THE LORD INVITES US TO A DESERT EXPERIENCE

Today’s gospel speaks of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after His baptism. He was driven by the Spirit into the desert. Jesus remains there for forty days without eating, tempted by Satan, He lives among wild beasts and angels minister to Him.

 

Jesus was in the desert for forty days. ‘Forty’ is a number often associated with intense spiritual experiences. God caused it to rain for forty days and forty nights to cleanse the earth (Gen. 7:12). The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years. Moses spent forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:28) and Elijah journeyed forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb (1Kgs 19:8).

 

The desert was the school where Jesus came to distinguish between the voice of God which He should follow and the voice of Satan which is temptation. It is in the desert too that we come to know ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses and our divine calling.

 

How many voices do we hear from the moment we get up in the morning till the moment we go to sleep at night? Think of the countless voices in the daily paper, the soliciting voices on the radio and the television, the voices of those who live and work with us, not forgetting our own unceasing inner voices. In the desert we leave most of these voices behind to focus on distinguishing between the guiding voice of God and the tempting voice of Satan. In the desert we come to know ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and our divine calling. In the desert Jesus encountered beasts and angels.

 

There are wild beasts and angels in every one of us. Sometimes, owing to our superficial self-knowledge, we fail to recognize the wild beasts in us and give in to vainglory, or we fail to recognize the angel in us and give in to self-hatred. But in the silence and recollection of the desert we come to terms with ourselves as we really are, we are reconciled with the beasts and the angels in our lives and then we begin to experience peace again for the first time.

 

Lent is the time for the desert experience. We cannot all afford to buy a camel and head off for the desert. But we can all create a desert space in our overcrowded lives. We can set aside a place and time to be alone daily with God, a time to distance ourselves from the many noises and voices that bombard our lives every day, a time to hear God’s word, a time to rediscover who we are before God, a time to say yes to God and no to Satan as Jesus did. Welcome to Lent!  Welcome to the desert!

 

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We see Jesus love and compassion and healing power on full display in today’s Gospel Reading from Mark.  A leper comes to him and begs to be healed.  Jesus, moved with pity, stretches out his hand and heals the man.  And then he tells him something somewhat puzzling,  “See that you tell no one anything . . .

Of course, the man does exactly what many of us would do --- he immediately tells everyone.  After all, this is a “miracle”, an unmistakable action of God in their midst. And the former leper wants to make sure everyone knows about it.

Jesus knew that if word got out that he could heal leprosy (or any other disease) he would be inundated with people coming to him from everywhere.  

 Is that the only reason Jesus told the man to keep quiet?

My guess is that Jesus didn’t want his message, his promises to be reduced to simply what he could do for people from the “outside”the “flashy” sorts of miracles that get all the attention.  He wanted to make sure that people realized that the real “miracles” he wanted to “perform” were on the “inside”, miracles of the heart, soul, and spirit.

The miracles within each of us are really what Jesus died to make possible. The power of the resurrection allows the hardened heart to soften, the cruel heart to become kind and compassionate, the selfish heart to become generous, the vindictive heart to become forgiving, and the sinful heart to be washed clean --- enabling us to once again start down a different path, a journey into the arms of our loving God for all eternity.

I don’t know about you, but if all of that happened within me --- that would be a miracle!  

So let’s let God do precisely that --- not just today, but every moment of our lives.  And it’s ok --- God gives us permission to tell everyone.

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. Mark records in Chapter 1 an early incident in Capernaum where “all who were ill or possessed by demons” were brought to Jesus’ door, and he cured many and drove out demons. Then Jesus rises early and goes off to pray. Realizing he is not there, the disciples go searching and upon finding him, and presuming he does not understand what is happening back in Capernaum, they tell him “everyone is looking for you”. To their puzzlement, after time in prayer to his Father, he tells them “let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come”. And so they do. What a strange turn of events. Instead of healing the newly arrived sick and suffering, he seems to have abandoned them to their sorrows which hardships the people have just seen him heal in the lives of others. But what does it mean? It certainly is not the understandable ways of man that Jesus is following.

