"Christ is risen!"

“Christ is risen!” (in Greek: Χριστός Ανέστη - Christós Anésti!)

The response to this ancient greeting which is still in use: “Indeed He is risen!” This response is a proclamation of what we believe.

On Easter Sunday we celebrate the most unique victory over death for which we have been preparing during the Lenten season. St. Augustine in the 4th century reminds us why we are filled with such great joy at Easter and throughout this season. “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.” In other words, Easter is not just a doctrine. It is a reality that we live and celebrate joyfully in worship. Throughout this season and indeed throughout the Ordinary Time we live as “an Easter People” and sing the “Alleluia.” If we are an Easter people, then there is nothing to be afraid of, because we know that Christ’s power of the resurrection will indeed lead us to victory. Whatever we may be worried about or afraid of, in faith, the resurrection changes all that. In Christ, the Risen Lord, we will emerge triumphantly.

That is the good news Easter brings to all of us. If you are facing health issues, marital crisis, economic crisis, personal crisis, this message is for you. God, is out to transform all that and lead you to overcome the crisis, whatever it may be. God intends you to have life in abundance; to live as an Easter person. After reading this Easter message, enter into a prayer of transformation and allow Christ, the Risen Lord to lead you into victory. He is risen to give you hope and a new life.

I wish you all a blessed and fruitful Easter season.

“Christ is risen! He risen indeed, Alleluia!”

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Celebration of the Easter Holy Triduum

Holy Week begins this Sunday on Palm Sunday and leads into the Easter Holy Triduum, which should be seen as ONE continuous commemoration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The three holy days begin on the evening of Holy Thursday and continue till the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically ONE DAY unfolding for us the unity of Christ's Paschal Mystery. The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten season and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord on the Easter Vigil.

The liturgical celebrations that take place during the Holy Triduum are the following:

HOLY THURSDAY: Celebration of the Lord's Supper, April 18 at 7:00pm

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament till 12 midnight

GOOD FRIDAY: Celebration of the Lord's Passion, April 19 at 3:30pm

Stations of the Cross at 3:00pm

Solemn Easter Vigil Celebration, Saturday, April 20 at 7:00pm

Easter Sunday, April 21: We celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, with Masses at: 7am, 9am and 11am.  NO 6:00pm Mass.

Once again, these Easter Holy Triduum days are unique and considered as one continuous celebration. The entire Paschal Mystery makes more sense when one participates in all three celebrations. Please remember that our parish campus parking space is limited and besides, for the last time we will have a tent to accommodate the overflow of parishioners. So come early. Give parking priority to people with disability and families with small children.

Thank you for your understanding and patience. 

A blessed Easter Triduum!

Monsignor John S. Mbinda 

Significance of Palm Sunday

The Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, or "Passion  Sunday", which unites the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem with the proclamation of his Passion. When Jesus Christ rode a donkey triumphantly into Jerusalem, he fulfilled a prophecy given by the prophet Zechariah hundreds of years earlier. (Zach 9:9-11)

Therefore, the occasion of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem was not accidental. Jesus being God, knew beforehand what would happen in Jerusalem. The procession with palms and other branches was no meaningless pageantry, but the actual advent of the King into His royal city, and His entry into the temple, the house of the King of kings. He came riding on an ass, in token of peace, acclaimed by the Hosanna shouts of the multitudes. The ass has been designated in literature as ‘the ancient symbol of Jewish royalty, and one riding upon an ass as the type of someone who brings peace.

That is why the procession, commemorating Christ's messianic entry into Jerusalem, is joyous and popular in character. It fulfills the messianic prophecy. Like the  Jewish people of that time, we carry palm or other greenery which have been blessed on Palm Sunday back home or workplaces.

We keep palms or other branches at the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the messianic king, and in his Paschal Victory. We reuse those palm branches and burn them into ashes which are blessed for Ash Wednesday. Please do not throw away your palm branches as they are a blessing in your home.

I wish you all a blessed preparation for the Holy Easter Triduum next week.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

How to Make a Good Confession (Part 2)

Here at St. John’s the Sacrament of Confession is scheduled each week on Saturday at 3:30 pm. One may also request for confession by calling the parish office phone number for an appointment with one of the priests any weekday from 9 am to 4 pm.

When one enters the confessional, one may either kneel behind the screen or sit in front of the priest. Then the penitent and the priest begin with the sign of the Cross, saying: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The penitent then continues saying: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been (weeks, months or years) since my last confession. Since then I confess the following…”

The penitent then states his or her sins. The penitent must confess all of the mortal sins he or she is aware of having committed since the last confession, be sorry for them, and have a firm purpose of the amendment to try not to commit the same sins in the future. After this, the priest normally gives some advice to the penitent followed by a penance which may be in the form of prayer or works of mercy. Then he asks the penitent to make an act of contrition. The penitent may do so in his or her own words, or may say one of many memorized acts of contrition like the following “Act of Contrition Prayer.” A copy is available at the confessional.

“O My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with the help of your grace, to do penance, to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered and died for us. In His Name, O Lord, have mercy.”

After this, the priest will absolve the penitent using the prayer of Absolution. The penitent makes the sign of the Cross and answers: Amen and then leaves to go do the penance given by the priest. The time after leaving the confessional is the most traumatic, and so one needs a quiet moment with God to express gratitude for his mercy and forgiveness.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda 

How to Make a Good Confession (Part 1)

A number of parishioners have asked me the question of how to make a good confession. This is a two-part response: 1) How to prepare for confession, and 2) How to make a good confession.

In preparation for confession, first, ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help to examine your conscience well by reviewing your conduct in light of your relationship with God and one another. One useful way is to review the commandment of love of God and one’s neighbor as oneself. The questions below should assist you in making a    thorough review.

At the time of confession, be prepared to tell the priest the specific kind of sins you have committed and, to the best of your ability, how many times you have committed them since your last good confession. Avoid generalizations and inform the priest of any relevant circumstances in which your sins were committed. You are obliged to confess only mortal sins since you can obtain forgiveness for your venial sins by sacrifices, acts of charity, prayer and other pious actions. Confession of venial sins, however, is very helpful for avoiding sin and advancing in holiness toward Heaven.

If you are in doubt about whether a sin is mortal or venial, mention your doubt to the priest. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is a sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” (CCC 1857) Always tell the priest your state of life: married or single, priest or religious.  Do not tell how your spouse, parent or sibling has been treating you. That is not your sin. Tell how you may have hurt them, judged them and your readiness to forgive them.

In examining your conscience, a useful way is to look at the Ten Commandments by reviewing them prayerfully with regard to your relationship with God and with others. For example on the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before Me.” (Ex 20:2,3)

  • Have I really loved God above all things or have I put other things — work, money, drugs, TV, fame, pleasure, other people — ahead of Him?
  • Have I made time for God each day in prayer?
  • Have I denied my faith in God or endangered it by practices of the occult or through reading or programs that are opposed to faith and morals?
  • Parents help your children to prepare for confession.

 

Monsignor John S.Mbinda

The Hidden Power of Confession

 

“If we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8)

The Sacrament of Penance, also called Sacrament of Confession, instituted by Jesus Christ after his resurrection, is a hidden treasure that many have yet to discover. When you do discover that hidden power, your joy will be boundless.

A story is told about three penniless knights who were lost on their return from their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. They were caught in a violent rainstorm that lasted several days. As they crossed a creek on the first day, in the darkness of the storm, they heard a voice telling them: “Pick up some pebbles and you will be glad and sad.” The first weary knight thought that the idea was just ridiculous, and so he did not pick up any pebble. The second knight picked up several pebbles and put them in his pack. The third knight stuffed his saddle bag with pebbles.

After six days of travel, the storm eased and they got a moment to rest. On opening his bag, the third knight discovered that it was filled with pure gold. His joy was boundless. The second knight found out that he had just a few pieces of gold and his pack and was sad that he had not filled his pack with the pebbles. The first knight was very sad because he was still penniless.

The Sacrament of Confession is like a hidden treasure when we have lost our way and find ourselves in the midst of the storms of life. If we listen to the whisper of the Holy Spirit and fill our bag pack with the pebbles of this sacrament we will be surprised by joy. It is amazing when we emerge from the Sacrament of Confession feeling so light after Jesus takes the burden of sin off our backs. This Lent the Holy Spirit is whispering to you and if you respond positively, you will be so transformed by the Sacrament of Confession.

Your joy will be boundless!

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Lent: A Season to Get Close to the Lord

On Ash Wednesday when we receive the ashes on our foreheads, we commit ourselves to follow Christ in His 40 days of prayer and fasting in the desert. For many Catholics, Lent involves giving up coffee, chocolate or other guilty vices. Others forgo television or commit to attending daily Mass. The 40 days of Lent are set aside each year as a way for the faithful to draw closer to God through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and acts of penance. 

St. John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation “Reconciliation and Penance,” emphasized the importance of self-mortification (dying to self). Penance, the Pope said, is “an effort to put off the old man and put on the new… to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail.” These acts of sacrifice, he said, help to re-establish the harmony with God that was broken by sin. Each year during Lent, the US  Catholic Bishops, call on all Catholics to abstain from meat and offer penitential acts on all Fridays of the year — not just during Lent — for the protection of human life, marriage, and religious liberties. Lent in particular offers Catholics an opportunity to experience a conversion of heart through the three disciplines of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 

Penance is an act aimed at conversion of heart. That means turning away from the darkness of this world (sin) and turning toward the light of God (grace) turning away from what is wrong and turning toward what is right. A true conversion helps us become more focused on Christ and on goodness and beauty and truth. 

A big part of penance is that it frees us to be with Christ, to allow our passions and our appetites to be subdued by Christ so we can really be with Him and learn from Him and be like Him. In order to free ourselves and find happiness this Lent,  Jesus challenges us to let go of our many attachments: anger, grudge against someone, refusal to forgive someone, personal vices, personal idols. Letting go such things and confessing them in the Sacrament of Penance frees us to find happiness in our life. Other forms of penance include fasting and almsgiving.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

The Origins of Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, each year occurs 6 1/2 weeks before Easter (between February 4 and March 11, depending on the date of Easter). In the early church, the length of the Lenten celebration varied, but eventually, it began 6 weeks (42 days) before Easter. This provided only 36 days of fasting (excluding Sundays). In the 7th century, 4 days were added before the first Sunday of Lent in order to establish 40 fasting days, in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fast in the desert. That is how we got Ash Wednesday, but there is more from church tradition.

It was the practice in Rome for penitents to begin their period of public penance on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. They were sprinkled with ashes, dressed in sackcloth, and obliged to remain apart until they were reconciled with the Christian community on Holy Thursday. When these practices fell into disuse (8th–10th century), the beginning of the penitential season of Lent was symbolized by placing ashes on the heads of the entire congregation.

Ash Wednesday marks the onset of Lent, the 40-day period of prayer, fasting, and abstinence. It is also known as the 'Day of Ashes'. So-called because on that day at church the faithful has their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross, as a sign of commitment to identify with the passion and death of Christ on the Cross. The exact origin of Ash Wednesday is not clear, but the custom of marking the head with ashes on this Day is said to have originated during the papacy of Gregory the Great (590-604).

Originally the use of ashes to symbolize penance was a matter of private devotion. Later it became part of the official rite for reconciling public penitents. In this context, ashes on the penitent served as a motive for fellow Christians to pray for the returning sinner and to feel sympathy for him. Still later, the use of ashes passed into its present rite of beginning the penitential season of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Putting a 'cross' mark on the forehead was in imitation of the spiritual mark or seal that is put on a Christian in baptism. This is when the newly born Christian is delivered from slavery to sin and the devil and made a slave of righteousness and Christ (Rom. 6:3-18)

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Lenten Prayer Challenge 2019

Lent is only 8 days from this Sunday. It is a season of transformation. As always, it arrives suddenly and without a plan we can easily end up without being transformed by God’s grace. This year I would like to help you with a challenge which is actually a commitment to prayer.

What is prayer?  Prayer is the lifting up of our hearts and minds to God. Prayer is how we get to know God. It is how we talk to and listen to God. Prayer is about the relationship. It is unique for each one of us, yet it is up to each of us to make sure the relationship exists. Prayer is a gift of time to God. After we begin to pray on a regular basis, we can see how God has entered our lives in tangible ways, meeting our needs when we least expect it.

How do I begin?  Start each day with prayer. Acknowledge that you are open to God’s plan for your life for this one day and in so doing, turn your entire day into one long prayer. Every thought, every worry,   every smile of thanksgiving becomes communion with the One who loves you. Every thought, every great idea, every brainstorm, is the voice of God speaking through your life, if only we take the time to listen.

Some Ideas:  This season of Lent, open yourself to God’s love for you. Take the time to speak and listen to God each day. Here are some  ideas for praying these 40 days of Lent:

Attend a weekday Mass

Ready scripture daily

Read the Magnificat Lenten Companion Daily

Spend time in prayer in our Adoration Chapel

Pray the Rosary

Attend Stations of the Cross on Fridays at 7 pm

Attend our Lenten Mission Retreat: Monday & Tuesday April 1& 2, 7pm

Attend St. John’s Penance Service, Wednesday, April 3, 7pm

Use St. John’s Parish App for prayers

Listen to and reflect on Catholic Audio Books or CDs

Watch a Catholic DVD as a family

On Ash Wednesday each of you will receive a one-page suggestion on what you can do during this season of Lent to allow God to transform you.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Gratefulness for Parish Ministries

In follow up of last Sunday report highlighting the results of the 2018 stewardship annual commitment, this Sunday I wanted to thank all parishioners already engaged in various ministries. This is the commitment of your time in which you serve the parish in its many ministries. It is so wonderful to see the number of parishioners engaged in ministry and we keep growing. Because of this growth, we face the challenge of ongoing formation of ministers so they can deepen their faith and so server in a more meaningful way.

Well-formed lay ministers is always a sign of growing stewardship parish, where ministry becomes a way of life. Ministry does not work, but a service in the parish so that the parish may continue to serve all parishioners. Let me say how thankful I am as your pastor to be surrounded by all of you lay ministers. The pastoral ministry becomes lighter for us the clergy and staff in the parish because of what you do in your ministry, and the parish is able to serve from day to day because of you. Above all, I am thrilled to see some of you taking the daily Mass, the rosary and personal prayer moments in the chapel seriously. This for me is very encouraging because it is an indication of personal growth in your faith. Prayer is a way of life and the key to being a more effective minister.

Formation of our parish ministers is still a challenge because I want you to feel comfortable in understanding the deeper meaning of the ministry in which you serve. As we go forward, we will need to have in our faith formation ministry more opportunities for the formation of parish ministers in their respective ministries or by having sessions in which for example all liturgical ministers have a formation series during the year. One thing we might have a retreat together, say a Saturday morning once a year. During the coming season of Lent (three weeks away), I will be placing a challenge for all parishioners to increase their time of prayer this year. Prayer the first pillar of stewardship deepens our commitment to Jesus Christ as it helps us focus. Thank you, I thank all the parish staff who serve here in the parish daily and often times offer their stewardship of time and talent to keep the parish going.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda