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

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. 

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