Do Not Be Afraid!

“Do not be afraid!  I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6)  With these words of the angel to the women at the tomb, I offer you this joyful Easter message.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the most unique victory which no human being has ever achieved – victory over the power of death.  We celebrate that victory every Easter and every Sunday.  Christ’s victory over death is good news reminding us that we must not be afraid because Christ lives to give us hope in this life and eternal life in the world to come.

Because of the resurrection, there is nothing we need to be afraid of.  We know that Christ’s power of the resurrection will indeed lead us to victory. 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 the out to transform all that and lead you out of the crisis, whatever it may be. God intends you to have life in abundance. God gives you abundant life through the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. Let Christ take over your life. “Do not be afraid!”

I wish you all a blessed and fruitful Easter season. “Christ is risen, alleluia, alleluia!”

 

 

Capital Campaign Prayers

“Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build.”  (Psalm 127:1)

One of the most important components of a parish capital campaign is not only seeking God’s help that a campaign be successful, but also that the Lord be in partnership with those who build. That is why the psalmist reminded the Israelites that if the Lord is not with the in their building of their cities, they would be laboring in vain.

As we begin our journey into the capital campaign for the One Community Center, we are reminded of asking the Lord to accompany us with His grace and blessings. We read in Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations. For ever and ever! Amen.” God’s grace is God’s free gift and blessing. Everything we have has been given to us by God. He has given us our families, our jobs, our friends, as well as our time, talent and treasure. Consider for a moment all the blessings you have received because of God’s love for you.

For St. John’s to continue to glorify God through our many ministries, we need you. We need the participation of all parishioners. We are all members of one parish community, each with his/her own role within the parish. What is your role? We ask for your prayers and support. Please prayerfully consider what you can do to help further God’s mission of preaching the good news of Jesus Christ in Mililani and beyond.  The One Community Center will be a place to gather, engage, equip and send out parishioners to evangelize.  May God bless your support.  Above all, please pray for the capital campaign and be part of the journey.

Msgr. John Mbinda

 

 

Capital Campaign Values (Part 2)

Commitment

St. Paul was a master fundraiser. In 2 Corinthians 8, he challenged the Christians of Corinth to “purpose in their hearts that which they should give and follow through by giving that faithfully.”  A capital campaign is a stewardship process with a clear vision and purpose, to which parishioners commit themselves to genuinely give their God-given treasure.  Personal commitments are statements of intention to give.  Genuinely giving is marked by prayerful discernment, generosity, sacrifice and faith.

Witness

While a personal commitment is between me and God, it is also part of stewardship as a way of life. There are no secret stewards or private givers. King David witnessed to “all the congregation of Israel” what he was giving to build the temple (1 Chronicles 29:10). He appealed to the people to give a similar sacrificial gift. He could not honestly ask the people to sacrifice their treasure until he himself had been committed. Parishioners will always wonder if their priests practice what they say. In my case, when it comes to stewardship commitments, I always commit myself before coming to you to ask for any commitment. I know I have given sacrificially for this capital campaign, and I ask you, dear parishioners to do the same.

Involvement

Every successful outcome depends the involvement of all. One biblical example is found in Exodus 35 on the building of the Tabernacle. This was only possible because of the massive involvement of the people of Israel. I will be appealing to all parishioners to be involved in the capital campaign. At the moment as we prepare for the Easter festivities, I ask you to pray for the success of the capital campaign, so that God may accomplish this project through the involvement of all parishioners.

 

 

Capital Campaign Values

Generosity

To give to your parish community is an acknowledgement of God’s ownership of all that we possess.  “For everything is from you, and what we give is what we have from you.”  (1 Chronicles 29:14)  Giving generously makes it possible for the parish to accomplish its purpose and mission.  As stewards, managers, and overseers of what God has provided for our life, we are accountable to God for all that He has placed into our life, not just for a portion of the amount.  Our giving must always be an act of love and gratitude.  When giving is a response to God’s blessings, it is always with gratitude and generosity.

Sacrifice

In the Old Testament, people came to worship with their sacrifice in hand.  The word “sacrifice” can be defined as “to set apart” or “to make holy”.  Therefore, sacrificial giving is, as one would put it, “giving something I value for someone I value even more”.  Some examples of sacrificial giving are windows into the Temple; the boy who gave all his lunch of bread and fish so that Jesus could feed a multitude of people and the woman who anointed Jesus with an alabaster jar of expensive ointment.  God measures your gift, not by your relationship with others, but your relationship to your resources and what is left over after the gift. 

St. Paul put it this way, “For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has.” (2 Corinthians 8:12)  In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “From every one to whom much has been given, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)  In view of this, all giving to a capital campaign is always over and above regular giving as found in 1 Chronicles 29:3.  The author says, “because of the delight I take in the house of my God, in addition to all that I stored up for the holy house, I give to the house of my God my personal fortune in gold and silver…”

 

 

Grateful Giving of Treasure

“How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?” (Psalm 116:12). This catechesis focuses on being grateful for the treasures God gives to each of us.  It may come as a surprise to learn that while the Bible has about 500 verses on prayer and fewer than 500 verses on faith, there over 2,300 biblical verses dealing money and possessions.  Without apology, Jesus says more about money and possessions than he does on any other subjects including heaven and hell.  Jesus knew the human heart so well.  He knew the way money gets hold on our hearts and the way at times we forget the giver of all we possess.

We give to God because He first gave us all we possess.  “What do you possess that you have not received?  But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor 4:7).  We have been abundantly blessed by God. Each time we come to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we come intentionally to express gratitude to God.  Shortly before the consecration, the presider and the congregation exchange a dialogue of thanksgiving. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God”, the presider prays, and we respond, “It is right and just.”  The presider continues to pray, It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord.”

Just as the Father sacrifices His Son on the Cross for our salvation, our thanksgiving to God needs to be sacrificial.  Unless our monetary gift is sacrificial, it is not really a thanksgiving but more like a tip to God.  One of the tensions in our discipleship lies in whether we live our life and give to God the leftovers, or whether we give to God first, and then manage the rest.  During this capital campaign, put down your pledge to give for our One Community Center prayerfully. Count your blessings first, and then write down your pledge.  May God bless you this Lenten season.

 

 

The Liturgy of the Word (Part Three)

The Creed (Profession of Faith)

After the Homily on most Sundays and Holy Days, we stand and recite the Creed which originated in Jerusalem as a profession of faith before baptism. It was then formalized in 325 at the Council of Nicea and further developed at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

A creed is a statement or summary of belief. The structure of the Creed reinforces our belief in the Holy Trinity, first addressing the Father, then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit, stressing that the three persons are one God. At the heart of our faith is our belief that God became one of us at the birth of Christ. To highlight our belief in this truth, we are asked to bow at the words “By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” The Creed is a very important prayer. When we pray the Creed together, be sure to join in the prayer.

The Prayers of the Faithful

The Prayers of the Faithful, also known as the General Intercessions or the Universal Prayers, take place at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, and serve like a hinge connecting the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the next part of the Mass). The structure of the prayers of the faithful is generally the same: a short introduction by the priest, followed by 5-7 intercessions proclaimed by the deacon or lector, with a short concluding prayer led by the priest. At the end of each petition, we respond “Lord, hear our prayer.” These prayers follow a general order: for the needs of the Church; for public authorities and the salvation of the world; for those burdened with any kind of difficulty; for the local community.

 

 

The Liturgy of the Words (Part Two)

The First Reading

The First Reading is generally taken from the Old Testament, with two exceptions. However, during the Easter season, the first reading comes from the book of Acts. The first reading is always linked, in some way, to the Gospel and highlights how a prophecy in the Old Testament is fulfilled through Jesus Christ. The Old Testament points us towards Christ in the Gospel, and Jesus Christ in the Gospel helps us to fully understand the Old Testament.

The Responsorial Psalm

Just like the other readings of scripture during the Mass, the Psalm is proclaimed from the ambo by a Cantor.  The Psalms that we proclaim at Mass come from the book of Psalms in the Old Testament.  The early Christians continued this practice of singing psalms in their worship, now with a clearer understanding of how those psalms spoke of Jesus Christ.  St. Augustine even wrote a series of homilies on the Psalms, showing their importance in the early church.

The Second Reading

The Second Reading, taken from the Letters in the New Testament, has a semi-continuous pattern. Because of this pattern, the second reading does not always connect with the first reading or the Gospel. The Letters in the New Testament were written to the early church by St. Paul and the Apostles. These letters offered support, encouragement, correction and guidance to a young church finding its way in a society that did not support them.

Gospel Acclamation

The Gospel Acclamation is a song of praise!  We prepare to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ by singing praise to Him!  During most of the year we sing “Alleluia” (Praise to God).  During Lent, another acclamation is substituted, as the Alleluia is seen as too joyful to be sung during the season of Lent.  Our participation in the singing of the Gospel Acclamation is very important.  In fact, the instructions for the Mass indicate that it should be omitted if it is not going to be sung.

The Gospel

The word Gospel means “Good News”.  What we hear proclaimed at Mass truly is good news, the best news we can hear: Jesus Christ speaks to us!  It is important to remember that when the Gospel is proclaimed, it is no longer the priest or deacon speaking, but Christ himself.  We should pay especially close attention to the words of the Gospel as they are proclaimed.  To help us focus on this very important reading, the Church gives us some additional postures and symbols of respect.  First, we stand out of respect for the Gospel reading.  Second, the Gospel is often carried in a special book, the Book of Gospels, which is placed in a place of honor during the Mass.  Incense and candles are used to indicate that Christ is present, speaking to us, through the Gospel we hear.

 

 

The Liturgy of the Word (Part One)

After the collect, the Mass continues with the Liturgy of the Word. The Liturgy of the Word is so important that it requires three short reflections. In part one we reflect only on the structure, importance of silence and the vocabulary we use. Part two will continue with the first reading up to the Gospel; and Part Three will deal with the homily and the Creed.

The structure of readings for Sunday Mass consists of a first reading, a responsorial psalm, a second reading, a Gospel acclamation, and a Gospel. Why do we proclaim the Word of God at Mass? The parish community is like a family and every family has its story —how your parents met, or how we are related to other families. When we gather for the Mass, we hear our story in God’s story of His love for us — through Sacred Scripture. We tell these stories whenever we gather for the Mass because these scriptures reinforce our faith and our relationship with God.

To listen, we need an engaged mind that is focused on the Word of God. We need time to process what we have heard. For this reason, it’s important to make good use of the silencesin between the readings. Most Catholics are scared of silence. If we take time throughout the Liturgy of the Word to reflect, we are more open to that Word as we listen to the Gospel and the homily.

The Word of God is always proclaimed from the ambo, a term which comes from a Greek word meaning “to ascend.” The ambo is only used for either the proclamation of the Word of God or for its explanation in the homily. It is never used for announcements! The first and second readings at Mass are proclaimed by a lector, while the responsorial psalm is proclaimed by a cantorwith response by the whole assembly that includes the music ministers. The Gospel is always proclaimed by a priest or deacon.

 

 Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

The Introductory Rites of Mass: Part Two

THE GLORIA

The Glory to God (the Gloria in Latin) is a hymn of praise echoing the angels at the birth of the Lord, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.” (Luke 2:14) The text elaborates on this message of the angels, recognizing the beauty, goodness and mercy of the Lord God through his Son, Jesus Christ. This prayer dates back to the sixth century and began for use only at Masses when a bishop was the celebrant, and who used only on solemn feasts. However, the beauty of this prayer captivated the priests and faithful. Slowly, permission was granted for priests to use it, but at first only for Easter. Today, “Glory to God” is sung or said at all Sunday Masses, solemnities, and feasts except during the seasons of Advent and Lent. Whether sung or said, this prayer is one of praise, and our voices should be lifted in praise as we say it!

THE COLLECT OR OPENING PRAYER

A lot takes place in the first five minutes of Mass. First, we gather as a community. We acknowledge our mutual sinfulness and need of mercy, and give praise to God for His goodness and glory to all of us. How fitting that the first priestly prayer of the Mass is then called the “Collect”! This opening prayer takes all of our individual needs and focuses them, collects them into a common purpose for celebrating that day’s Mass. While the priest is the one saying the prayer, the prayer belongs to all of us – note the introduction is “Let us pray,” not “let me pray.” After this introduction, there is a period of silence to help us to focus and recognize Christ’s presence, through whom we address our needs to the Father. Listen carefully to the words of the opening prayer when you’re at Mass, and pray for that common intention for which all of us are praying on that day.

The Introductory Rites of Mass: Part One

The introductory rites of the Mass include the entrance procession, the sign of the cross and greeting, the act of penitence, the Glory to God, and finally the opening prayer also known as the Collect.

Gathering Hymn and Procession

The Mass begins with the gathering hymn and procession. This serves a very practical purpose. It presumes that we are already gathered in the church, not running in at the last minute! When the priest, deacon, and servers reach the sanctuary steps, they reverence the altar with a genuflection or profound bow. The priests and deacons present then venerate the altar with a kiss. To kiss an object is a sign of respect and greeting, and dates to the 4th century.

The Sign of the Cross and Greeting

This ancient sign and prayer demonstrates that we believe in God and are gathered in the presence of the Holy Trinity. Immediately after the sign of the cross, the priest greets the assembly using one of three options. In the most common option the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” to which the people respond, “And with your spirit.” This greeting is not an ordinary greeting that we give to a friend on the street. It is a shortened version of the greeting given by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). The greeting helps to recognize Christ’s presence in the priest and in the gathered assembly, and expresses our faith in the Holy Trinity.

The Penitential Act

We prepare for the celebration of the Holy Mass by reflecting on our sins and asking one another and the entire assembly to pray for God’s forgiveness. At the end of the act of penitence, the priest says, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life,” and the assembly respond, “Amen.”  Part 2 will continue with the Gloria and the Collect.  So stay tuned.

 

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda