Spirituality of Stewardship

Spirituality of Stewardship

In the last Sunday bulletin, we considered “stewardship as a way of life,” because there is no part-time discipleship. In other words, we live as disciples and as stewards of Jesus Christ for life. It is a way of life. There is a basic spirituality that enables us to live as faithful disciples and stewards. Just as discipleship is living out our commitment to Jesus Christ, so too, stewardship is living out that commitment by being Christ-centered, rather than self-centered. This Christ centeredness is what we call spirituality. We become Christ-centered through conversion. This conversion is the result of being totally for others just as Jesus Christ was. A steward’s life becomes immersed and totally focused on God, Creator and source of all good gifts. When I come to the realization that there is nothing I have that belongs to me, that is a sign of conversion to a spirituality of stewardship. The result of such a deep awareness is profound gratitude for all that God has given me. In addition, justice and love become fundamental motives for giving back to God what in the first place God has given me.

To live as a disciple of Christ, the Christian steward is called to love with the same love and same spirit of self-giving as Jesus. Such love is made possible through the grace of God, and is manifested in ten characteristics: prayer, trust, patience, responsibility, gratitude, generosity, simplicity, mercy and perseverance. Jesus himself showed us quite clearly how to practice these characteristics. Scripture has many examples of how these characteristics should be lived out. Our Blessed Mother Mary and the saints are wonderful models of these characteristics.

The Holy Eucharist is certainly the sacrament in which our love to live these characteristics is nourished and strengthened. The family is “domestic church” where members first learn and practice these characteristics, and from there continue to live as disciples of Jesus Christ by living that spirituality in the parish community. Through these characteristics, the Christian steward grows to live more fully stewardship as a way of life, a disciple’s life of self-giving. “Give, and it shall be given to you…For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.” (Lk 6:38).

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

 

Stewardship is a Way of Life

Stewardship is a Way of Life

 

“As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10)

This quotation perhaps helps us to understand what a steward is. In the context of the above verse, “good stewards of God’s varied graces” bears the meaning of ministers of God’s many gifts. Accordingly, each one of us by virtue of our Baptism, is called to be not just an inactive follower of Jesus Christ, but an active one by serving one another as good caretakers of the gifts each has received from God. Faithful stewards are faithful disciples. Stewardship like discipleship is a way of life, not a program.

What identifies a steward? Safeguarding material and human resources and using them responsibly is one answer; so is generous giving of time, talent, and treasure.  But being a Christian steward means more. As Christian stewards, we receive God's gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and like in the parable of the talents, return them with increase to the Lord.

Disciples as Stewards

Let us begin with being a disciple—a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. As members of the Church, Jesus calls us to be disciples. This has astonishing implications:

  • Mature disciples make conscious decisions to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.
  • Christian disciples experience conversion—life shaping changes of mind and heart—and commit themselves to the Lord.
  • Christian stewardship empowers one to shape and mold one’s understanding of one’s life and ministry focused on Christ’s mission and purpose.

As Jesus' stewards, we recognize God as the origin of life, giver of freedom, and source of all things. We are grateful for the gifts we have received and are eager to use them to show our love for God and for one another. We look to the life and teaching of Jesus for guidance in living as Christian stewards.”  In the next bulletin, the catechesis will be about the spirituality of stewardship.  So stay tuned.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

 

A Time of Renewal

A Time of Renewal

The Advent season is a time of renewal as we await the coming of our Savior. As we begin this new liturgical year, our diocese invites us to begin a process of reflection on stewardship as a way of life. The Catholic Herald this month had a feature article on this theme, “Next Step: Stewardship.” The article reports that Bishop Larry Silva has formed “a task force to promote the spirituality of giving time, talent and treasure.” A copy of this article is inserted in today’s bulletin so that you may read it and reflect on it because the new direction set by our diocese will affect everyone in the parish. It is important to be aware of what the diocese has in mind. “As the five-year Grateful Hearts campaign draws to close, the diocese hopes parishioners will move toward stewardship as a way to continue the generous support it has garnered for ministry needs.”

