Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Today’s readings are all about negative consequences. The consequences that are described in all three readings are ones most of us rarely think about and are ones which surprisingly, do not come about because of the wrong that we do. No, these consequences are of a whole different kind. The consequences we are asked to consider this day are the negative consequences that arise from simply doing the right thing. That’s right --- consequences none of us really want, but which nevertheless often come about in our sincere attempt to do what God is asking of us.

And that just doesn’t seem fair.

It certainly wasn’t fair for Jeremiah, as we heard in our First Reading. All he did was speak the truth, and he almost lost his life because of it. And it sure wasn’t fair to Jesus --- the sinless Son of God who was asked to give up everything in order to fulfill the plan of the Father. In the second reading, Letter to the Hebrews it says,

“ . . . he endured the cross, despising its shame, . . .”

Who wants to suffer? Who wants to be rejected or despised, if we only see the negative consequences of following Jesus?

There are indeed many hardships for walking in the journey of faith. There are things unpleasant, and even painful. These negative consequences are not the only consequences. The truth is, the negative consequences are nothing in comparison to the positive consequences of doing the right thing, the things that come about and make the world more like God wants it to be. It is important for us to remain steadfast in the face of whatever opposition we face as we strive to follow God as best we can.

We need to always try to do the right thing, not just once in a while, but always, even if it means that we will suffer in the process. 

May our own daily crosses help make this world a better place. 

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Be ready!

Be ready!

Our readings this weekend calls us to be prepared, ready and vigilant.  The Lord says that to be prepared we need to act like servants waiting for their master’s return.  We need to become like a steward that watches over others needs when the master is not present.  A steward answers the call to serve God and to look for the needs of his/her brothers and sisters.  As stewards of God’s kingdom in earth, we need to live a responsible life, to follow God’s commandments and to have faith.  Faith is essential!  Faith is not being sure where we are going but going anyway.  Faith will never fear what the future may bring.  Rather, it enables a life to be ready for whatever the future holds.  The Lord is coming back and we need to be ready!  But, how should we prepare?  We need to keep ourselves busy doing the work of the Lord.   There is a lot to keep us busy.  Holding on to Jesus keeps us busy.  We are always fighting against our imperfections. 

We are always fighting against temptations.  We are continually fighting against those who mock us for our dedication to the church.  Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the negativity around us.  Particularly when we have to put up a fight for the Lord.  That is when we have to be busy.  Be busy doing the important things in your home, work, and church.  Standing up for the Lord keeps us busy.  We need to keep Christ first in our lives.  The moment we are distracted from the wisdom of Jesus, we begin to slip back into the ways of the world, that is, we begin to forget where our true security and happiness are found.   To be vigilant means, to keep Jesus and his teaching constantly before our eyes.  We are invited to have the faith of Abraham, live our faith in total trust in God and in service to others.  It is not enough for us to just look busy.  We have to be busy and we have to trust in Him.  Will the Lord find us busy, or will He find us lax in our responsibilities?  We are to live as though everything we have belongs to God and we are good stewards.  He will respond to our determination to live our faith by caring for us.

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Focus on Jesus, Your Eternal Inheritance

Focus on Jesus, Your Eternal Inheritance

It is so easy to allow the ways of the world to influence our daily activities. We are bombarded with messages extolling the piling up of things and the searching for personal satisfaction.

The author of our first reading remarks that life sometimes seems meaningless as people focus on their possessions and seek to get more. They spend all their times accumulating wealth and possessions, just to leave them behind to others when they die. The author was wise enough to ask the question, “Is it not vanities of vanities to labor so hard to build up earthly happiness and   before one realizes it, he has to leave it and depart from this world?” If all there is to life is material things and amassing fortune which will not travel along with us when we leave this mortal existence, then life is truly meaningless.

In the Gospel, Jesus also speaks about the futility of stockpiling things that will not be going with us as we transition from this earthly existence to eternity. Someone unhappy with the way his sibling is handling their inheritance, asks Jesus to get involved in the situation. Jesus uses the occasion to remind his audience that the focus is in the wrong place. If people are merely interested in amassing wealth and possession, they will lose what they treasure most when they are faced with death. Yet if one places value on developing a richer relationship with God, then death is a transition to the fulfillment of one’s searching, and one will be rewarded far beyond one’s expectations.

The underlying theme of the world is, as Jesus says in the Gospel, “eat, drink, and be merry” without thinking about death and to what death leads. St Paul advises us, “Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth,” such as immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, and greed. What is interesting is that St. Paul calls these lifestyles idolatry, that is worshiping of false gods.

The word of God today invites us first, to keep in mind that whatever we possess is God’s gift. This gift should not be a hindrance, but help to discover His love and goodness. We will remain accountable for two things: “How we acquired them?” and “what use we made of them?” Secondly, God wants us to remember that excessive attachment to earthly possessions and desires is dangerous. It makes us proud, closes our heart to the needs of our neighbour, and we easily turn these things into idols which replace God in our lives. 

Fr. Joseph Ayinpuusa

How to pray better: A heart filled with God

How to pray better: A heart filled with God.

In the gospel of today, the disciples make a request to Jesus which is somehow surprising. They asked him: Lord teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples. This question is surprising because as Jews, they normally prayed five times a day. It is more surprising when we consider the fact that the disciple who asked this question to Jesus made recourse to the fact that Jesus should imitate what John did: John had taught his disciples how to pray. However, what is more, important here is that they most have admired Jesus’ pragmatic and practical way of praying and communicating with God and wanted to learn this pragmatic method of approaching God. That is why they made the above request just after  Jesus had finished praying. Jesus taught them “The Our Father Prayer” and insisted that they must persevere in prayers. He further instructs them to ask and they will receive, seek and they will find, knock and the door will be opened to them.

Just as the disciples were in search of a way of communicating better and effectively with God, we must also strive to communicate better and effectively with God. If we have to be practical in communicating with God, then we must get rid of everything that occupies our heart and fills our heart with God.

Unless we fill our heart with God first, our efforts to pray would almost be fruitless at times. Think of the numerous times that we sit down to pray, and only different things occupy our hearts and minds. Think of how many prayer groups are found in the world and how many prayer books have been produced in the world, yet we still find it hard to concentrate in prayers. The point is that once we have occupied our heart with God, then when we sit down to pray, we would pray better without any distractions.   

By: Fr. Emile Yuban

Visiting Priest from Diocese of Kumbo, Cameroon

HOSPITALITY

HOSPITALITY

The one word that echoes in our readings today is hospitality. Last Sunday our liturgy reminded us of God's two greatest commandments of love of God and love of neighbor. And a neighbor, we were told, is anyone who is in need irrespective of relationship, color, race, gender, religion or status. Hospitality is a genuine way to show love for others. The term “hospitality” comes from the  Latin word “hospes,” which means “host.” Hospitality is essentially the relationship between a host and a guest. In the New Testament, the Greek word which is translated “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers.” Hospitality can be defined as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.”

Hospitality is a great virtue hailed in all the world civilizations. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, hospitality was a divine right. In the Biblical tradition hospitality is an obligation; it is a virtue that is both commanded and commended throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, it was specifically commanded by God: “When alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34).  During His public ministry, Jesus and His disciples depended entirely on the hospitality of others as they ministered from town to town (Matthew 10:9-10). Likewise, the early Christians also depended on and received hospitality from others (Acts 2:44-45; 28:7).

Today’s first reading gives an account of the hospitality of Abraham. The Gospel presents the hospitality of Martha and Mary. Two aspects of hospitality are brought out in these readings. The first requirement of hospitality is to provide for the guest generously. Some strangers appeared to Abraham at the oak of Mamre. As soon as he saw them, he invited them to stay and offered hospitality. He served them with delicious dinner and waited on them. Jesus himself had been the host many times in his life. When the crowd that was listening to Him felt hungry, Jesus multiplied bread to feed them. After His resurrection, Jesus invited the disciples to come and share the food he had prepared.

The second aspect of hospitality is to listen to the guest attentively. Jesus, along with his disciples, visited the house of Martha and Mary.  Martha struggled hard to prepare food for that group. Mary peacefully sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to him. Good hosts are good listeners. The medieval travellers, who entered the hall of local lords were invited to tell the story of their journey after refreshing themselves. When Jesus began his teaching there was a perfect listener, Mary. In spite of Martha’s reminder, Jesus did not ask Mary to leave her choice, of listening to Jesus. 

Hospitality is always rewarded generously. Abraham was given the promise that he would have a son. Hospitality, to bring its blessings, should be offered wholeheartedly. The proverb says, “It is a sin against hospitality, to open your door and darken your countenance.” St. Peter teaches, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Anything that we offer to others must spring from a generous heart. 

Fr. Joseph Ayinpuusa

“What is written in the law?”

“What is written in the law?”

A basic principle of Catholic moral teaching asserts that within the human heart is a divine law that commands us to love.   This weekend readings are a reminder of this teaching.  As Christians, we are called to love God and love neighbor.  We are called to extend our love to all we meet.  The scholar of the law from the Gospel of Luke was worried about what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus surprises him by answering with a question: “What is written in the law?”  The lawyer answered correctly when he named love as the law.  Law is not about keeping rules or even organizing ourselves, but about loving others.  And, above all, love is about relationships.  Eternal life is not inherited by keeping laws, but by caring for others and treating them with mercy.  Love is nothing less than the unconditional gift of self.  As followers of Jesus, we are to love, care for, and have mercy on others as he did: giving ourselves entirely. 

This weekend gospel invites us to place our self-sacrificing to meet the needs of others in the larger context of love.  Love is made concrete in our care for others.  Jesus makes explicit what is the purpose of the law and it seems so simple:  to love God and neighbor.  Yet the kind of love Jesus describes through the parable of the Good Samaritan is anything but simple.  It requires of us the unconditional gift of self.  Jesus said to the lawyer and us, “Go and do likewise.”  Jesus is telling us that compassion can work miracles.  It can make neighbors out of enemies.  It can bring together those who thought that any neighborliness was impossible.  It can even enable us to love our enemies, as Jesus did.  Jesus challenges us to act as Good Samaritans to one another.  He challenges us to think of the person in our lives from whom we are most alienated.  Think of that person as a fellow human being, as a fellow soul redeemed by Christ, as someone, not something.  Our burden and privilege as Christians are to be held to the very highest standards of conduct in thought, word, and deed.  So when it comes to imitating the Good Samaritan, we all have a long way to go.  We cannot love as God does by our own power.  We need the help of Christ.  If we want to love this way, we must seek him every day of our lives.  

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we reflect in today’s Gospel passage from Luke, we see Jesus sending out his followers in pairs from town to town --- blessing households with peace, curing the sick, and proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand. But before he tells them to do all of that, he tells them to, 

“Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; . . .

As followers, Jesus is telling us to do the same thing? What does it

mean for us? It seems quite clear that, if we want to be faithful disciples, if we want to preach Jesus’ message in an authentic way, there are some things that we need to leave behind.

And so, what should we leave behind?

Maybe we need to leave behind our own agendas and do our best to make sure that the things we’re working towards are things Jesus would work towards too.

Maybe we need to leave behind our egos, and see doing the Lord’s work as an end in itself, not as an accomplishment for ourselves.

Maybe we need to leave behind our need to be recognized or liked, and instead choose to do things for God even if not a single soul ever knows about it.

Maybe we need to leave behind our need to be comfortable and have the courage to do the risky thing, the unpopular thing, the thing that has nothing in it for us.

This list could go on and on. We each have to figure out for ourselves what might be holding us back and weighing us down from truly doing what God is asking of us. 

If we are able to do that, we can have the power within us, to take us places we can’t even imagine, the infinite force that can change not only individual lives but the world as a whole is nothing short of the Spirit of the Living God dwelling within each of us.     

That is the challenge that you and I face each day. May each of us have the faith and wisdom and courage to let go of the countless things we need to let go of, let ourselves be stripped of everything that can hold us back from going where the Lord wants us to go, and thereby let God reach incredible heights of love, mercy, compassion, generosity, and through us.

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ C

The first reading from the First Book of Kings is about the call of Elisha. The passage dramatizes the implications of responding to God’s call.     Elisha does the unthinkable. What he does is insanity in the eyes of the world, but a wonderful metaphor for total detachment. He slaughters the very oxen used for plowing! If you can imagine in today’s world a young man destroying all the farm machines and tools before going to the seminary that is what Elisha does by destroying the source of family livelihood. The second reading from Galatians is Paul’s exhortation in which he reminds the Galatians to make a choice between the bitter fruits of the flesh and the sweet fruits of the Holy Spirit. “If you are guided by the Spirit you are not under the law.”

In the Gospel, Jesus challenges some would be disciples by highlighting the excuses they give when God calls them. The Gospel applies to us too and challenges our temptation of telling Jesus “let me finish up a few things first, and I’ll follow you later when I have less responsibilities”.    Jesus invites us to let go everything so we may be free to follow him. Since the Proclamation of the kingdom comes first, Jesus wants us to follow him now, not tomorrow or later. Christ’s call radically implies some painful hard choices and a price to pay. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (Mk. 10:34)  In other words, following Jesus implies risking one's life, one's self-image, being rejected, ridiculed and despised. It means losing one's life, even by death, for the sake of Christ.

All three readings, as well as the Psalm 16, are about taking a risk in our decisive choice in response to God’s call. It means taking the risk to let go and let God take over your life. The bottom-line question is twofold:    

1) Am I ready to free myself to serve Christ?

2) What plows or boats am I prepared to burn in order to free myself and encounter Christ in a deeper way. 

Monsignor John S. Mbinda

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ --- Corpus Christi --- a day on which we give thanks to God for the gift of his very self. Our Lord comes to us as real food for the journey, real nourishment. For us     Catholics, this Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is at the very heart of who we are as a faith community.

What is the “meaning” of Eucharist, what is important about it, or what is its “purpose”? This Holy Sacrament does not just have one meaning. It can and does mean all sorts of things for us as individuals and as a community as we strive to live faithful, God-centered lives.

The Holy Eucharist is food for us SO THAT we can be FOOD for others. Our reception of this Sacrament is not the end of this holy experience. It’s only the beginning, only a stepping-off point to a life lived not for ourselves, but for others.  As Catholics, we receive the Body of Christ in order to be the Body of Christ --- not simply inside the church, but in the world.

And so, when we hear the Lord telling his apostles, “Give them some food yourselves,” we must also hear him saying those same words directly to each of us, urging us to give others the food that he gives to us. God feeds us with the most precious food there is --- his very self --- and invites us to feed the food of kindness, mercy, generosity, compassion, and love. That’s the food the world is in desperate need of. That’s the food we receive at the sacred table.

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Solemnity of Most Blessed Trinity

Solemnity of Most Blessed Trinity

The doctrine Most Holy Trinity is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and the greatest mystery of our Faith. This mystery of the Trinity is both simple and complex. Simply stated it is that there is only one God, yet that one God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That means there are Three Divine Persons, sharing the same Divine nature in one God. The complexity comes from the struggle our mere human minds have when trying to adequately understand this mystery of one in three.

Many people in the history of the church have offered some explanations. Yet the Trinitarian Life is not meant to be a problem to be solved or an understanding to be figured out. The Trinity and our adoption into the life of the Triune God is a mystery to be lived.

The essence of God is the loving relationship. The relationship between the three persons of the Blessed Trinity is first and foremost a relationship within the divinity itself. The Father relates to the Son and the Spirit, just as the Son relates to His Father and the Holy Spirit, in turn, the Spirit is the relationship between Father and Son. Yet the divine loving relationship is so powerful it has chosen to spill out into creation.

That is why today’s readings seek to summarize the effects of the Trinity in our daily lives. Not only is all of creation the result of God’s loving relationship as we heard in the first reading, but God has also taken an active role in the continuing relationship with humanity. Paul, in our second reading, speaks about the gift of salvation which God the Father has extended to us in and through the Jesus Christ, the Son and poured out upon us by the love which flows from the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel, Jesus promises a further share in the life of God by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  

In effect, the feast invites us to live in the awareness of the presence of the Triune God within us. Our conviction of the presence of the Triune God within us should help us to esteem ourselves as God’s holy dwelling place, to lead purer and holier lives,  practicing acts of justice and charity. Secondly, the Feast invites us to see the Trinity as the model for our Christian families, to practice the Trinitarian relationship of love and unity in the family relationships of father, mother, and children. Thirdly, we are challenged to practice the I–God–my neighbor vertical and horizontal Trinitarian relationship in society by loving God who lives in others.

Finally, like God the Father, we are called upon to be productive and creative persons by contributing to the building up of the fabric of life and love in our family, our Church, our community and our nation. Like God the Son, we are called upon to reconcile, to be peacemakers, to put back together that which has been broken, to restore what has been shattered. Like God the Holy Spirit, it is our task to uncover and teach truth and to dispel ignorance.

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

Pentecost Sunday

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” This Sunday, we affirm and celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. This is what we call Pentecost. The word Pentecost comes from the Greek (πεντηκοστή), which means the fiftieth day. Fifty days after the resurrection, Christ fulfills his promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Pentecost is one of the most colorful celebrations in the liturgical year. In the first reading, we relive the event of the first Pentecost. We are told that a noise like a strong driving wind came from the sky. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire resting on each of them. The Holy Spirit works in our lives like fire: illuminating our minds to understand the truth; warming our cold hearts and revitalizing our energy. In the second reading, Paul deals with the issue of some members of the Corinthian community who considered themselves more important than others on account of their personal talents. Paul reminds them that God's Spirit is the source of unity as well as of a wonderful diversity of gifts for the growth of the community. The Gospel from John gives a brief account of the Risen Lord Jesus offering the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and sending them. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit,” the Spirit of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation.

Pentecost is, therefore, the crowning of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, who now fulfills his promise of sending the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. Let us for a moment recall the words of the promise. "When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness. And you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset" (Jn. 15:26). There are those who give witness today by living in the way that Jesus taught as the only way to live. The first reading, we hear that everyone in Jerusalem heard the apostles and disciples speaking in their own language. Biblical scholars interpret the apostles’ gift of speaking in languages understood by all present in terms of a prophetic sign of the worldwide mission and proclamation of God’s kingdom in all known languages of the world today. That is how powerful the Holy Spirit can be if we allow him into our lives. The power of the Holy Spirit is the greatest untapped power in the world. In the readings of today, we see some of the things the Holy Spirit makes possible: communication in a language deeper than words; inner peace; transformation; the forgiveness of sins; reconciliation and unity between estranged people; and every worthwhile gift. When we are open to the power of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish incredible things we never imagined. 

Msgr. John Mbinda

Celebrating the Ascension of the Lord!

Celebrating the Ascension of the Lord!

This weekend our church celebrates the last of Jesus’ earthly mysteries: The Ascension of the Lord.  This celebration is one of the great truths of our creed that “he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”  The Ascension means that Jesus has gone before us — to open up the gates of heaven for us!  So that we can conquer sin and death!  The Ascension means that we can live now every day with the hope of heaven; knowing that where Jesus has gone, we can follow — into the highest heavens!  Jesus’ ascension is also the start of our mission, the mission that Christ gave to his Church!  In the reading from the Acts of the   Apostles, Jesus assures his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,   throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  These words apply to us today.  These words are a call for evangelization, to spread the Good News, Jesus is asking us to be his witnesses too.  On one level, that’s a challenge—because becoming witnesses of Jesus in a certain way means to become a “martyr.”  Martyrdom requires sacrifice.  

However, there are various types of martyrdom.  Like the martyrdom of not having the last word.  The martyrdom of forgiving those who have done us wrong and the everyday martyrdom of simply being a witness to the Gospel – which often involves something we find increasingly elusive: mercy.  The feast of the Lord’s ascension reminds us that the personal body of Jesus disappeared from our view in order that his Mystical Body might appear to us, thanks to the sending of the promised Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gives us the strength we need to continue Jesus’ mission, to be his apostles, to be his witnesses.  We are now empowered to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth – to use our time and talents to spread the Good News of salvation.  

So, where do we begin?  The answer has been before us all along.  Over the last few weeks, what has been the one recurring theme in the Sunday readings?  LOVE!  Love one another.  We have heard it again and again in the readings, and for a good reason.  That is where we begin making that choice, living that choice, and making that choice visible to a doubting and disbelieving world—a world that is increasingly turning away from Christ.  Jesus wants to lift everything up to God!  He wants to draw all people to heaven.  And he wants to do these things —through his Church, through the witness of our lives.  May the Lord bless you!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C

Central to the Gospel passage today is the words of Jesus concerning the peace that he gives to his disciples as his farewell gift to them. But Jesus tells them that the peace he gives them is different from what the world offers. One of the popular misconceptions about peace is that peace involves the total absence of conflict or difficulties. However, because of the imperfection of man, conflicts and misunderstanding must arise; because we live in a society where each individual is unique, it is normal to experience differences of behavior and conflicting opinions. What matters most is not the conflicts that come up as we interact with each other but how we react to them.

Jesus' peace is not just on the surface; it is something deep down which can be there even in times of hardship, conflict, and suffering. Jesus is talking about inner peace, the peace of having God with us in our walks through life; the effects of the abiding presence of God in our lives. The peace that he bequeaths is the spiritual serenity and certainty that comes from harmony and profound communion with God and His son Jesus. That is why Jesus tells us in the Gospel today: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).

Abiding with the Word of God, with its consequent communion in the love of the Father and the Son, is made possible when the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts. That is why Jesus links the peace he gives with the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the early Church sought to live in love and share the gift of peace. We have a vivid example of this in the First   Reading of today from the Acts of the Apostles. The first reading tells us how the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Church, helped the apostles to solve a major doctrinal problem, which shook the very foundation of the early Church.

In our world today, many families have torn apart and relationships are broken because of the inability of the parties to go into dialogue. Communities go to war because they cannot tolerate each other. We can demonstrate our tolerance at home, by focusing on the strengths of members of the family rather than their weaknesses. We can show our tolerance at the workplace by showing kindness and acceptance to all – not just those who are comfortable with us and our ideas.

Peace is the product of dialogue and tolerance, driven by love and obedience,   inspired by the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, to be able to receive these gifts, it is necessary for us to spend a little time each day in personal prayer, talking to God and listening to Him. 

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

Fifth Sunday of Easter

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus tells us that our love for one another, even within the Church, is to be a witness to an unbelieving world. “They will know that you are my disciples by your love for one another.” I don’t know about you, but I have to examine my conscience daily to see if that, in fact, is the case. I suppose we would be a true sign to the world around us if we really lived it.

Now the newness of the command that Jesus gives is at least partially, maybe entirely, in the motivation for observing it. “Love one another as I have loved you.” We mirror Christ’s love in our own love. That, I think, goes beyond loving our neighbor as ourselves and that’s what makes it new! Christ loved us unto his death. That’s a sobering thought. How willing am I to give my life for another? And the motivation is simply that is the way that Christ loved us.

We all have our part to play in creating a new heaven and a new earth, not in some unclear, undetermined future, but right here and now. It may be a large part; it may be a small one, but we must play it. As we pray together today, let’s ask ourselves, as we ask God, what can we, here at St. John Apostle and  Evangelist do to help build a better world. How can we help God bring about a new heaven and a new earth?

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Shepherd, listening and following the Risen Lord are the keywords that capture the central message of this Fourth Sunday of Easter also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The readings first remind us that the risen Christ, the Lamb slain for our sins is our Shepherd who gives us eternal life. That is the fulfillment of the vision in the Book of Revelations that speaks about those who are finally rewarded with new life, where they will never hunger nor be thirsty again. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is about the evangelizing efforts of the early Church. It draws our attention to the difficulties that beset that Church in its witness. Paul and Barnabas follow the voice of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the message of the Shepherd to the Jews. The rejection of the Good News by the Jews in Antioch becomes a blessing in disguise because Paul and Barnabas turn to the Gentiles who warmly welcome the Good News. The comforting message is clear. Countless difficulties, opposition, deceit, and persecution have never succeeded in blocking the evangelizing mission of the Church.

The Gospel of this Sunday proclaims the good news of comfort for millions of people in the world today. It also offers us a great challenge. The comforting message is that the sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice and that no one can snatch the sheep out of the Father’s hands. The challenge for both the pastors and lay faithful alike is to recognize the voice of the shepherd in the midst of opposition, countless voices of other churches, the TV channels, the Internet, Facebook, Tweets? We do that by remaining close to other the sheep and our spiritual family. The challenge is caring for one another by being what Pope Francis has called custodians of one another to discern the voice of the Shepherd, the Risen Lord.

The message we take home this Sunday is threefold.  1) We are challenged to listen and follow the Risen Lord who shepherds us through the Church.  2)  Just as the risen Lord is the lamb who dies for us and suffers with us, you and I are challenged to reach out with compassion to those who suffer.   3) As an Easter people touched by the risen Lord, we are challenged to purposely reach out to those who are weak in their faith; those tested by the many conflicting voices in the world; those led away from the flock, away from the Shepherd and bring them back home to the fold.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Second Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy)

Today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter and with it, we conclude the Octave of Easter. This Sunday is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. Pope St. John Paul II established the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, to remind us of God’s endless mercy, especially as revealed to St.  Faustina Kowalski (1905 – 1938).

Today’s Gospel recalls Jesus’ institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a Sacrament of Divine Mercy. In the gospel, we find the first disciples dispirited and terrified after the death of Jesus, not only   because of fear of the Jews, but also because they felt sad and guilty. They had to confront their failure to be faithful to Jesus in the hour of his passion and death. So, at His very First apparition to them after his resurrection, Jesus begins by wishing them ‘Peace.’  By that the risen Lord was reconciling his failed disciples to himself and re-affirming his love and friendship with them. Thus, they came to recognize themselves as forgiven, and, so their hearts were filled with joy.

Having experienced the gift of the Lord’s forgiveness, they are sent out in the power of the Spirit to proclaim and offer others the gift of forgiveness they have received. The Risen Lord gave his apostles and their successors the power to forgive sins with the words, “Whose sins you forgive are  forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are “retained” (Jn 20: 19-23.)  Presenting the doubting Thomas’ famous profession of Faith, “My Lord and my God,” the Gospel illustrates how Jesus showed his mercy to the doubting apostle and emphasizes the importance of Faith.

The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, explains how the Risen Lord continued to show His Divine Mercy to the sick through the healing and preaching ministry of the apostles in the early Church. 

One way the Church celebrates God’s mercy is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The sacrament of reconciliation is a privileged moment of reconciliation when we receive anew the Lord’s forgiveness and extend that forgiveness to those who have hurt us. That gift of God’s forgiveness is given to all of us who have been baptized in the risen Jesus. Let us accept God’s invitation to celebrate and practice mercy and the more frequent moments of reconciliation: the daily forgiveness of our brothers and sisters; the speaking of the hard words, ‘I am sorry’ and the gracious acceptance of another’s offer of apology. In these moments, Jesus is standing in our midst, helping us to break out of situations that can be draining of life.

We pray to be touched by the Holy Spirit who heals the wounds of the heart and restores us to the joy of the Father’s love and friendship. Let us also ask God for the Faith that culminates in self-surrender to God and leads us to serve those we encounter with love.

Fr. Joseph Ayinpuusa

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

To all visitors, new parishioners and all of you regular parishioners,

Christ is Risen and welcomes you to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection!

In the Gospel, the discovery of the empty tomb by Mary of Magdala may have been very disappointing or even confusing. However, the fact of the empty tomb is also good news! John, who writes today’s the Gospel, tells us that he entered into the empty tomb. He throws light on the confusion when he writes, “he saw and he believed”. What exactly did Saint John believe? When he saw the empty tomb, he had the insight of faith that Christ was indeed risen as He had promised. Encounter with the risen Lord that same evening changed the disciples completely.

Easter Vigil and today Easter Sunday and all Sundays are moments of unique encounters with the risen Lord. Anyone who encounters the risen Lord can never be the same again. The resurrection is the nerve center of our faith. To quote Bishop Robert Barron (Auxiliary Bishop of LA), “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all bishops, priests and Christian ministers should go home and get honest jobs, and all Christian faithful should leave their churches immediately.” When you think of it, that is shocking, but that is what St. Paul meant when he wrote: “If Jesus is not raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable men.” (1 Cor 15:14)

To conclude here are three take away points: 1) You and I know that the story of Jesus does not end on the Cross but that the resurrection transforms the disciples and everyone who encounters the risen Lord. 2) The resurrection is the centerpiece of our Christian faith. We can never be the same after encountering the risen Lord. 3) On this Easter day, may the resurrection of Christ transform us so we may live as Easter people throughout this season and throughout the year.

Christ is risen! He is Truly risen! Alleluia! 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Palm Sunday, with its palms, processions, and readings, is one of the special days that can call to mind strong emotional connections in our spiritual history, for those of us who have been in the church most of our lives. For those who are newer to Catholicism and Christianity, I suspect it still makes an impact because of its uniqueness.

We heard the story proclaimed today, a story of unbearable sadness and disappointment. A story of betrayal, fear, and denial. A story of pain, suffering, and abandonment. And our God is right in the midst of all of it - embracing it in its totality - carrying the weight and brokenness and sin of the world upon himself. And all Jesus does through it all is love, no matter what is going on around him or being done to him. And we do believe, sincerely. It is also about accepting, embracing and venturing out on a journey, a sacred journey which invites each of us to ask ourselves a critical question, one that has real implications for our lives.  

How far are we willing to go?

We all know that living a life of faith can be tremendously hard and difficult.

This Holy Week is an opportunity for us to unite our own journeys, unite our own lives—the good and the bad— with that of our Lord Jesus. But it takes faith. It takes courage. It takes trust and hope.

And that’s because we know where it leads... 

......but that is not where it ends. 

And that makes all the difference.

Have a blessed Holy Week everyone!!!!

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Fifth Sunday of Lent

We are nearing the end of Lent.  Next week will be Palm Sunday and together we will read the account of Jesus’ passion and death. Throughout this time of Lenten fasting, our intention has been to loosen the holding material things have over us.  By removing the indulgences of food, drink, and possessions, we are able to focus on what gives our life direction and purpose, our relationship with Jesus.  So as we come closer to the beginning of the Holy Week, instead of waning, our spiritual practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving should become even more intense.

This weekend we are celebrating the third scrutiny for our Elect and our readings are from the Year A.  These readings speak about three different meanings of death.  For the prophet Ezekiel, death means to be in exile. Paul speaks about death as living in sin.  The Gospel of John shares the story about the death of Lazarus, Jesus’ beloved friend.  Jesus asks the Father to return Lazarus back to the living.  By doing this God’s glory is manifested in the earth and Jesus’ followers will be transformed.  They will believe in him.  But Jesus’ death is still ahead and it will be another transformational moment.  Within the violence of the crucifixion, Jesus’ infinite love will transform the violence into the ultimate reconciliation of humanity and divinity.  In longing to be conformed to Jesus’ death, we are asking for the grace to become the light that is stronger than darkness, the love that is stronger than hatred, the life that is stronger than death.  Let us persevere in our Lenten practices confident that the God of life will bring us to Easter joy.

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Halfway into the Lenten season, we pause with the whole Church to rejoice on this “Rejoice Sunday.” This Sunday we use desert rose color vestments to symbolize that joy. All three readings this Sunday help us to see a sharp contrast between light and darkness. In the first reading, Samuel struggles as it were in darkness, trying to find a king, but can only succeed to find the young David when he begins to see as God sees. In the second reading, Paul reminds us that we were once darkness, but now because of our Baptism, we are light in the Lord. We are therefore challenged to be bearers of the light.

The story of the man born blind in the Gospel bears all the features of Lenten themes of conversion. It contrasts sharply the vision of the man born blind, who seeing Jesus with his eyes of faith, and the blindness of the Pharisees, whose eyes of their minds are closed towards Jesus. The Gospel reminds us that our Baptism enlightens us to see and embrace God’s vision, life, goodness, and truth. Our Baptism commits us to be bearers of the light and to confront the spiritual blindness of the world with the light of truth. The passage clearly contrasts light and darkness, faith and the stubborn refusal to accept the truth.

In the story, Jesus not only gives the blind man his sight, physical light, but he also gives him the light of faith. The story is about you and me in moments of our own spiritual blindness and darkness. In our selfishness; our inclinations for indulging in vices and pleasure; in our greed for material things, we become spiritually blind and lose our spiritual sight. Just as in the Gospel story, we must not allow dishonesty and the distortion of the truth to dim our light, because Christ is our Light and we are bearers of that light.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda