The Epiphany of the Lord

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word ‘epiphany’ comes from the Greek language "epiphaneia" which means ‘appearance’, ‘showing forth’ or ‘manifestation’. So, we could say that we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord. The feast of the Epiphany originated in the third century to commemorate the first appearance of Christ (the infant King) to the entire world as Savior, symbolized by the visit of the three wise kings (Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar).


It is interesting to note that in the early Church, Christians, particularly those in the East, celebrated the coming of Christ on Jan. 6 by commemorating the Nativity, the Visitation of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ and the Wedding of Cana all in one feast of the Epiphany. By the fourth century, both Christmas and Epiphany had been set as separate feasts in some dioceses. At the Council of Tours in 567 A.D., the Church set both Christmas day and Epiphany as separate feast days on the December 25 and January 6, respectively, and named the twelve days between the feasts as the Christmas season. The solemnity of the Epiphany marked the twelfth day of Christmas and the end of the Christmas season. Over the centuries, the various celebrations were further separated in the West, and now the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6, and the wedding at Cana is commemorated (by having the Gospel account on the Wedding of Cana) on the Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord. Both these commemorations are omitted this year.

May God shower abundant blessings upon you throughout the entire year 2019.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

The Joy of 50 Year of Priesthood

December 27 this year, as we celebrate the feast of St. John Apostle and Evangelist, the patronal saint of our parish, I celebrated with you the joy of my 50 years as a priest. As I look back over these 50 years, I feel that God has been so generous to me. The journey that I started on December 14, 1968, has been extraordinary. I vividly remember that Ordination day at the Basilica of the Holy Family in Nairobi as I lay prostrate to give myself totally to God as the congregation prayed the Litanies of the Saints asking for their intercession for me. I remember being called forward for the prayer of Ordination by Archbishop John J. McCarthy followed by the imposition of hands by the archbishop and all the priests present. I recall the archbishop consecrating my hands with Holy Chrism and binding them with a purificatory. With my hands still bound, I was called to kneel before the archbishop to declare my obedience to him and all his successors. This whole day was deeply moving. My soul glorifies the Lord for that day of my ordination; that day that God set me apart to serve his people.

The highlights of my 50 years of priestly ministry may be divided into three: 1) Faith formation of adults (priests, religious men and women, and lay Catholic) from 1976 to 1982; 2) Official of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1986 to 2006 and 3) Pastor of St. John Apostle & Evangelist from 2011 to present. These three moments for me have been the most enriching in my vocation. I saw growth in the people I served and the people also helped to deepen my priestly vocation. Let me just highlight my experience here at St. John Apostle & Evangelist. Being pastor here at St. John's given me a challenge to first get to know where the parish was and what the needs were and how to realize these needs. Our Parish 5-Year Planning was an important process for the whole parish to identify the priorities and plan together on a strategy of implementing these priorities. This also gave me the opportunity to reform the parish in view of these priorities in order to be the parish that God intends for us to be in the 21st century. These seven years as your pastor have been my best productive years, thanks to your challenge that drove me to be more creative in responding to the emerging needs. St. John’s is a wonderful parish to lead, only if one is humble enough to tap the many resources you all bring into our parish family. The joy of my priesthood is due to you for making me a better priest in these seven years here at St. John’s.

May God bless all who have touched my life in my priestly ministry these 50 years. A blessed Christmas season and Happy New Year 2019.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Christmas Message 2018

“Glory to God in highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk. 2:14)
With these inspiring words sung by the angels announcing the birth of our Savior on that blessed night, I offer my Christmas message and greetings to every parishioner and those visiting our parish over this Christmas Season. Along with the angels, we sing that hymn of “Glory to God in the highest” in praise and thanksgiving for the birth of our Savior who ushers in a new era of peace on earth. It was first the shepherds who heard this message of peace proclaimed by the angels on that First Christmas.

During the four weeks of Advent, we have all been preparing for an openness of heart and mind to let in God’s favor into our hearts. May we reap the fruits of our waiting in hope for the gift of peace that the Nativity of our Savior brings to us at this Christmas. May we find true peace, joy, and happiness as we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior who comes to bring each of us the gift of true peace in our hearts, families, parish community and in the world.

In the Gospel of Luke for the midnight Mass, try to focus on one short familiar phrase: “there was no room for them in the inn.” Christmas is about making room in the inn of our hearts. It is about making room for all people in our lives, especially the less fortunate; the ones who find no room in the inn; the homeless and the rejected. As we try to welcome Christ “in the stranger” into our hearts, may Christ bring us true peace, joy, and happiness this Christmas.  

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Yew Year 2019!

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

50th Anniversary of Priesthood Pilgrimage to Rome

In this article, I just want to briefly share my own reflections on the pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, and Siena on the occasion of my 50th Anniversary of my priesthood. All together we were 25 pilgrims from St. John’s and 2 from Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH). The pilgrimage was from December 2-12, 2018. Those 10 days were fascinating with certain highlights on each day. Here I just want to share my three top highlights:

My first highlight was Wednesday, December 5 at the Weekly General Audience with Pope Francis. We were all anxious to hear the message of the pope. On this day he started a new series of his catechesis on “The Our Father” sub-titled “Lord, teach us to pray”. In his usual simplicity, Pope Francis underlined Jesus as a person of prayer; in his life, it was a prayer that energized everything; there was a profound mystery about his prayer to the Father, and that was why his disciples asked Him: “Lord teach us to pray.” We too need to ask the Lord to teach us how to pray. The Pope concluded by   asking us during Advent to repeat the prayer of the disciples: “Master, teach us to pray.”

My second highlight was the private Mass with Pope Francis at Santa Marta, on Tuesday, December 11. In his brief homily (5 minutes) commenting on Isaiah 40:1-11, the pope started by “Let us allow ourselves to be consoled by God” The entire homily was a beautiful synthesis of the pastoral ministry of consolation, which should always be practiced by Christians. We console other people by tenderness, just as the Lord does to us. After Mass, the pope greeted all priests one by one as well as the lay faithful present at the Mass.

My third highlight was our celebration of the Holy Mass at the Catacomb of St. Callistus on the Appian way.   The main highlight here was the celebration of the Holy Mass at one of the altars underground, surrounded by thousands of saints of 3rd and 4th centuries buried there.

The pilgrimage was meant to help us deepen our faith through the prism of the many sights we visited, in Rome, Assisi, and Siena. 

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Liturgical Symbolism of the Advent Wreath

The Advent Wreath comes from an old European tradition. It was mainly a way to involve even very little children in learning about preparation for Christmas spiritually. The main symbolism of the Advent wreath is the coming of Light into the world is clear. The gradual lighting of the four candles, one on each Sunday of the Advent season, combined with the liturgical colors of the candles purple is the penitential color used during Advent and Lent. The desert rose color used only on the third Sunday of Advent Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice Sunday) helps to symbolize not only our expectation and hope in Our Savior's first coming into the world, but also in his Second Coming as Judge at the end of the world.

As a family tradition, the wreath itself is also symbolic. The circle of evergreen in which the candles are placed represents everlasting life. The seedpods, nuts, and cones used to decorate the wreath are symbolic of new life. On the first Sunday of Advent, the wreath may be sprinkled with holy water to bless it before the first purple candle is lit. Then the blessing before meals is said if you use the wreath at mealtime. The second Sunday two purple candles are lit; the third Sunday, two purple and one rose; and all candles are lit on the fourth Sunday.

In the family, children who are old enough can take turns lighting the candles every Sunday at the beginning of the dinner meal. The littlest ones can blow them out at the end of the meal. If you use the wreath at mealtime, it is helpful to place it on a tray or platter so it can be moved, and to protect the table from candle wax.

On Christmas Day, all the greens and decorations may be replaced with fresh ones, and four new white candles, symbolizing Christ. The white candles replace the colored ones and are lit throughout the Christmas season. Since the Advent season is a reminder to pray and watch, the family when together may pray the Angelus at the lunch and dinner family meal.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Advent: The Reason for the Season

 

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the entire season is twofold:  1) a preparation to celebrate of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent; 2) the anticipation of the return of Christ the King. Advent helps us to reflect on the mystery of how God, in his divine providence, prepared the entire human race for salvation through God’s gradual revelation of in Christ, born in the history of the Blessed  Virgin Mary. As we prepare to remember this event, we relive that history and prepare ourselves spiritually. We relive in expectation of the birth of our Savior. The Advent days help to prepare us spiritually for the coming of Christ.

Thus, Advent is a spiritual journey that we as Christians take, through the truths of Scripture that point to the birth of Messiah. The themes we will meet during the four weeks of Advent are Hope, Peace, Joy and God’s love for his people. The readings of Advent in a special way prepare us for the journey towards Christmas. On the first Sunday of Advent, the Gospel from Luke underlines the urgency of our readiness. For the coming of our redemption. On the Second Sunday of Advent, the gospel will quote the prophecy of Isaiah drawing our attention to the preaching and ministry of John the Baptist who came to "Prepare the Way of the Lord." On the Third Sunday, (Laetare Sunday), the Gospel from Luke will speak about the message of John the Baptist to the crowds, tax collectors and the soldiers, exhorting them all to treat others with God’s love and justice. On the Fourth Sunday, the Gospel from Luke will focus our attention on the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.

May you have a blessed and fruitful Advent journey.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda 

Beyond Hospitality

In follow up to the article on hospitality, I wanted us to reflect on what more we can do after welcoming our new parishioners before the Sunday Mass. Greeting them with a lei before Mass is meaningful, but what happens next? The first thing our hospitality ministers need to do is meet them after Mass and give them a registration form as they do not know where to find them. This past Sunday I met one new parishioner who was walking away with a lei and I asked her where she came from and said she had just moved to Mililani from Waipio. She wanted to register, and so I gave her the registration form which she completed and gave to me. We have to make an effort to encounter them before they leave the campus. If I am new in the parish and I receive a lei and no one bothers to talk to me after Mass, I might not come back because I do not matter at all!

Beyond hospitality in the Church, the first step the pastor takes after receiving a registration form is to send a letter of welcome to the new parishioner. A letter from the pastor is not enough. In the 2017 and 2018 we started meeting with new parishioners, mainly to introduce them to our parish. We have had two such meetings that take place after the 11 am Mass on the rectory lanai with a light lunch. Hospitality ministers, parish staff two of us priests are usually present.

Along with self-introduction, the new parishioners share a little about themselves and what they like about our parish. We also introduce our parish to the new parishioners using our well researched parish brochure that contains all the beautiful art work in our church. In this way we engage our new parishioners so that they feel a sense of belonging. Part of engaging new parishioners is also to lead them share the talents and gift they bring along to the parish. In that process, we help them to identify what their contribution to the life of the parish would be in terms of ministry.  

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Hospitality Grows our Parish

In the last two years, we have taken our Aloha Hospitality Ministry more seriously. When one arrives on our campus, the first thing one notices is a banner that says “Welcome to St. John’s: A Place to Feel at Home.” Hospitality helps to grow the parish. This year we have gone to a new level of hospitality and welcome to a shared responsibility of all volunteers and clergy as well. We go long ways before Mass on Sundays to greet and welcome all visitors and new parishioners. We offer them leis as a sign of our welcome and hospitality. We realize that only when people feel welcome to do they get a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging leads to being actively engaged in the life of the parish and engagement opens the door to being equipped and formed for ministry and witness in the community in terms of evangelization. In welcoming new parishioners, we prepare them for witness in their own lives, so that they may be ready to evangelize others.

One new component of Hospitality is marking areas in our church space designated for persons with disability with a clear sign. The results have been amazing. There have been very positive comments by persons with disability. One such person said that St. John’s was the only parish with reserved space for persons with disability. The person also added that they would not think of going to any other parish because of showing such care for persons with disability.

By practicing hospitality as a way of life, we have actually grown the parish. The results of hospitality have been amazing. From 2014-2018 our parish added 496 new registered households.  However, the best measure is not the number of new parishioners, but the engagement of volunteers in ministries. Our ministries have grown and so has the number of volunteers serving in these ministries. Just look at the lanai on any given Sunday and you notice volunteers engaged in ministry mainly to serve others. Our daily Mass attendance has increased. We have become a more vibrant parish community more particularly because of our vibrant weekend liturgies that engage parishioners to participate.  

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

OCC Construction Update

 

We are seriously building! On Wednesday, November 7, a preconstruction meeting took place between the Architects, General Contractor (GC), the Project Manager (PM) and parish representatives. The purpose of the meeting was to get an update from both the GC and the PM on where we are at the moment. The meeting also aimed at putting in place areas of coordination between the Architects, GC, PM, and St. John’s before the construction begins.

According to the GC (Design Build of Hawaii), there was still more paperwork to be done before getting the construction permits. With regard to the construction, the tentative date of beginning the construction of the One Community Center is now set for November 26, right after Thanksgiving Day. If you look on our lawn, you will see red paint marking the line of the construction fence that will soon be put in place before construction begins.

In preparation for construction, the GC will cordon off the total space needed with a “silt fence on three sides and plywood fence on the church side.  Part of the parking lot towards Kipapa Drive will also be cordoned off for the GC use. The entrance on Kipapa will be gated and used only by the GC trucks. This means that our parking lot will be reduced by about half during weekdays, but we will have access to the other half on Sundays. We will be using Kuahelani Avenue entrance only and exit through the same gate. The good news is that the GC is prepared to accommodate us especially when we have funerals. All we have to do is inform them. As construction begins, we will all be able to monitor the progress via a site camera with a link on our parish website.

We will give more details before November 26. We will all have to be patient as well as considerate especially to those differently abled, the elderly and families with small children.

 

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Bulletin Special Announcement

Just in case you missed this special announcement last Sunday, we are seriously Building! I am happy to announce that the Diocese has authorized us to award the construction contract of the OCC to Design Build of Hawaii (DBH). The good news is that we are saving over $200,000 with DBH. The contract has been signed by the Diocese and by me and given to the General Contractor. The next and final step is for the GC to get the construction permits that should be done in about two weeks. Since you cannot make an omelet without cracking an egg, there will be inconveniences when construction begins. There will be more announcements before the construction begins.

The Projector Manager for the OCC Construction is Robert Woodring from Rider Levett & Bucknall (RLB) company, the same company overseeing the Resurrection of the Lord parish hall construction. Robert will meet with the parish leadership monthly for update on the construction which will take about 12 months.

We are particularly grateful to Les Hunkele for his professional advise throughout this process and providentially he is with us this weekend. It is because of his professional guidance that we have arrived at this point on our OCC plans. The professional advice Les has given has saved us thousands of dollars if we were to hire someone to do what he did for us. I take the opportunity also to thank our parish Leadership Advisory Council (LAC) for their continuous guidance on both the OCC planning and the capital campaign.

Our Parish Leadership Advisory Council (LAC) will soon meet to discuss on ways of bringing phase 2 of the capital campaign to conclusion. You will receive an update after that meeting.

So, stay tuned!

Monsignor John S. Mbinda