This reflection is entitled “A Time of Renewal” because this season of Advent will help us to embrace the intended change and direction. In order to prepare ourselves here at St. John Apostle & Evangelist, two new advisory councils will be established at the beginning of Lent 2014: 1) Stewardship Council that the Pastor will appoint from diverse categories of parishioners including clergy, all staff of our parish, and leaders of all ministries. 2) Planned Giving Council with membership of minimum 3 and maximum 5 members.

In preparation for the above time-frame, a process of strategic planning of: vision, goals, procedures, expected results and available materials starts this Sunday with this reflection and the insert article from our diocese.

As we begin the Advent season, I invite you with the words of the prophet Isaiah on this Sunday’s first reading, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” Climbing the Lord’s mountain is a biblical metaphor for walking into the presence of God; the house of God, where God is going to reveal himself to us. Our Advent journey is about walking gradually into the mystery of the Incarnation that unfolds and changes everything for humanity. May this mystery renew and change us individually and our parish community.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

 

Jesus Christ the King: Keeping our Faith Ablaze

Jesus Christ the King: Keeping our Faith Ablaze

The Year of Faith that began on October 11 2012 ends this Sunday, on the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King of the Universe. As we look back to the Year of Faith, let us rejoice in the graces received during this Year of Faith. What a year it has been here in our parish! Just think back to the faith and leadership formation programs we have had during the year. Think of the energy generated by our various ministries as they shared the gifts of time, talent and treasure. Several questions that we need to ask are: how do we harvest the fruits of the Year of Faith? How do we keep ablaze the fire of faith generated during this year? What about the impact of all our various faith and leadership programs within and beyond our parish boundaries? These questions are important as we go forward.

At the time the Year of Faith was beginning last year, a new feature movie was being released with the title: “For Greater Glory”. The movie tells the story of the Mexican Cristero war which broke out in the 1920’s. The government had decided to enforce strict anti-clerical laws that included the banning of: Masses, all sacraments, and wearing of clergy garbs in public. Moreover, bishops were forced to leave the country and priests who resisted were imprisoned, tortured and executed. One of the most touching scenes is the execution of Padre Christopher, an old priest, played by Peter O’Toole, as a young boy of 14 watches from hiding. Young José who witnesses that execution (José Luis Sánchez del Río) is fired up to join the Cristero army to fight against the government forces. Jose is captured in a fierce battle, imprisoned and tortured, but each time the government soldiers ask him a question he responds “Viva el Crito Rey” (Long live Christ the King). Those are his last words as he is executed and thrown into a ditch. This inspiring movie touches our faith deeply.

The fruits of the Year of Faith are made concrete in the entire liturgical celebration of the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King. It challenges each of us to ask the question of whether Jesus is truly our king who influences our thinking and actions. In the movie “For Greater Glory” José is deeply convinced that Jesus Christ rules his life. The Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King challenges each of us to ask serious questions: Is Jesus Christ my “Dominus”, my “Mano”, my “Seigneur”? Whose boots or feet do I kiss? If Jesus is truly the one who rules my life, there is then a further challenge: to give witness; to share my faith with others; to go out in search of those who are lost and bring them home. Faith will not grow unless it is shared. The fruits harvested during the Year of Faith need to be shared with those who desperately need nourishment; those out there on the margins; those alienated; those absent from our pews. To live our parish motto for the Year of Faith "Set Your Faith Ablaze in the Year of Faith”, we need to scatter into the parish community and bring the warmth of the good news to those who need it most.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

 

Signs of the End Times

Signs of the End Times

These last Sundays in the liturgical year purposely focus our attention on the end of times, final judgment and Christ’s second coming. We are reminded of the need for preparedness, a theme that continues during Advent.

Three years ago, film makers released a new movie “2012”. This apocalyptic movie was based on the prophecies of Nostradamus (1503-1566) who prophesied that a comet would destroy the world in 2012. The doomsday prophets gave a specific date for the end: December 21 2012, the date of the Winter Solstice. That day came and nothing happened! So you and I know that there is something wrong about such prophecies. In today’s world, it is very easy to be confused by ideas from all sorts of preachers about the end of the world. Some even give an exact date and time, and to make it even more exciting, they indicate a place where their followers should gather, for the Lord to take them up – the so called rapture!

Jesus in the Gospel this Sunday uses the destruction of the Temple as a sign of the end times. He also cautions against the danger of apocalyptic messages of false prophets, who try to announce the end of the world. The point of the readings today is that God wants us to be ready at all times. Jesus confirms that the end times will certainly come, and warns against false prophets. “Take care not to be deceived…because many will come using my name and saying ‘I am he’ and ‘the time is near at hand’... And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen, but the end is not so soon” (Lk. 21:8). Because those are only signs, do not listen to anyone telling you when the end of the world is coming: whether they are priests or televangelists or self-proclaimed prophets or spiritual writers. Jesus in the Gospel does not tell us when the end times will come. He only speaks about signs of the end: wars, earthquakes, insurrections, famines and plagues; “and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven." The point Jesus makes is that we should be concerned about our readiness at all times especially when we see these signs of the end times. We must not wait to be struck down by a tsunami, a hurricane or super typhoon in order to get ready! That would be too late. Readiness means being prepared to meet our maker at any time and so the important question is: am I prepared? Are you?

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

 

Veterans in the Pews (VIP) Ministry

Veterans in the Pews (VIP) Ministry

“For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt. 25:35-36).In these two verses from the well know text of Matthew 25, we find the biblical foundation for our parish commitment to Veterans in Pews (VIP) ministry. The Diocese of Hawaii Office of Social Ministry (OSM) describes the objective of VIP as follows: “to establish both working partnership with the US Vets Homeless program, the Veterans Administration and to maximize utilization of untapped people resources in our parishes – namely veterans who are retired or still serving in active duty”. (OSM, October 2011).

This program serves men and women and more recently, families of homeless servicemen and women. One activity of VIP ministry is the engagement in “Search Parties” where parish volunteers actively seek out homeless vets in and around the parish community. The goal here is to find and befriend “lost warriors,” gain their trust and connect them to homeless housing assistance through the US Vets program. Other ways parishioners may support VIP would be through on-site activities at the homeless shelter in Kalealoa, participation and support for the Patriot Fun Run event and possibly off-site activities at the parishes and in the community. US Vets serves and will accept into their program, homeless vets residing on all islands.

Since last year, VIP ministry here at St. John’s began to mark Veterans Day with a special celebration to give thanks to God for all Veterans both in active duty and retired as well as their families for their sacrifices in order to keep us safe. Last year’s celebration was very successful and so our VIP ministry has planned another celebration this year too. I take the opportunity to thank the Diocesan OSM for encouraging our parish VIP ministry members to offer their time, talent and treasure for serving all Veterans especially our wounded warriors and those who suffer in anyway as a consequence of their service in uniform.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

The Communion of Saints

The Communion of Saints

On November 1 we celebrate the Solemnity of All the Saints, and on November 2 we commemorate all the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day). One of the most beautiful articles in the Apostles’ Creed is that which speaks of the communion of saints. Understanding these three words can sow the seeds of deeper spiritual growth. After confessing "the holy catholic Church," the Apostles' Creed adds "the communion of saints. All the baptized form one body and the good of each is shared by all.

The Saints in heaven: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (=CCC) paragraphs 957-958 teaches about the saints in heaven. Briefly it says that they establish the whole Church in holiness. Their merits are offered through Christ, the one Mediator. By their concern and help, we make progress in our pilgrimage on earth.

The Souls in Purgatory: In #959, the Catechism teaches us about the souls in purgatory. The Church has always had great respect for the dead. "It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for all the faithful departed in purgatory that they may be loosed from their sins" (2 Macc 12:45). By our prayers because they cannot pray for themselves.

The Church on Earth: In the Eucharistic Prayer, the presider remembers the communion of the Church on earth, the communion of the faith departed and concludes with a prayer asking God that with all the saints in heaven “we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life.” After celebrating various saints through the liturgical year, the Church sets one liturgical event to celebrate all the saints both known and unknown (see the catechesis of last Sunday). Our union with the saints in heaven joins us to Christ.

The mystery of the communion of saints is expressed beautifully in a delightful story about a parish priest on a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. One day a visitor asked the pastor, “How many people usually worship here on Sunday?” The priest’s answer was, “Oh, about ten to twelve thousand, I would suppose.” The visitor was somewhat bewildered. “This is a tiny island,” she said, “and the church is small. Where do all these people come from and how can they possibly fit into so small a church building?” The priest smiled and then said to the visitor, “All the people who ever lived on this island since it received the gospel message are still here. Just think of what we say in the sacred liturgy: —Therefore with all the angels and the saints and the whole company of the faithful we praise your glory forever.’ Don’t you realize,” he added, “that when we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy we are joining with all the holy ones who have ever worshiped in this church?” May our understanding of the communion of saints sow the seeds of deeper spiritual growth particularly through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist where this mystery is highlighted and celebrated.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

Solemnity of All Saints

Solemnity of All Saints

The coming Friday November 1, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. Originally, it was a commemoration of “all the martyrs” instituted in the Eastern Church in 400 A.D. The purpose of this Feast serves to commemorate all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, known and unknown, who have passed on to their eternal glory. The feast gathers God’s holy ones, in heaven and on earth, to celebrate God’s victory which is already (for those in heaven) and not yet (for us). The readings for this solemnity reflect on this yet and not yet perspective. The scene depicted in the Book of Revelation takes place in the presence of God and the Lamb. Here a vast multitudes of saints gather, their robes made white by the blood of the Lamb, with palms of victory in their hands, giving glory and praise to God. This Feast makes us aware that we are all called to holiness and to sainthood.  Every age, race, language, people and nation have produced saints, holy men and women who pleased God and now share in God’s glory.

The great multitude stands before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes, with palm branches in their hands. The robes and branches are symbols of victory. They cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation from our God who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb!” These are the people who suffered for Christ and “who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” It is the blood of Jesus Christ which brings salvation but only to those who have united with him in sharing its effects. Many of them, of course, are martyrs and they have mingled their own blood with that of Jesus. These are the saints we remember on this solemnity; the men and women who have endured the ups and downs of life and finished the course of their pilgrimage on earth in Christ.

The Gospel passage is on the Beatitudes. It offers Matthew’s perspective on Jesus’ teaching on the values of the kingdom. Matthew’s emphasis shifts the focus from heaven (the vision of Revelation) to earth. The Beatitudes offer us, as it were, a charter for holiness as followers of Christ here on earth. They focus on the values of Jesus as against the values of this world. Jesus rejects what is held in high esteem by the world.  The Beatitudes are a kind of a mission statement on what a good Christian should be. Those who embrace them encounter a change in fortunes! The poor in spirit - who totally depend on God are enriched. Those who mourn are comforted. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are satisfied. In the final Beatitude Jesus exhorts those who follow this charter of holiness: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” The men and women whose solemnity we celebrate on November 1, lived these Beatitudes and won their victory into heaven. What about you and me?

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

The Church is by nature Missionary

The Church is by nature Missionary

This Sunday has been designated by the Church as World Mission Sunday. What is World Mission Sunday? World Mission Sunday is a day set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church's missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice. From its very foundation, the Church understands itself as being in mission. Jesus himself was a missionary. Before returning to the Father, he sent the Church to continue the mission given him by the Father and empowered her with his Spirit: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20:21). We also recall the final words of Jesus to his disciples. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20). In the Vatican document on the Missionary activity of the Church, the Church is described as follows: “The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father” (Ad Gentes, #2).