His mission is much more than just healing the sick and troubled, which he alone can do and very often will do. If he would only take care of their sufferings and hardships he could be the head rabbi or mayor of Capernaum or governor of Galilee, enjoying their gratitude and respect.

The answer to this question slowly evolves itself in the revelations of St. Mark’s Gospel as it also slowly evolves itself in the life of everyone who “believes in Jesus”. He does not always do what we firmly believe he and he alone could do for us. What does it mean? We all experience this in life, and some experience this mystery often and for long periods of time. 

By:  Father Pat McCormick

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings of this Sunday draws our attention to importance of credible witness from one's faith conviction. The bottom line is that if our words match the life we live, people would be astonished by what we do and say, because the Spirit will be working in us. The main point in the first reading is to show that a prophet’s credibility comes directly from God. As we hear at the end of the reading, there were and still there are false prophets today, who presume to speak in the Lord's name or those who” speak in the name of other gods…", claiming to speak the truth, while at the same time embracing hostility and divisiveness.

In the Gospel of this Sunday, Jesus gives a concrete example of what it means to speak from one's faith conviction. We hear in the Gospel that "the people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority”. Jesus needed no credentials. The source of his authority was his intimate relationship with the Father that evoked a sense of deep conviction behind his teaching. We also encounter the dramatic episode of chasing away an evil spirit from a person in the Synagogue. People watched spellbound as the evil spirit threw the person down and with a loud cry left the person. What really convinced the people more was his intimate relationship with the Father. He spoke from the heart.

The readings challenge us to let the teaching of Jesus to transform our lives and that his healing power may restore us to spiritual wellbeing. The healing of the person with unclean spirit is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus still proclaims through the Church and through us even today. Miracles still do happen! The best proof is the power of God’s word that transforms us to live in ways that amaze and invite others to follow Jesus Christ.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel St Mark presents us with his version of the call of the first disciples: Simon, Andrew, James and John.  These disciples left their profession (fishing), in fact, they left everything – family, their livelihood and all they had to follow Jesus. Thus, they dedicated themselves fully to Christ and his course.  They left their profession and embraced a vocation.  They were called from a life of working for themselves to embrace service to others.

People are still being called today by the Lord to embrace this life of total commitment to Christ. It is our prayer that many more men and women may respond to this call to become priests and religious.  Most of us may not have to sacrifice our professions, ambitions and families the way these first disciples did. But there is the need for all of us to cultivate and strengthen the sense of vocation in our lives. We need to be conscious of the fact that we are being called everyday by God to an intimate life with Christ and to contribute towards the advancement of his kingdom of love, peace and joy in our family and in our world.

 A break with the past is an important characteristic feature of vocation. We need to break from anything and everything that does not set us free to promote the kingdom. This breaking from the past should become a constant practice, for as Cardinal John Henry Newman reminds us: we are not called once only, but many times, all through our lives. God extends his call to us in different places in different events and occasions, at different times. We are called from grace to grace and from holiness to holiness!

Sometimes we are afraid to respond to God’s call because of fear of the unknown and also because our focus is so much on what we are giving up or leaving behind. But let us remember the first followers became fishers of men: Peter’s first sermon led to the conversion and baptism of 3,000 people! Indeed, they gained more than they left behind; for, to respond to the call of the Lord is to journey intimately with him into eternal life with the Father! 

By:  Father Nick Apetorgbor 

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

We begin Ordinary Time in our liturgical year by reflecting on what it means to be “called” by the Lord Jesus. In the Gospel, it is John the Baptist who points two of his followers in the direction of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” One of them is Andrew and he later brings his own brother along. Here it is clear that the call to follow Jesus can come through others and does not necessarily have to come directly from God Himself.

      We are invited to reflect on our own lives. Most of us probably don’t think that we are called by God. Yet the Scriptures shows us that each person has a special call from God: to serve God, perhaps to be married, perhaps to be celibate, perhaps to lead and perhaps to follow someone else. A call from God is a call to live. To be called does not require perfection on our behalf, only fidelity and holy listening.

       In order to hear a call, we must become silent so that we can listen. This is probably the greatest challenge of all in our present age. There is so much noise and so much distraction and so many people and things that want our attention. Modern technology is now a major distraction that it has overtaken our attention and priorities.

       Our Catholic Christian tradition tells us that we must listen to God’s voice in the Scriptures. We must come to recognize that voice of God speaking to us in revelation and in the Church. We want to know how God speaks in Scripture and in the Church so that we can listen more attentively to how God might be speaking to us.

       On this Second Sunday of the Year, the Lord Jesus offers us the invitation to listen and to respond, "Come and see!"  Our response should be that of Samuel, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening!" 

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

FEAST of the EPIPHANY

St. Matthew alone records the coming of the Three Wise Men from the East to whom the Epiphany, the revelation of the Divine Savior’s birth, takes place. These holy seekers of the truth are given the knowledge of God dwelling secretly among mankind. In their joy and gratitude they bestow royal gifts upon this poor Child, believing they have found a treasurer of immense value in Bethlehem. The Wise Men are amazed to find so many to whom the Child was first sent had no idea who it was that now lived among men. God revealed the gift of His Divine Son to the Gentiles, the non-Jews of the world, represented by the Three Wise Men. And God revealed that all who genuinely sought the truth about God would discover in own their lives, the Infant Divine Child, even today!

 Fr. Patrick J. McCormick: Biography

Born and raised in Erie, PA; ordained a priest on Dec 20, 1968 at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

1968-72: priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, GA

1973-77: faculty member of the North American College Seminary, Rome; Director of Liturgy

1977-90: pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Hartwell, GA, and St. Mary’s Parish, Toccoa, GA

1990-2010: Chaplain U.S. Navy:

1990-93: Subbase, LaMaddalena, Italy

1993-95: USS Constellation, Carrier, CV-64, San Diego, CA

1995-98: NAWS, China Lake, CA

1998-2001: Naval Base, Yokosuka, Japan

2001-03: Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan

2003-07: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

2007-09: Camp Egers, Kabul, Afghanistan

2009-10: Marine Corps Base, Kaneohe

2010-15: Chaplain, Tyndall Air Force Base, Panama City, FL

2015-17: Chaplain, Army Garrison, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands

 Fr. Pat will help out at St. John’s until May, 2018.

 

 By: Father Pat McCormick

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

The Sunday after the Christmas is traditionally called the feast of the Holy Family. Christmas itself is the feast of God entering a family to stay with human beings. The Church has always presented the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a model family for Christians to imitate, calling it the Holy Family.

But for the people living in the twenty first century, there is very little that makes it attractive to them. This family was just too simple and ordinary. Though it had some royal background, the life of the family members did not reflect it.  It did not have any financial or social security. It struggled hard to win its daily bread; it went through a lot of suffering and pain. In fact, many of the features which we cherish and long for were absent in the family of Jesus. Still the Church calls it a model family and a holy family.

Jesus was the center of the Holy Family. God called the other two members of the family and prepared them and blessed them with special graces to welcome Jesus into their midst. Mary and Joseph accepted Jesus to be a unique gift to their family. As parents of Jesus, they lived totally for him.  Parents must learn to keep Jesus at the center of their marriage. It would help them tackle many problems that might arise in their life. 

Secondly, as we heard in our second reading, members of the Holy family had love and respect for each other. Mary and Joseph loved and respected each other; and showed great love for Jesus whom the Lord entrusted to their care and protection. They taught him the values of life, culture and religion. Under their watchful eyes Jesus ‘increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor’. Likewise, Jesus honored his parents. 

The first reading from the Book of Sirach is a fine interpretation of the fourth commandment. It admonishes us to love and respect our parents.  A child’s respect for his parents does not end at age 18 but beyond until their parents depart the face of the earth. Parents in their old age need the loving and caring presence of their children and grandchildren. In a family where the bonds of love and respect are strong, the old and the infirm will be well cared for.

The other characteristic that is noticeable in the Holy Family was its commitment to follow the will of God in everything. All the members of the Holy Family sought the will of God unreservedly. There was no trace of selfishness and vested interest in their life. Their unwavering faith in the providence of God enabled them to accept the joys and sorrows of life with serenity. They did not complain about anything. They accepted every happening in the family with humility. They were convinced that whatever happened to them was the Lord’s doing.

This attitude of theirs increased their love and respect for one another. They trusted each other as they trusted God. So, they stood united in the ups and downs of their life. What we see in many Christian families today is the lack of openness to God and one another which consequently leads to disunity.  At a time when many families are breaking up and breaking down all over, the Holy Family presents itself as our source of great hope and consolation. There is perhaps no other way to keep each family intact and moving onwards except through the virtue of sheer self-sacrifice and self-giving for each other in the family. May the Holy Family intercede for all families that they may remain one and united.

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

Advent calls us to surrender to the will of God!

Advent calls us to surrender to the will of God!

 

Our secular calendar marks the days one season ends and another begins.  This weekend our liturgical calendar marks the ending of another season - Advent, and the beginning of another - Christmas.  Each season should be celebrated to the fullest with their unique characteristics at their proper times.  Especially this year, when the Fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve.  Even though we only have hours before the Advent season ends, we still have time to fully celebrate what Advent is and means to us.  In the readings for this fourth Sunday of Advent we can find the proper guidance on how we should end this celebration of Advent. 

The first reading from the Second Book of Samuel shares a wonderful account of David and of David’s desire to build a house for the Lord.  The point of this account, however, is that all of us must recognize that God is the center of life and not us.  At one level we can do nothing for God.  That should not stop us from trying to do everything for God!  Even though all we have comes from God, we can still return His love by striving to live for Him and striving to be faithful to all that He asks of us. 

The second reading from the Letter to the Romans speaks of the mystery of salvation now being revealed.  Only when we believe in a personal God who loves us does any “plan of God” make sense.  Sure God does not have to “plan” the way that we humans do, but God always has our good in His mind and is working to bring about His goodness and love within us.  Part of the “plan” of God was sending His Only Son to save us from ourselves.   This plan was revealed through an angel to a young lady (and us) in the gospel of Luke.  Mary’s yes to the angel’s words set the stage for the greatest event in human history: the conception and subsequent birth of our Savior.   The incarnation is relived every time we echo Mary’s “yes” to God’s call to bring his Christ into our world; when we accept, as did Mary, God’s asking us to make the gospel of Jesus alive in our own time and place.

We are standing right at the front door of Christmas and before we enter, Mary has been presented to us, this last Sunday of Advent to be our model.  Let us follow her example of faith & holiness, humility & simplicity, obedience & surrender to the will of God, as we await the coming of our Savior into the world and into our lives.  In the Advent of our lives, God Calls us to bring his Christ into our own time and place, to put aside our own doubts and fears to say, as Mary does, I am your servant, O God.  Be it done to me according to your word.

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Third Sunday of Advent

“Rejoice in the Lord always”. This Sunday we light the third candle of the Advent Wreath. Its desert rose color signifies joy, which is one of the Advent season themes. For that reason, today is called Gaudete Sunday which means, “Rejoice!”

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah says: I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul. Paul in the Second Reading exhorts us to “Rejoice always.” The joy in question is not necessarily feeling good when things are going well. It is possible to feel a certain kind of joy even when things are going badly, and that is what we call joy in the Lord who strengthens us in our hope of salvation. In the opening prayer for this Sunday, we ask God that, as we look forward to the birth of Christ, we may experience the joy of salvation. The prophet Isaiah in the first reading tells us that he is sent by God to announce the joyful news of salvation to the people of Israel. He proclaims a message of salvation to a people in bondage. The familiar passage of Isaiah 61 is a clear reference to the Messiah, who is already present. "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord". In the Responsorial Psalm, we use the beautiful words of Mary in the Magnificat to express our joy as we, like Mary wait for the birth of our Saviour. "My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour". 

In the second reading, Paul urges us to “Rejoice always” because we have already discovered God's saving action in Christ. Thus, Paul invites us to rejoice at all times and to pray constantly, and for all things to give thanks to God. It might be difficult to find the realization of this message of hope and joy in our broken world of today, where there is so much suffering. Like Isaiah, John the Baptist in the gospel prophesies change for the better, because the one who is to come after him, Christ, is already here bringing good news to the poor. The message of this Sunday message is found in the prophesy of Isaiah who foretells the coming of the Messiah who is sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord. That is why we need to rejoice because the Messiah is already in our midst accomplishing precisely what Isaiah foretold. As we go home after Mass today, we go transformed by the good news of joy. Let us share that joy with those we meet throughout this week.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

The Second Sunday of Advent

Each one of us is called to be a prophet of Christ.  The word prophet comes from the Greek word meaning “one who proclaims.”  Not all prophets wear camel skins and eat locusts – there are prophets among us right now who proclaim in their ministries, in their compassion and their kindness, in their courageous commitment to what is right that Jesus the Messiah has come.

 Every Advent, John the Baptizer calls us to embrace the meaning of our own baptisms: compassion, forgiveness, justice, and selflessness. 

 As an “Advent people,” we are caught (like the Israelites returning to Jerusalem – 1st Reading) between a world that is dying and at the same time, a world waiting to be reborn.  The work of Advent is to bring about that rebirth: to prepare a world that is ready for the Lord's coming. 

     In the baptismal call to become prophets of the God who comes, we are to do the work of transforming the wastelands around us into harvests of justice and forgiveness, to create highways for our God to enter and re-create our world in charity and peace.

This second Sunday of Advent we continue, 'to straighten the path and fill the valleys' and make full preparation for the one who is going to come into our lives.  Our God is awaiting God and he is eagerly waiting for our invitation in order to enter into our lives.  He is God of patience and is ready to wait in love.  Let us reflect then at this time on what changes we should make in our own lives, not just now but in the year to come, to be the kind of persons, God would like us to be. 

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe  

 

“Jesus is coming soon. Look busy!”

Look busy!  Looking busy would certainly be one way of describing many of us at the start of Advent. We are busy.  And we will likely get busier as Christmas day approaches – busy with shopping, card- writing, parties – all that goes into preparing for Christmas.  But it is not busyness that the prophet Isaiah had in mind when, in the first reading he says of God, “You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways.”  Isaiah give us a clue to how we should be acting during Advent and, indeed, throughout the entire liturgical year that begins this weekend – doing right, remembering God and God’s ways.  Be watchful! Be alert!  On the gospel of the apostle Mark we are called this Advent to be watchful, to be prepared, and to recognize the signs of the times.  Advent urges us to “stay awake” and not to sleep through the opportunities life gives us to discover God in our midst.  Advent calls us to “watch,” to pay attention to the signs of God’s unmistakable presence in our lives, to live life expectantly not as a death sentence but as a gift from God.  We begin a new liturgical year at the end of time.  Jesus’ brief parable of the master’s return is a call to realize the trust God has placed in us in the present to create his kingdom of justice and peace to transcend all time.  Jesus counters the conventional fears of the apocalypse with “signs” of hope and new beginnings.  Our lives are an Advent, a prelude, to the life of God to come.  While confronting us with the reality that our lives are finite and fragile, these Sundays of Advent also assure us of the mercy of God, who is with us in the midst of all the struggles of our everyday Advent journey to the dwelling place of God.  Advent challenges us to see our lives not as a disjointed set of experiences and circumstances but as a pilgrimage to the dwelling place of God – a journey in which every moment, every step is a new revelation of God’s presence in our midst.  God is both the road and the destination of our pilgrimage.

 

Have a blessed Advent!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

This Sunday, we celebrate the final Sunday in our liturgical year, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The closing of our liturgical year marks a good moment to pause and reflect on our spiritual lives over the last year.

     Psalm 23 is a good starting point in beginning our reflection on our spiritual health. The psalm response reminds us that “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Have you trusted the Lord to shepherd you this past year? Did you trust others to help you? Did you reach out to shepherd someone else through a tough time? Maybe you experienced pain or joy this year. Did you share these experiences with the Lord? With your closest friends and family?

     We live in a time where we rarely let God shepherd us. This is the do-it-yourself age. Look at our Home Depot and our HGTV show. We’ve become a people lacking of the statement: Help? Asking for help does not make us weak. We can trust in God to guide us. God will rescue us from every place where we are scattered. We do not need to travel the darkness or happiness alone.

     Let us continue to look back on our spiritual life over this past year. Can you see God’s work in your life? How was God active and present to you during this last year? Were you able to place your trust in God over the last year? Trusting can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes, we use the excuse of trust to not change anything about our lives. We say that if something is meant to be, it is meant to be and we get stuck in a static life. God wants us to trust, but God also wants us to work, something that Jesus reminds us of in the Gospel reading.

     Jesus gives us our own guided spiritual reflection during this Sunday’s Gospel. Let us truthfully answer Jesus’ questions. Over the last year, did you feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; welcome the stranger; clothe the naked; take care of the sick; or visit the prisoner? Jesus is asking us, “are you living the example I have set for you?”

     While we place all our trust in God, let us pray for the courage and strength to continue Jesus’ ministry here on earth, trusting that God is with us in all that we do.

     Praise be Christ the King!

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our second reading of today, St. Paul reminds us, that we do not know when Christ will come again. It happens as stealthily as a thief in the night, or as quickly as labor pains. God does not threaten, but rather invites us to be ready to walk in the Lord’s ways as expressed in our responsorial psalm. This week’s Gospel is a story about what we must do while we await the return of the Lord. We are called to examine ourselves in light of the behaviors of the three servants. Christians don’t just sit around waiting for Jesus to come back. Rather, we are called to invest our talents in the world.

What Jesus is asking us to do is to put our Christian Faith into action. But today Christ focuses us on a particular element of faith: RISK.  As Christ sees it, risk is no less essential to the life of faith than it is to successful investment.   An investor always risks what he presently enjoys for a share in a better, but unrealized, future; the believer, likewise, exchanges his present security for a share in the divine promises – a share that he now possesses only “in hope.”  “Faith is the substance of things hoped for” (Hb 11:1). 

Seen in this light, the question that this startling parable poses to us becomes quite simple.  Am I a stakeholder in the truth of Christ’s promise?  Or do I secretly seek indemnities against Him?  St. Paul was clear about what stake he thought we ought to hold in the soundness of Christ’s enterprise: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1Cor 15:19).  Paul expects that true Christians will have such a big stake in Christ’s promises that they will seem “pitiable” to those who don’t believe.

So the perspective of investment that we are called to make is fundamentally different from that of any kind of worldly business investment. Rather than seeking the greatest return for oneself, a Christian understands that everything he has is gift from the Creator, which he has been given to further the growth of God’s Kingdom, and the development of humankind. We could also, out of the hope in Christ’s promises, take risks in investing in commitments we consider costly such as remaining faithful to a marriage that, for one reason or another, now demands great sacrifices.  An even greater stake will the Christian have who, in order to keep himself from sin, denies himself even innocent pleasures in order to sharpen his hunger for God.

Happily, there is no reason for us to fear “going all in.”  Since Christ is Truth itself he will keep his promises.  The parable does not even consider the case of a servant who trades with his master’s capital and loses it. Ironically, it is those who fear losing anything who will lose everything; and those who risk everything who will receive the greatest share. 

By:  Fr. Joseph Ayinpuusa

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 32nd in Ordinary Time

Over the next 3 Sundays, the readings will focus our attention on the final days marked by the second coming of Christ. This Sunday the readings underline the importance of preparedness to meet the Lord at all times. In the first reading, wisdom is described as the spirit which enables us to anticipate the unforeseen and to be prepared. We hear that “Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim”. It is the fuel or the oil that keeps our lamps lit, in order to give witness wherever we are. Wisdom is used in contrast to foolishness which makes us sloppy and negligent in our Christian life. Wisdom on the other hand gives us a kind of a sixth sense in our faith and hope, in order to be alert and prepared. In the second reading, Paul deals with the question raised by the Christian Community in Thessalonika on what happens to those who die before the “second coming”. Paul assures them that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, all who die in Christ “God will bring them with him…Then we who are alive…will be caught up with them” on the last day. The alleluia verse before the Gospel continues the same theme of being prepared. “Stay awake and stand, because you do not know the hour when the Son of Man is coming”.

The parable of the ten bridesmaids is used as a concrete expression of wisdom that enables us to stay awake, vigilant and prepared. There is a sharp contrast between the five wise bridesmaids, who take extra oil with them for their lamps, and the foolish ones, who only take their lamps, completely unaware of a possible delay. It can be quite easy for young bridesmaids to slip into foolishness as in the Gospel story. The main point of the parable is that through our baptism, we have received an invitation to the heavenly wedding banquet, but the arrival time of the bridegroom is hidden from us. But why the stress on oil? Some scripture scholars tell us that the oil stands for our good deeds that shine out like light for others to see. The Master of the house locks out those foolish bridesmaids because Jesus has already warned his disciples saying, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord’ will enter…but only the one who does the will of my Father” (Matt 7:21). The parable is one of Jesus’ teaching about good and bad servants, and the two groups are people that we probably know too well. It is an invitation to conversion. Wisen up! Being wise in terms of Jesus means being vigilant for He will surely return and so we need to be ready. It is not a waste of time, but a time of patient waiting in prayer and good works.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Thirty- First Sunday in Ordinary Time

By: Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

The message of today’s readings is about God’s rejection of inauthentic religious attitudes. In the first reading the prophet Malachi speaks God’s word to the Israelite priests after their return from exile. He criticizes the priests for not only being negligent and lukewarm in their liturgical services but also for failing to teach the law of God to the people. The priests have backslidden, and the flock they pastor to also backslide along with them through their unspiritual teachings. The Gospel passage of today is an even clearer indictment of the Pharisees, popularly regarded as models of religious holiness. Jesus criticizes them for their lack of personal coherence, preaching to others what they themselves would not do. He also condemns their vanity, searching for public praise and honor instead of offering genuine worship due only to God.

It is easy to read today’s Scripture readings and start pointing criticizing fingers at all the official leaders we know, political, religious or otherwise, but it is important that we see how they apply to our own life. Of course we are all leaders in one way or the other. People look up to us for guidance, inspiration, and direction, either in our families, in the church or at our work places. Leaders is for service and nor for honor. Today’s readings, especially the Gospel, are addressed to all of us, calling for integrity and honesty, where there is no pulling of rank, no demand for respect or privilege , no double standards but a deep sense of equality and mutual respect, a desire to serve, to share what we have and are for the benefit of all.

What is difficult to tolerate is the hypocrisy which Jesus so rightly attacks and of which we are all at one time or another guilty. We are all urged to be authentic in our attitude as Christians. Also, a strong message to all of us is that if people in position of trust are not faithful to their vows, promises and the demands of their obligations to God and society, they would not have the moral authority to correct the people they lead. Leaders should also endeavor to eschew all forms of the “divide and rule” tactic in their administration.

As a way forward, Jesus in the Gospel and St. Paul, in our second reading, offer two models of leadership and authentic Christian living. First of all, leaders are urged to be like mothers feeding and looking after their children with devotion. Secondly, we must endeavor to lead the people by word an example, by practicing what we teach, and being humble. In the second reading Paul tells the Christians at Thessalonica that it was in an attitude of humble service, that he and his companions taught the Gospel to them, just like a mother caring for her children. St. Paul was eager not only to hand over the Good News to the people of Thessalonica, but also ready to hand over his life, a sign of total commitment.  

Sunday Gospel Reflection- 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“Love God with your whole mind, your whole heart, and your whole soul, and love your neighbor as yourself!”

These two commandments quoted in our Gospel reading today are no more than an attitude in life than a list of things to do.  We might summarize the readings for this 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time by merely stating that as Christians we are to show compassion to one another and to love one another.  Of course, that is a relatively accurate summary of everything we are called to do as Christians.  A wise philosopher once stated, “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” That could certainly apply to Jesus and what He calls us to do and how He calls us to live.  In some ways, Jesus was as forceful and demanding as a teacher who ever lived.  He has taught us that we must give total loyalty to Him and that we must be willing to “bear His cross.”  Yet, in spite of these demands, He is at the center of our faith, of course.  In addition, He commands us to take special care of those who may be more vulnerable in our society in the instances cited in this reading widows, orphans, and the poor in particular. How we treat those less fortunate is a true measure of our compassion and our sense of stewardship.  If anyone understood the Law, Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, certainly did.  As a result the latest test offered to him in today’s Gospel from St. Matthew causes Him no difficulty.  The desire of the questioner is to have Jesus select one commandment as more important than another.  However, the Lord defines the Law based upon its core principles: love the Lord with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself.  This gospel challenges us to show that our love is more than skin deep, if we call ourselves Christians.  We are reminded of the importance of loving God and loving neighbor.  This is not something over and above our daily lives.  It is the fabric of our lives.  It is that which makes us who we are.  Loving God and loving neighbor are the heart of our daily lives, the springboard of our actions, the basis of our decisions, the reason for our prayer life, the motivation of our lifestyle and the very reason why we gather every Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist as one Ohana.

Blessings!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

 

Twenty- Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings of this Sunday touch on the delicate relationship between Church and state; between Christian commitment to God and loyalty to one’s country. A good example of this is what we hear in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. The context is that the Jews are in exile in Babylon. The Lord then speaks through Isaiah to Cyrus, King of Persia (modern Iran), who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. The King then allowed the Jews to return to their homeland in 537 B.C. He also gave state money from the royal treasury for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews quickly hailed King Cyrus II as the “anointed” in terms of being used by God to conquer the Babylonians. The first reading therefore reveals that at times, God may even use civil initiative to accomplish his own purpose. Isaiah uses the example of King Cyrus to illustrate this point. Isaiah shows that the king was ultimately subject to the hand of God in delivering Israel from the bondage of exile in Babylon, and restoring them to their homeland.

 

 

In the Gospel, Jesus is in the Temple. The Pharisees have plotted to trick him into saying something that would be treason against the Romans. So they send some spies, the Herodians, who had maintained loyalty to king Herod, and therefore supported the payment of taxes to the Roman Emperor. The question is carefully crafted to solicit a positive or negative answer. Jesus knows the malice and hypocrisy of his questioners. In fact they are carrying coins bearing Caesar’s name and image. Jesus’ reply leads his opponents to entrap themselves. “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” “Caesar’s”, they replied. Then comes Jesus’ punch line. “Then, repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” The response of Jesus has many implications for the Church today. Jesus does not commit himself to either side. Similarly, the Church must never take sides, but has the stewardship role of guiding the faithful through formation, to know their rights, in order to fulfill their civic duties as informed loyal citizens, who are committed to God alone. So what message do we take home this Sunday? Jesus in the gospel reminds us that our obligations to the state are different from our obligations to God. Our faith commitment is to God alone. As Christians we must never be afraid of standing for the truth of the gospel of life. The readings challenge us to be good stewards by giving to God what belongs to God because all our being and all we have is from God. 

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

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

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