difficulties and struggle, the same as in being steadfast in opposition and rejection. Steadfastness in doing and choosing Good despite difficulty or delay in gaining glory. Our faith must lead us into courage as if it was a rock where we find rest in the midst of strong waves that challenges our will. Like the cross that is steady and unmoved despite of the changes of weather and time, we must follow Jesus, and place our hope in His divine providence to withstand trials and desire the glory of resurrection.

 Jesus wants us to be as brave as He was, especially in proclaiming our faith in him, not just in words but especially through a life lived according to the demands of the Gospel. We should not be afraid for we are not alone. The Lord stands by us like a mighty champion, a steady anchor, and like a faithful friend, ready to assist us in all our needs. “Be not afraid!” Jesus repeats to us as we gather to celebrate the sacrifice of the Eucharist, the source of our devotion, courage and strength. We can overcome our fears not because we trust in our strength and resources, but because we live under the protection of our all-loving and omnipotent heavenly Father. If God is with us, who can overpower us? Let us all say “Dominus est!” (It is the Lord) when we share His sufferings by our individual struggles in life.

 

 

Sunday Gospel Reflection

Sunday Gospel Reflection

By: Deacon Romeo Ganibe

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is also known as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which translates from Latin to "Body of Christ." This feast calls us to focus on two manifestations of the Body of Christ, the Holy Eucharist and the Church. The primary purpose of this feast is to focus our attention on the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Christ in it. The secondary focus is upon the Body of Christ as it is present in the Church.

In the Gospel Reading from John, we hear Jesus  explaining to the people the new “manna” for them – that which will nourish and sustain them – not their physical being this time but their spiritual being.  It is His body and blood that will save us – first as He sacrifices himself for us but also each time we receive His body and blood.  Today’s Solemnity allows us to embrace this gift. It is a time for us to give great thought not only to the blessings that we have received but also to the expectations of being given eternal life.

How do we live this gift? How do we fully embrace it in all its meanings?  In the USA this year, this Solemnity falls on Fathers’ Day. We find it comforting to think of our Father and how He provides for us in every way.  Some of us no longer have our earthly fathers with us, some may not have the father that they needed, and, of course, many have caring, nurturing father – yet all of us, share the same loving Father who gave us his only Son, that we would be saved. Our  Christ, who gives us His body and blood that "whoever eats this bread will live forever." The enduring presence of Christ strengthens and sustains us.  The body of the Church unites us not only with Christ but with each other. We are called to be Men and Women For and With Each Other, sharing in the life of Christ and living His mission.

 

 

Sunday Gospel Reflection- The Most Holy Trinity

By: Msgr. John S. Mbinda

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". This prayer leads us into the mystery we celebrate this Sunday, the Most Holy Trinity. In the second reading of this Sunday, we find one of the optional greetings used at the beginning of each Mass. This greeting is an excellent synthesis of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you" (2 Cor. 13:14). The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity helps us to affirm our central truth and faith in One God: the Father (who creates), the Son (who redeems) and the Holy Spirit (who sanctifies, unifies and reconciles).

In his teaching, Jesus gradually reveals to his disciples the mystery of being totally united with the Father. One is reminded of the conversation between Jesus and Philip in St. John's Gospel, where Philip wanted Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus replied to him: "You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me" (Jn. 14:11). The conversation with Nicodemus in the Gospel this Sunday implies that love prompted the Father to send the Son, the bearer of the Holy Spirit, the source of life. This communion with the Father is the goal of our extraordinary mission on earth.

The Holy Trinity is a life of communion to be lived, shared and celebrated liturgically. Therefore, we need to go beyond talking about love, communion, sharing and putting that into practice by being instruments of reconciliation, mercy and communion. As one bishop put it jokingly, the reason why God in creating us does not put us directly into heaven, is because if He did so, we would mess life up there! Our life here on earth is a time to practice our stewardship in concrete ways by sharing, healing and living in communion with the people God has given us.

The central message may be summed up in three points. 1) The solemnity of the Holy Trinity is a model of life of communion in God to be lived and imitated; 2) We are challenged to be instruments of reconciliation, healing and communion; 3) To be such instruments, we need to be nourished by prayer and scripture, for example in the family so we can grow into closer communion with one another.

 

 

Gospel Reflection - Pentecost Sunday

By:  Deacon Modesto Cordero

Happy Pentecost Sunday!

On this Solemnity of Pentecost, which concludes our Easter celebration, we are given a ‘Gift of Life’ so that we can faithfully take up Jesus’ saving mission.  However, taking up Jesus’ mission does not mean we will never feel fear, tension, uncertainty, hesitation, and sometimes discouragement.  Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit with his gifts of enduring, inner peace and commitment, so as good Christian stewards we can become able to live and practice the gospel values in face of today’s many challenges.  Just as the disciples on that first Easter evening received peace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, wonder and awe - so do we receive the Holy Spirit and the same gift of peace at our baptism. 

St. Paul reminds that all of our gifts have their source in the Holy Spirit and that those gifts are given “for the common good.”   The Holy Spirit will move us to share our unique God-given gifts with our family, parish and community.  

Pentecost is an invitation to choose to share our love, to choose to move into action, and to choose to be risen Presence to others. This weekend’s “Good News” is that the same Spirit of the Lord, which came to the first disciples at Pentecost, is still at work in the Church today.  Jesus Christ promised to the apostles the Holy Spirit, a paraclete and he fulfilled his promise.  He filled them with the Holy Spirit so they could go forth to proclaim the Good News of Jesus.  As good stewards we are also called to inspire others by sharing our talents, gifts and treasures.  We thank God for His gift of the Holy Spirit, who gives us grace and the way to salvation.  

Peace!

 

 

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