On World Mission Sunday, every parish and every diocese express solidarity with other local dioceses that need resources for spreading the message of Christ in every corner of the world. We do this by what we call a second collection which goes directly to the diocesan chancery, and from there to the USCCB Pontifical Mission Society, which then sends the collection to the Vatican Congregation for Evangelization. Every year the needs of the Catholic Church in the Missions grow - as new dioceses are formed, as new seminaries are opened because of the growing number of young men hearing Christ's call to follow Him as priests, as areas devastated by war or natural disaster are rebuilt, and as other areas, long suppressed, are opening up to hear the message of Christ and His Church. That is why the involvement and commitment of Catholics from around the world is so urgently needed. Offerings from Catholics in the United States, on World Mission Sunday and throughout the year, are combined with offerings to the Propagation of the Faith worldwide.

About 1,100 mission dioceses receive annual assistance from the funds collected. In addition, these mission dioceses submit requests to the Vatican Office for the Evangelization of Peoples for assistance, among other needs, for catechetical programs, seminaries, the work of Religious Communities, for communication and transportation needs, and for the building of chapels, churches, orphanages and schools. These needs are matched with the funds gathered in each year and then distributed, in their entirety, to mission dioceses throughout the world. Through your offering, you participate in a worldwide missionary vocation and work of the Church.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

Pope Francis’ Unique Witness: Pilgrimage to Assisi

Pope Francis’ Unique Witness: Pilgrimage to Assisi

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has amazed us with his unique and powerful witness to Jesus Christ. Last Friday the pope made a pilgrimage to Assisi to confirm the reason why he chose the name of Saint Francis of Assisi. He helped us to understand the deeper meaning this humble saint. On arrival in Assisi, Pope Francis said that his visit was above all a pilgrimage of love, to pray at the tomb of a man who, stripped himself, clothed himself in Christ and, following Christ's example, offered his love to all, especially the poorest and most abandoned; he loved God's creation with wonder and simplicity. To symbolically relive the example of Saint Francis the first thing the pope did was to visit a group of sick and disabled children, where he exhorted those who serve the poor after the example of Saint Francis. The pope’s unique witness is one of conversion, detachment and concern for the poor following the example of Saint Francis.

Pope Francis then went to the bishop's residence. It was here, in 1206, Francis stripped himself of his rich garments and proclaimed God as his true Father. In the “Sala della Spoliazione” (room of stripping), where this episode took place, the Holy Father met with the poor assisted by Caritas. Pope Francis was the first pope in 800 years to visit the room. This part of the visit was dramatic and challenging because the point of the visit here was conversion: stripping ourselves of worldliness and putting on Christ. The pontiff, speaking off the cuff here, said that during recent days the media had speculated about what he would say in that room. “The Pope will go to despoil the Church there! He will despoil the bishops, the cardinals, himself!” This, he observed “is a good opportunity to invite the Church to despoil herself. But we are all Church! All of us! From the first moment of our baptism, we are all Church, and we must all take the path of Jesus, who took the path of despoiling himself…And if we wish to be Christians, there is no other path”.

Later Pope Francis stopped at St. Mary of the Angels for lunch at the Caritas soup kitchen located there. He ate with the homeless and refugees. He also took a few moments of private prayer in the tiny, undecorated chapel adjacent to the dining room. The whole pilgrimage reached its high point at the Holy Mass celebrated in the Square of St. Francis. Before departure for Rome, the pope met with the youth and young adults from the region of Umbria exhorting them to be witnesses of the faith with their life: bringing Christ into their homes, proclaiming Him to their friends, welcome Him and serve Him with the poor. The pope concluded: “Young people, give Umbria a message of life, peace and hope! You can do it!” At each step of his journey, the Pope made time for quiet moments of prayer and reflection, following in the footsteps of the “Little Poor Man” of Assisi.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor