Gaudete Sunday, Rejoice Sunday!

Today is “Gaudete Sunday,” Rejoice Sunday.

The Church gives us this Third Sunday of Advent to remind us how close we are to celebrating the Incarnation, how close we are to Christ’s coming at Christmas.  The words of St. Paul in the second reading give the day this name: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”

That same sentiment is echoed in the first reading from the prophet Zephaniah: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!” “Sing joyfully, O Israel !”  We’re only nine days away from Christmas, and so we light a rose-colored candle, we use rose-colored vestments, we hear these enthusiastic words of rejoicing and joy.

This season, for our joy to be complete, we have our own role to play. This role is what John the Baptist spelt out in today’s gospel. For our joy to be complete this season we must be charitable, forgiving, caring, just, modest in all our actions, seek reconciliation and peace. We must shun all acts that are capable of making life difficult for others. We need patience and constancy which are very important spiritual virtues. Patience and constancy in the practice of God’s commandments this Advent will lead us very soon to sanctity and the fullness of joy.

As we wait joyfully for the fulfillment of Christ’s promises to us this season, may the Almighty God fill our hearts with charity and goodwill.

Peace be with you!

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Repent and Return to the Lord

As we continue our spiritual journey in this season of Advent, our liturgy reminds us that the past, present, and future coming of Jesus into the world is the fulfillment of the saving plan of God. Our readings for this 2nd Sunday of Advent seek to help us to make ourselves ready to receive him. In the first reading, Isaiah consoles the Jewish in Babylon by assuring them that the Lord will restore their homeland to them and care for them as a shepherd cares for the sheep. The Gospel tells us that the restoration of the fallen world has already begun, starting with the arrival of John the Baptist, the messenger and forerunner of the Messiah. John speaks of one, more powerful than he – Jesus Christ – who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Surely Christ made his first coming and each of us has received the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism.

Our Second Reading makes it clear that the salvation promised by Isaiah was not completely accomplished even by the first coming of Jesus. It is only when Jesus comes again at the end of time that Isaiah's words will be entirely fulfilled. Hence, Peter warns against false teachers who have given up any expectation of Christ’s return because of its long delay. So Peter reminds them that even though the Second Coming seems to be delayed, Christ will indeed come as promised. The fact is that the risen Lord is eternal and infinite and so is not measured by time in fulfilling promises. Besides, God “is patient” with us, giving us more time to repent of our sins and renew our lives.

It is for this reason that the message of John the Baptist, calling people to repent and return to the Lord, is very relevant during this season of Advent. What is repentance? We tend to think of repentance as feeling guilty about our sins, but it is more—much more. The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, means a change of mind or direction. It is related to the Hebrew word tesubah, used by prophets to call Israel to abandon its sinful ways and to return to God. Both words (metanoia and tesubah) imply “a total change of spiritual direction.” 

We are, therefore, invited by the Church to prepare to receive Christ by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives so that Jesus may be reborn in us. We do this when we turn this Advent season into a real spiritual “homecoming” by allowing Christ to radiate his presence all around us. John’s preaching reminds us also of our important task of announcing Christ to others through our lives at home and in the community. When we show real love, kindness, mercy and a spirit of forgiveness, we are announcing the truth that Christ is with us. Thus, our lives become a kind of Bible which others can read. 

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

First Sunday of Advent

The First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new year in the Church’s liturgical life. Advent is a season of preparation. We prepare our homes to celebrate the feast of Christmas and we prepare spiritually to greet Christ when he comes again. A time to prepare ourselves for God to break into our hearts and lives once again, starting us on a new chapter, a more meaningful and more faithful chapter. It is a golden opportunity to make a new start in our personal spiritual journey, through the choices we make during this new Church year.

In today’s gospel from Luke, Jesus reminds us how easy it is to get lost in the busy activities of December. He warns us: Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. Without prayer and embracing intentional stillness in the season of Advent it is so easy to feel as if the weeks before Christmas are racing by at a breathless pace.

This Advent season, we pray for the strength to listen to those we do not want to hear, to reorder our priorities to allow ourselves to be present to those who need some attention, to focus on serving another rather than simply ticking one more item off our to-do list, to act for justice in our community and in our world.

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE ~B

This Sunday, we celebrate Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the universe. The first reading points to Jesus who saves others by his own death and resurrection, and thereby enters into the glory of the Father. The Book of Revelation shows that the glorification of Christ does not come at a cheap price. The King of all creation, is revealed to us on the cross for the love of the Father. Christ is a King with a difference, a King who brings justice; a King who brings love and peace; a King who heals all who believe in him by his suffering, death and resurrection.

The Gospel passage from John, presents to us one of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament. In this passage, an arrogant Pilate is perplexed by Jesus’ claim to be king; a different kind of king he could not deal with. When asked if he is a king, Jesus does not claim the title, but says, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” Jesus further shows that his kingship is one that witnesses to the truth, which implies the revelation of God’s wisdom. Jesus speaks the truth about God and humanity, and defends that truth with his own blood on the Cross. Accepting such truth leads to freedom; to salvation; to the healing of our inner life.

The message is straight forward. We can accept or reject the author truth and life, or we can reject him cynically like Pilate and the secular world. This solemnity challenges us to let Jesus transform us into his own image, as instruments of justice, peace and love; as instruments of God’s mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King next Sunday to mark the end of our Liturgical Year, our readings today draw our attention to the end of time. In our gospel today, we heard Jesus talk about the end of the world and how everything will disappear from the face of the earth. We heard a similar message in our first reading from the prophet Daniel.

As these readings talk about the end of the world, they want us to reflect about our own lives, that our lives here on earth will pass away. However, both Daniel and Jesus do not intend to frighten us but to give us hope. Jesus assures us that we are going to see his second coming when he will come back to gather his Elect (his chosen ones) and take them back to heaven. And Daniel says, “…at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.”

What it means is that God loves us so much and that he wants us to be with him forever. The Psalm we sang today was about how God is our inheritance! That’s also exactly what our second reading talked about: that by his sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus has won forgiveness for our sins. He has made a way for us to be with him at the right hand of God in Heaven. We are made for Heaven.

That’s such a beautiful promise to us. And we are called upon to believe that promise and live what we believe! That is why the readings impress upon us that as Jesus comes back to bring us home, we need to make ourselves ready to go back with him. But how do we do that? Jesus says: “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.” Jesus wants us to know that at the end of our lives, God is going to ask us to give an account of our stewardship. However, God’s judgment isn’t something we should be afraid of. That’s why Jesus tells us that nobody knows when the world will end because that’s not what’s important. It doesn’t matter when the world will end, or when our lives will end. What’s important is what we are doing right now. How are we living right now? What are we doing with our lives? God made each one of us for a reason. He has plans for our lives. God has expectations for our lives. He wants us to use the gift of our life to share his love, to make life more meaningful for those around us and lead others to him.

Jesus wants us to be ready when he comes again and the best way to live with Jesus in Heaven is to live with him on earth. Through our daily acts of charity and love for others, we are sharing in the life of Christ.  

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

What kind of givers are we?

The readings this weekend tell of two stories of generosity.  Both concerns two very poor people: two widows.  The widow of Zarephath from the first reading teaches us how to be an instrument of God’s providence.  She offers hospitality by giving what she has trusting that what we need will be provided.  Then we wonder how someone who was as poor as the widow in the Gospel was able to perform such an act of spontaneous goodness.  One needs to have been faithful over many years to the practice of generosity to have had a heart like hers.  

It is not achieved by a few great deeds but by a lot of little ones.  Jesus praises the poor widow, who drops only two small coins in the coffer of the temple, unlike the others who put in their surplus money.   In exalting the poor widow’s gift, Jesus makes us realize that numbers are not the true value of giving in the “economy” of God.  It is what we give from our want, not from our extra, that reveals what we truly value and what we want our lives and the world to be.  It is not the measure of the gift but the measure of the love that directs the gift that is great before God.  It is not the knowledge we have attained nor the wealth we command but our willingness to put those things at the service of others that gives meaning to our faith.  It is not the size of what we give or the impact of what we do but the love and sacrifice in which we give that makes our gift to another holy in God’s eyes.   

What set the widow’s offerings apart was not just its proportion to their means; there was something in their characters that lifted the gift out of routine into the realm of sacrifice.   No gift of love is too small, and nothing escapes the notice of God from whom no secrets are hidden. 

What kind of givers are we?  Do we give ourselves or from our excess?  Jesus’ challenge is to give everything we have, without holding anything back.  Let us strive to be like the widows who demonstrated trust and generosity.  Let us be mindful that Christ himself served as the perfect example of generosity by offering his life so that our own thirst and hunger could be quenched.  Let us likewise be instruments of Christ’s unselfish giving. 

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ B

Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! –Mark 12:29

As we read these passages, we could really identify with the scribe in today’s Sunday Gospel reading. The scribe’s question relates quite well to our own experiences. Instead of just saying all of his commandments are equally important, Jesus answers the scribe by first emphasizing that God is God alone and without equal. Therefore, we should love and serve God with all of our being. Jesus shows that we are called to direct our whole lives to God, which includes our actions and choices. As a result, we should view the rest of Jesus’ teachings as helping us to love and come closer to God.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. - Mark 12:31

Jesus then points out that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Make note that when Jesus talks about ‘neighbor’ it is not only the one living next-door, but also the sick and suffering, poor and powerless, lonely and forsaken, widows and widowers and elderly. We are called to show God’s unceasing love for all people, which enables us to more fully see God’s presence in the world. In loving God in one another, we find the ultimate meaning and purpose of the gift of faith and life. Let us all do as God does, not wait to be loved, but be the first to love.

 

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU?

A friend asked me this question: “Father, you people say God is all-knowing, loving, and caring. If that is the case, why do you still ask God for your needs?” My answer to him was “You are right; we express our faith in a God who is all-knowing, loving and caring. He knows what we want and what we need. Hence, Prayer does not inform God. However, prayer involves God. God wants us to invite him to become involved in our day-to-day lives. Secondly, we need to tell him our needs because he wants to know how much faith we have in him. Bartimaeus was very persistent in calling for the attention of Jesus despite the discouragement of the crowd.  His persistence and his throwing away his cloak showed his deep faith in God.

While God certainly knows our deepest need, many times we don’t know what we need. Last Sunday James and John, with a wrong attitude and motive, made a request for something that Jesus felt they did not need and they were reprimanded. Today, the blind man, Bartimaeus knew what he needed and he expressed it. He needed God’s mercy and to be able to see. The Lord granted his request upon seeing his humility and strong faith and his desire to be a disciple of his.

Prayer is not a monologue but a dialogue between two friends, or a loving Father and his beloved daughter/ son. You talk to him and also listen to him. In prayer, as God listens to our request, he in turn tells us what we really need. That is why the Mass is the best and greatest of prayers. We come to commune with our loving Father, where Jesus the High Priest offers himself to his Father on our behalf, brings our supplication to His Father. But he does that after he has listened to us and instructed us to know what is his Father’s will for us and what we really need.

The story of Bartimaeus is our story too. We have our various blindness, both physical and spiritual. That is why we are all here in Church responding to the call of Christ just as Bartimaeus did when Christ called him to come after he had cried out asking Jesus to have mercy on him. Do not come to Church and go home without telling God what you are coming for. We have to be clear with what we need.

Finally, prayer makes us commit ourselves to the Lord. Bartimaeus after receiving his healing, did not go on his own way, but rather “followed” Jesus on Jesus’ way. He became a disciple of Jesus. The encounter with Jesus was so life changing for Bartimaeus that Jesus’ way became his way; his whole way of life revolved around Jesus. We share in the common priesthood of Christ. At the end of Mass we are told “go in peace glorifying God by your life.” 

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

Twenty- Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ B

The readings this Sunday focus our attention on Christ the suffering servant, as our model of Christian leadership. In the first reading from Isaiah, the prophet sings about the suffering servant who through his suffering, shall justify many and bear their guilt. The passage is taken from the fourth song (Isaiah 53) and is applied to Christ who gives his life so that all may be saved. By a wonderful coincidence, the Gospel focuses on Jesus teaching on Christian leadership as service. Every ministry in our parish is service to the whole parish community. On this stewardship renewal Sunday, it is important we reflect on the way Jesus intends us to serve in our ministries.

 

At all levels of Church life starting from the universal level to the parish communities, one is struck by the ambitious seeking after positions of leadership quite similar to that of the sons of Zebedee in the Gospel. Jesus knew the human condition very well and wanted to let the two disciples and the rest know what they were really asking for. The two are quite familiar with Jesus and so they ask for a favor that turns out to be sitting at Jesus’ right and left in his kingdom. So Jesus asks them. “Can you drink the cup that I must drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said we can. The response of Jesus that they will drink of the cup he must drink (persecution) and indeed be baptized with the baptism He will be baptized (DEATH)! As for places on the right and left, Jesus response is kind of ignoring their request because that is selfish and ambitious. What follows next is Jesus teaching true spirit of leadership as service. It is not about positions, but offering oneself sacrificially: one’s time, talent and treasure for others.

 

This teaching of Jesus challenges us to assume an attitude and style of humble service as Jesus did for us. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Life is a precious gift from God, and so is time, talent and treasure.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Are We “Good Stewards?”

“May your grace, O Lord, we pray, at all times go before us and follow after and make us always determined to carry out good works.”  These words from today’s opening prayer defines truly what a “good steward” is.  Good stewards are covered and protected by God’s grace so that they can perform good deeds with their time, talent and treasure.  We are called to be the good stewards of the Lord!  As the rich young man of our Gospel, Jesus asks us to put aside what is keeping us from God in order to fully engage with those in need.  Jesus’ question is not whether money is good or bad.  The challenge is what we do with our time, talent and treasure for the benefit of all.   The rich young man from the gospel can’t embrace Jesus’ call to let go of what is so central to his person.  What about us?  Can we let go?  Can we embrace the call of Jesus to share our talents with our community?  Do we have the desire to take few hours a week to share our time with those members of our community in need?  Could we see ourselves giving up some of our wants so we can give more of our treasure to the Church or charity?   Understanding the idea of stewardship is relatively simple, it can be hard in practice.  In terms of time it is good to consider taking on a “spiritual exercise” such as praying a rosary when you normally would have watched a television show.  

Share your talents with our community.  Get involve in one of our many ministries.  Make sure your entire family is involved in it.  Sometimes we let money rule not only our budget but our hearts and spirits as well.  “Spiritualize” the practice of giving to the Church by praying over your donation envelope, either by yourself or with your family.  Teach your children the importance of sharing their wealth with others in need.  Make sure that contributions are understood by the whole family.  Ask your children to place your family envelope in the basket.  I hope some of these ideas will resonate with you.  Let’s always keep in mind that stewardship is spirituality - a way of living our life in the knowledge that everything is a gift from God, and that we have a responsibility to use our gifts for God’s purposes.  

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

         In today’s Gospel reading, we see the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus: “Is it really against the law for a man to divorce his wife? After all Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” Even today, many people question the laws and teachings of the Church. Many people are breaking the law, so why can’t the Church change according to the times? We must always distinguish between those who are law-breakers, victims of the law, and victims of circumstances. We have no right to sit in judgment, to point a finger at others. We are called to be compassionate and understanding of the weaknesses of others.  We have always to distinguish between the person and the law. At the same time we see Jesus speaks clearly and directly. He lays down the law as it is. The Law will not change to suit our notions and fancies or for our own convenience.  Marriage is for life, commitment is for life. We want our marriage relationships to last until death and they will, if we work at them and let God be an integral part of our lives. 

     Perhaps the last part of the Gospel gives us one way in which we can make our relationships work: Jesus let the little children come to him and blessed them. The child symbolizes dependence on another; their parents. For our relationships to work we depend on God. Lastly, even as we grow and mature we must never lose the sense of wonder that we had as children. One of the things that strike us about children is how they can get engrossed in the simplest of things; they forget everything else and enjoy that moment, that thing, that person. That ability to wonder can keep us going and we will find there is always something to be grateful for in our married relationships and in life itself. 

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

We are God’s beloved!

This weekend’s readings show how much God cares, and how much we, too, should care for one another.  We hear that God dwells within all people, from our earliest ancestors in faith, to all of us in this present day and age.  Since the days of Moses, this is a divine mystery that we all too often forget.  In the first reading Moses realizes that God’s spirit cannot be constricted by human limitations or expectations; God was deeply in all of the chosen people, not just a few.  Moses offers thanks and prays that all God’s people might become “prophets” of justice and mercy.  Are we “prophets” of justice and mercy?  

On the second reading James reminds us to treasure the wonderful blessed things in our lives; material possessions will fade away after time.  What do we consider our true treasures to be?  So often it is in the intangible that we find our true wealth.  The blessed gift of family or a true friend is too often overlooked until they are gone.  To be the most loving person you can be is a true gift and treasure to others.  In our gospel, Jesus seems to encourage a “big tent” approach to religion.  He tells his disciples, “Those who are not against us are for us.”  Jesus taught them to recognize the work of God from within and from outside of the immediate community.  He also exhorted that it is better to lose one’s limb if it leads one to sin.   He asks us to let go of whatever makes us less than what God has created us to be.  Sometimes that means to cut off the sinful hand or tearing off the evil eye, but also letting go those attitudes of self-centeredness, prejudices, and vengeance that destroy our communities. 

This weekend we are called to become the arms and legs of Christ.  We need to open our eyes to the good that others are doing to savor the presence of the Spirit around us.  If someone is not part of the group but is still performing the actions of the members of the group, that person is with us.  We need to recognize that the Spirit is moving and active in our own immediate community, in our own individual families, and in our hearts.  

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Today's readings show us two different kinds of wisdom. What we would instinctively call wisdom is very different from what the readings of today present as wisdom.  The world’s understanding of wisdom is seen in our human tendency to look for superior status over others, to seek to dominate and to create pecking-orders. However, as Jesus puts it in our Gospel, the person who wants to be first has to make himself last of all and the servant of all.

Last Sunday, Jesus told his disciples that his mission as a Messiah was to suffer and die on the Cross and asked them to take up their cross and follow him. Jesus repeats his announcement of the Passion, once again with the hint of resurrection. However, the apostles simply did not understand his teaching; and instead of asking Jesus what he meant, they started arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. In this context, Jesus takes a child and places him in their midst, embraces him, and says: “Anyone who welcomes such a little child as this in my name, welcomes me.” At the time of Jesus, children were given no important place in society. A child's opinion counted for nothing.  So one can imagine what a shock it was for the disciples when Jesus placed a child before them and said anyone who wants to be first must embrace a child, which means he must be last of all and servant of all. For Jesus, the greatness of a person, especially the Christian lies in humble service of others, particularly the poorest.

The second reading is linked to this theme because it shows that the root of such evils as envy, hatred and conflicts lie in our refusal to accept the invitation of Christ to serve our brothers and sisters instead of craving for self-serving power in order to dominate others. The desire to control to dictate or manipulate people to get the results we want often leads to unhealthy competitions, and, as our first reading points out, anyone who is perceived as a stumbling block is treated with hatred, hence, the upright are often persecuted. This is also what St. James talks about in the second reading: "You want something and you haven't got it....You have an ambition that you can't satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force, you're praying for the wrong things, asking God to indulge your own desires, and so on. 

To free us from these selfish and corrupt motives and desires, the readings invite us to look within ourselves and to admit the extent to which we're influenced by these desires. They also invite us to treat each other with love, kindness, compassion and consideration. Let us, therefore turn to God and ask him to free us from these desires and to replace them with the spirit of simplicity and a “will to serve” instead.

 

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ B

The readings of this Sunday focus on the identity of the Messiah. This was an ongoing question in the Old Testament times when there were many false “messiahs”. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah calls our attention to the fact that persecution and suffering were the destiny of the Servant of God. “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard….”

 

The Letter of James in the second reading helps us to see clearly what genuine faith is about. James underlines the necessity of corporal works of mercy to the poor as essential to true faith. In other words, it is not enough to tell a hungry person “Go in peace…and eat well.” A parish that has no social ministry outreach program is not fully responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It lacks the compassion and love of Christ as he hangs on the cross.

 

In the Gospel, Jesus sets the stage by testing his disciples to find out if they really know who he is. Jesus cleverly starts by asking who other people say he is. Some say Jesus is a powerful prophet, others a great teacher, still others he is a great wonder-worker. Jesus will have none of that. He doesn't care about public opinion. He doesn't care what the "experts" say. He then asks, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter responds, "You are the Christ." Yes, that's good, but not good enough. That is not the full identity of Jesus. That is why Jesus immediately predicts his own suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. When Peter hears that, description of the Messiah, he reacts from his human perspective. How could the Christ, the Messiah suffer? That is why Peter tries to rebuke Jesus. Peter thought that Christ was a conquering Messiah; that the cross is for criminals, for evil-doers, not for Jesus. In that scene along the way to Jerusalem, Jesus wants to remind his disciples and us too that our faith in him as a glorified Messiah can only be understood in the light of the Cross..

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

God has an incredible dream for each of us. The readings of this Sunday are about that dream and its fulfilment in Jesus Christ who uses just one word in Aramaic “Ephphatha” (be opened) to heal the deaf and dumb person. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah highlights the vision of the return of the Israelites from the Babylonian exile. This incredible vision is about what the Lord in his compassion will soon do for his people. Their broken hearts will be healed and their dignity as a nation restored. Isaiah uses the image of healing and restoration of all creation in God’s justice and care. Thus “streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.” The Gospel passage is clearly the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Christ: opening the ears of the deaf and loosening the tongues of the dumb.

Isaiah’s prophecy predicts happier and better times to come, when God will destroy all barriers: the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame leap like lambs, and the dumb will speak. While both Isaiah and the Gospel point to physical healing, the ailments listed are also symbolic of interior suffering, consisting often of blindness to the needs of the neighbor, the inability to hear God’s voice or to speak words of praise and compassion. While walking through the Ten Cities Region (Decapolis), people bring to Jesus a deaf and dumb person asking him to heal him. The point of the miracle becomes a metaphor for the healing of all God’s people without exception. The deaf and dumb person, like the people in the gospels who are brought, or who come to Jesus for healing, represents each one of us and poor suffering humanity as a whole. That image of Jesus standing alone with the person, holding his face between his hands to heal him, is an image of God embracing the whole of creation in his tender touch, gazing with profound compassion into the eyes of each of us, longing to heal us all of our deafness and our speech impediment.

We are therefore challenged to follow the same example. James in the Second Reading challenges us when he speaks with irony of people who welcome the well dressed with gold rings, while ignoring the poor man, who is only in the eyes of this world but rich before God who makes no distinctions.  On the contrary, God breaks all barriers and calls all to the universal table of fellowship of the kingdom.  The questions we need to ask are:  do we in our parish community have wounds of division that need to be healed?  Do we have members who feel excluded?  

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

“Having a pure heart!”

Our readings this weekend demands that we examine our lives, lest we fall into the trap of trivial worries that amount to scrupulosity and a loss of sound relationships to others.  The letter of James points to the heart of what our religion must be: caring for the poor and widows while keeping away from worldly values.  Caring for those whom society deems the least constitutes following God’s commandments, as Moses said in Deuteronomy, without adding nor subtracting anything from them.  Love of God and love of neighbor should be our core values, out witness to the world.  To be faithful to the intent of God’s commandment requires one to have a pure heart. 

In the Gospel Jesus speaks about how we should place more importance to what matters of the heart and not the small stuff.  He talks about attitudes we (his disciples) should develop and live, every day of our lives.  He makes clear that who we are, what we believe, how we respond to life’s challenges begin within our hearts, the place where God dwells inside every one of us.  Equally, the evil we are capable of, the hurt we inflict on others, the degrading of the world that God created also begin within our hearts – when God is displaced by selfishness, anger, greed, hatred.  Jesus challenges us to look into the depths of our hearts to realize exactly what we feel passionate about, what we truly believe, what we are called to do with this life God has given us. 

Finally, Jesus call us to worship God with the integrity of our hearts, to live the words of the prayers that have become rote in our lives, to embrace the true gospel "traditions" of compassion, mercy and forgiveness.  Words and rituals help us express our faith - but faith begins within ourselves, in our beliefs and perspective of the world and our attitudes toward others.  Faith is centered in our hearts, in that most personal of spaces where God dwells inside of us.     

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time~B

Five weeks and nearly seventy verses later we’ve come to the end of our journey through the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.  Jesus has been doing a lot of talking --- saying a lot of things that are really tough to understand, difficult to wrap our minds around with. ‘I am the bread of life’ and ‘unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life in you’.

“These sayings are hard; who can accept them?

In today’s gospel, we are invited to once again examine our commitment to being a follower of Jesus . We’re asked to take a long hard look as to whether or not we are really ‘buying whatever it is that Jesus is selling’. And this “re-commitment” is not something we only need to do rarely.  Rather, it’s something we must engage in over and over and over again.  We just saw an example of that in our First Reading in which Joshua, after leading the Israelites across the Jordan and into the Promised Land, wants to make sure their hearts and minds --- their very selves --- are still committed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It had been a really long and difficult journey.  Joshua wanted to make sure that the people he helped lead hadn’t given up on their God.

What about us, have we given up ?

That’s a tough question, but one whose answer makes all the difference in the world. Is it too hard to forgive the unforgivable?  Is it too hard to give a lot when we have a little?  Is it too hard to reconcile with those who have wronged us? Is it too hard to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, lay down our lives for others?

May we have the faith and courage and wisdom to not only echo what Joshua said long ago --- “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” --- but mean it too.  

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The book of Proverbs tells us that Heaven exists in the quest for Divine wisdom, that is, the quest to discover Yahweh's presence in everything and everyone. In our First reading (Proverbs 9), Wisdom is depicted as a gracious hostess inviting the people to a fine banquet. This is an imaginative way of speaking about God as the wise host who invites all of humanity to learn from his wisdom. "Wisdom" becomes the symbolic image of the search for God's will.

Like Woman-Wisdom Jesus invites us to come and eat of his bread, but unlike Woman-Wisdom he declares himself to be that bread and that wine. More specifically he calls on us to eat his flesh and to drink his blood. This was one of Jesus' most difficult teaching. His language of eating his flesh and drinking his blood was a shock to the crowds. Indeed, Jewish law prohibited the eating of human flesh, and as blood was considered to be the actual life of a living being, drinking of blood, was also prohibited in Judaism (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:10, 12, 14; cf. Acts 15:29). Hence, we can sympathize with those who object, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ However, while Jesus was speaking on the level of spiritual realities, the crowds were still on the physical level, and could not get the point.

We cannot hear this language without thinking of the words of Jesus to his disciples at the last supper when, he took bread and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body’, and took a cup of wine, saying, ‘Take, drink, this is the new covenant in my blood.’ He gave himself to his disciples, his body and blood, under the form of bread and wine.  So, the banquet of wisdom, to which the first reading invites us, is the banquet depicted in today’s Gospel. The early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. They regarded the Eucharist as Wisdom’s banquet, where they shared in the Divine Wisdom now present in Jesus.

The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), invites all to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”  Jesus invites us to his table and he puts himself before us as food and drink. In a language that is very daring he declares himself to be our food and drink, the one who can satisfy our deepest hungers and thirsts, our hunger and thirst for life. In today’s Gospel passage, he declares, ‘anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. "Eternal life" is complete and lasting happiness, satisfying our deepest longings and realizing all our dreams. Our participation in the Eucharist also concretizes and energizes our relationship with Christ and with one another.

In conclusion: 1) Every human being is blessed with an insatiable longing for God. We want God as our Father to hold us gently in His arms, keeping us safe throughout the dangers we face. But often we use substitutes as an escape from that need: fast living, fast food, fast cars, needless luxuries, unrestricted sexual fulfillment.  But let us remember the truth that unless we keep the hunger for God strong in our hearts, we will eventually realize the emptiness of our lives without Him.  2) We come to the Eucharist hungering and thirsting for life, and the Lord feeds us with his word and with the bread of life. We in turn, need to allow our body to be broken and our blood to be shed for others as Jesus did; to be channels of that life, of that love, for each other. That is why, at the end of the Mass, we are sent out from the Eucharist as life givers, as agents of God’s life and love within our homes, our society, and our world.

By:  Father Joseph Ayinpuusa

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The proverb, “familiarity breeds contempt” becomes true as we read the first reading and the gospel this Sunday. The First reading from the Book of Kings Elijah is threatened by the king’s wife and Elijah flees to Mount Horeb. While there, God sends a messenger with bread and water. This gives Elijah the strength to walk to the mountain. The bread given to Elijah seems to foreshadow the Eucharist and its power to keep us faithful on our personal journey to God. Just as the Lord drew Elijah to the holy Mount, we too are drawn to the mountain of the Lord (the Church) where the Lord strengthens us with the living bread from heaven, namely, the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Sunday's Gospel begins with the Jews complaining about Jesus' claims regarding his identity. They knew his family: that he was born of Mary and that he was the son of Joseph. How could he then have come down from heaven? Jesus responds to their complaints by saying that those who listen to God will recognize that Jesus is the one sent from God. Those who believe will have eternal life. Jesus concludes with the central teaching on the Eucharist. He promises that the bread of life will bring eternal life to those who partake of it. Jesus tells us that the bread of life will be his own flesh, given for the life of the world. In today's Gospel, we hear Jesus repeat the words of last Sunday Gospel, that he is the bread of life.  We also hear Jesus add that his is the living bread.  Both of these statements help us understand better the gift that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist.  We celebrate this gift of Jesus each time we gather for Mass- the Eucharist.  We take Jesus with us when we sent to become what we have eaten- Jesus Christ.  In a deeper way we become the bread of life, broken for others to eat.  We can only do that if we encounter Jesus more deeply.  The bottom line is that hasty familiarity with the Eucharist can be an obstacle to such a deeper encounter.  

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Do not work for food that perishes...

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus told to the crowd

 “Do not work for food that perishes . . .”

It’s hard to not work for “food that perishes”.  And of course, that phrase is meant to include all of our earthly needs and all of our wants too.  There are many things that we need in this life: food, water, shelter, money, medical care, etc. . .  Is God really saying that we shouldn’t work toward these things?

I don’t think so.  It seems that Jesus is trying to make sure we have the proper relationship between God and these other things, that we don’t relentlessly pursue the things of this world at the expense of our relationship with God.  In other words, the way we purse these other needs, the choices we make and the attitides we possess while doing so, matter.  It's a kind of spiritual trap to try to use any means possible and go to any length to try to meet our earthly needs.  When we do that, we are essentially saying to God and the world, that our hope ultimately lies with the fruits of our own efforts.  And yet God knows that these things simply don't last.  They are not eternal.  We, however, somehow seem to forget that.  And the hunger persists.   

What are the things in our life that have all our attention and motivation and focus?  What are the “perishable foods” we are pursuing --- worldly things that ultimately cannot satisfy?  Where are the areas of our life in which God seems to be almost irrelevant, an afterthought?  Put simply --- what or whom can we live without? 

Our God wants to be real food for us.  He wants to feed us with every good thing, satisfy us in ways that only he can.

What are we filling ourselves up with instead?

By:  Deacon Romeo Ganibe