Third Sunday of Advent - Year C

The key to unlock the central message this Sunday is found in the second reading where Paul urges us to rejoice always in the Lord. In addition Paul tells us the reason for such joy. He argues that “there is no need to worry” because the Lord is near.

 

This Sunday we light the third candle of the Advent Wreath. Its desert rose color signifies joy because we are now halfway towards the birth of our Savior. That is why this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday which means, “Rejoice!” I know some of you might say, “Well, Father, I don’t feel all that joyful.” But we rejoice because the one who is to come is already with us.

 

In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah offers us the same message. “Shout for joy”; rejoice and exult because the Lord has removed judgment against us; he has driven our enemies away. Zephaniah, like Paul, assures us not to worry because the Lord our God is our hope and source of joy.

 

In the Gospel from Luke, John the Baptist responds to a basic question his listeners are asking on how they are to prepare themselves to receive the gift of joy and peace in life. In John’s reply, the source of true joy and peace consists in a sharing of goods with those who are deprived; in honest stewardship of common goods; and in being content with what one possesses. This threefold demand is a fulfillment of Jesus’ call for more than just fairness, justice and equity. Jesus calls us to be the best version of ourselves. This is a message that many people need to hear today.

 

You and I ask the same questions asked at the time of John the Baptist: “What must we do?” How do we find true joy? John the Baptist challenges us to seek ways of sharing the little God has given; ways of being honest and grateful for what God has given us. There is no better preparation for Christmas than letting go and letting God transform you and prepare you to be the best version of yourself this Christmas. We will then discover the Lord in our midst and he will fill us with joy and peace.

 

So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The best way to rejoice in the Lord, the way to true joy and peace, is found in genuine sharing with those who have nothing. 2) Genuine peace and joy are found in a just stewardship of common goods and being content with what God has given us. 3) Finally, we are called to walk along the way to perfection and holiness so that we will find true joy and peace this Christmas.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

Pastor

Second Sunday of Advent - Year C

Advent is a time to renew and deepen our relationship with God, a time of prayerful and trustful waiting for God.  Because the season of Advent is so important, the Church gives us four weeks to celebrate it, especially with our hearts.  It is an opportunity to step back from the consumerism of the materialistic world and make a straight way for the Lord an opportunity to receive the special grace God has planned for us this Advent.  Advent is a time of hope and also a time for spiritual preparation for the coming of Our Lord – not only at Christmas, but also for the second and final coming at the end of time.  This second Sunday of Advent, our Church encourages us to spend more time in prayer.   We are to put God first, as we look forward to celebrating Christ’s coming at Christmas.  Jesus is the light of the world and Advent is a time to come out of the darkness and walk in the light of Jesus.

 

Baruch, in this Sunday’s first reading, proclaims similar words as John the Baptist in the Gospel.  The prophet rejoices in God’s promise of His justice and glory, and “… that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground …” As Christian stewards we are called to prepare our hearts and minds for Christ’s second coming; to rejoice in his promise of eternal glory.

 

In his letter to the Christians at Philippi, Paul makes two things very clear.  The first is his great love and affection for the Philippians, who have helped him in his ministry.  The second is his hope that they will continue to become more and more like Christ.  Paul is looking forward to the second coming of Christ.  Paul wants to make sure that all Christ’s followers will be ready to receive him when he comes.  Paul prays that they will learn to prize what is of value until the day when Christ comes.

 

The Gospel today presents St. John the Baptist as our model for Advent preparation.  He is the precursor who announced the Lord’s coming and who prepared the people by preaching to them the baptism of repentance.  Through our Baptism, we are called to be Christ’s disciples.  Today our call still is to “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of our sins.”  Our responses to this call should always be to “make straight” our relationship with God and others; it must also be expressed in our way of life.  We must go on through this journey by offering or accepting forgiveness.  We can achieve this by making an effort to participate this Advent in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.   Advent is a time to set our sights on the day when the Lord comes to take us to the eternal city.   Let us not miss out on the grace God is offering us this Advent.  Let us be prepared as we journey toward heaven, our true home, our final destination.

 

Happy Advent!

 

Deacon Modesto Cordero

First Sunday of Lent - Year C

To understand the verses from Jeremiah more fully, it would be helpful to read the previous thirteen verses of this chapter. In the first five verses, ruin and capture by the Chaldaeans is foretold. Then the spirit of his words changes, recovery is promised and an offspring of David will arise and bring about fidelity and trust in the God who made the earth and justice. As always, first comes the bad news then the good.

 

In the midst of disaster and apparent abandonment by God, God’s word speaks through Jeremiah, which supports former promises that the city of Jerusalem will always be called the place of God’s justice.  The security promised is based on God’s fidelity, not on human power or human structures.

 

The chapter from which the verses of the Gospel are taken begins with the story of Jesus and his disciples who are watching worshipers entering the temple. They spot a widow putting in a few coins in the temple’s collection basket. Then they seem to contrast that with the splendor of the temple’s construction. Jesus predicts that all this grandeur will fall apart. His hearers ask when this will happen and how will they know, by what signs. The answer Jesus offers is more than we want to know.

 

What we hear are verses of bad news and as with the verses from Jeremiah, some corresponding good news. The very elements of creation will turn to signs of disorder and disaster. The moon, sun, stars and oceans will announce a shakeup.  These will be signs, not of the end, but of the beginning of a new order. The announcement will be that all those human structures are not the center and resting place.

 

It is way too easy and simplistic to interpret these verses as end-of-the-material-world sayings. They are a context for Jesus to get our attention about the disorder around us and within us. There are disasters awaiting the disorderly living. Our human weaknesses affect our values, sensitivities, and actions. It happens to the best of us!  Jesus is inviting us to watch the signs of our times, our personal times. What moons or stars or suns are trembling by our making them the center or god of our lives. As the Jews relied on the temple of God rather than the God of the temple, we have human inclinations to hold onto the temporary and yet attractive.

 

It is the beginning of Advent and in the Opening Prayer the Church invites us to ask for a spirit of “welcome” to the “Shoot of David”, Jesus. It is the beginning as well of the new liturgical year. We are preparing to welcome the God made one of us, to shake our stars, moons and suns. He enters our comfort zones to get our attention and trust by taking the false stability from right under our trembling feet and bringing us to our knees. Being on our knees is not a bad beginning place to welcome, accept, and worship the one who welcomes us by His coming.

 

Peace be with you,

 

Deacon Wally Mitsui

Solemity of Christ the King of the Universe - Year B

A victorious king on the cross sums up best the message of this Sunday, the solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe. On this final Sunday, we celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ the King of the Universe. We acknowledge Jesus as Lord and King of our lives.  The readings invite us to ask some searching questions about our loyalty as disciples and stewards. Who is your king? What king do you serve?

 

The Gospel presents one of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament. When asked by Pilate if he is a king, Jesus calmly responds, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.”  Jesus shows that he is a different kind of a king who rules not from a throne but from the Cross. He defends the truth with his blood on the Cross. Accepting such truth leads to true freedom. What king do you serve? Are we ready to let go and let Jesus invade our lives?

 

There is a funny story of a doctor who gave his patient six months to live. Since the patient could not pay his bill, the doctor gave him another six months to live. You and I are just like that doctor at times. We tend to postpone our full allegiance to Christ the King because God is not our top priority in our lives. We seem to have other ‘kings’ whom we serve.  The enemy within has a grip on us for pleasure that we confuse with happiness. We are not ready to let go our “gods” and “kings” until terror strikes! Are you ready to let go?

 

So what message do we take home? 1) Jesus Christ is a King who conquers sin and death on the Cross and resurrection. From the Cross, Jesus gives himself to us, serves and cares for all, particularly the less fortunate. 2) We are challenged to let go and let Jesus transform us into his own image; to make us be the best version of ourselves. 3) Being a member of Christ’s kingdom means being ready to fight and defend the values for which Jesus died; it means letting Christ rule my life and my family. Are you ready to let go and let Jesus take the driver’s seat?

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

Pastor

Thirty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time - Year B

As the end of liturgical year approaches, the readings speak about the end times that call us to look far into the future. The first reading and the gospel use apocalyptic language. Apocalyptic writings transmit teachings through mysterious images. Jesus does not mean to frighten his disciples with these images, but to console them. Plagues, famines, violent persecutions which they will have to bear are signs of a world still dominated by the evil spirit, but this world is now about to end. When we hear all this, we are tempted like the disciples to ask, "When, Lord?" The answer which Jesus gives: "no one knows," ought to bring us to pay more attention to the present and not the future. We tend to think of Jesus' coming as a future event. The present and the future coincide. The future is built and determined by our responses to the current challenges. So we should concentrate on the present day issues in preparation for the future. To do this effectively means that one has to be NOW, to be HERE and to be TRUE to SELF. We have to realize that Christ is already here in our midst at this moment, and we have to be attentive and let him influence the direction of our lives. The ultimate victory over darkness belongs to those who remain faithful. That victory and future is now.

We anticipate our future with joyful expectation, because the one we await is within and among us now. These words of hope were not written only for the Jews who were living at that time of tribulation and suffering, they are valid for all peoples living under similar conditions. Don't we feel depressed and discouraged as we see evil prevail in the world and in our vicinities? Daniel teaches us that no tear, no pain, no sacrifice is lost. He assures the people that all the just who are sleeping in the dust will awaken to share the joy of the kingdom and the wise who defended justice will shine as brightly as the heavens. Here we find the first mention of the resurrection in the Bible. Our faithfulness will speed up the rise of the new world and we will share in the joy of the kingdom of God because the end of this life does not mean the end of all.

 

Jesus predicted several times the coming end of his earthly life, which was not too far into the future. The disciples could not envision a future that Jesus predicted. Our present is about doing the little things well, listening to Jesus' words and "leading many to justice" through exemplary life. Being faithful to Christ will not protect us from catastrophe, suffering and death. Ironically it will lead us directly to them. But Jesus' word is our surety and his promise our hope. Those who hear and heed his words choose for themselves life, growth, and fruitfulness. As we walk with Jesus towards the heavenly Jerusalem, we pray today that we maintain our focus on God who is our "path" and our "inheritance."

 

As Christians we are invited to keep alert like the farmer, who knows how to "read" the signs that mark the coming of the new season. Jesus invites all those who suffer because of their love for truth, injustice, peace, and freedom not to get discouraged. Even during the darkest moments they will be able to see the signs of the kingdom that is coming closer. The disciple of Christ raises his head and can see in every event the sign that the son of man is near; while the pagan lowers his sight, looks down to the ground and despairs. It's this vision that captivated the saints and filled them with longing. As we come close the end of this liturgical year, let's take some time to imagine how beautiful heaven really is. Let's recall of all the homilies we have listened to this year. Have they helped us grow and be better than we were last year? 

 

God Loves You,

 

Fr. Boniface Waema

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings from the Book of Kings and from Mark speak about widows. The first story comes from the collection of tales of Elijah. Elijah predicted that there would be a famine and God told him to make his home in a distant riverbed. After a time, the creek ran dry and Elijah moved to a place in Sidon, which is on the northern coast. When Elijah reached the outskirts of the Zarephath village, he met a widow collecting firewood. He recognized this woman as someone whom God had designated to look after him. He called out to her, “Can I have a drink of water, please?” She went off to get him a drink.  He called again, “Please bring me a piece of bread.” The woman stopped in her tracks. Water she could provide, but she had not baked bread that day as she was nearly out of flour. 

 

She was embarrassed to have to say that she had no bread, as hospitality to the stranger was of such importance. She had been collecting the sticks to make flat bread for herself and her child, using her last handful of flour and last drop of oil.  After that was used up there would be nothing.

 

Elijah called on the woman for a supreme act of faith. He asked her for her last supplies so that he could eat. He promised her that in exchange God would keep her flour bin full and her oil jar brimming. Here is a widow faced with the demands of a stranger, maybe the God he worshipped was also a stranger to her. She took the risk and was able to feed Elijah, her child and herself.

 

Our second widow is observed in the outskirts of the temple. Jesus is sitting on a bench, watching people making donations to the temple fund. He sees wealthy people making sizeable donations. Then a widow approaches and drops in two small copper coins. Jesus calls the disciples over to his bench. “Did you see that poor widow? She has just given more than all the others who have donated to the treasury. They gave from their surplus wealth; she gave from her basic supply and that was all she had to live on.

 

Two widows, how do we judge them?  They were women who had suffered the loss of a spouse which taught them to re-examine their attitudes towards possessions. The widows then became models of how a disciple should act. In the first story, the gift is bread. As disciples, we are also called to give spiritual nourishment to those who seek it from us. In the Second story the widow gives her resources. These widows should inspire and challenge us to be disciples of sharing our lives with others with kindness and generosity. 

 

Peace!

 

Deacon Wallace Mitsui

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Attributes!

This weekend we celebrate the feast of all Saints.  The Saints remind us of things that are changeless, timeless; things like courage, holiness, sacrifice and hope.  For all the trials and hardships that the world has known, throughout history “ordinary people,” with extraordinary attributes, have stepped forward to live out those ideals.  These “ordinary people” are God’s gifts to us; and this weekend we celebrate these gifts. God continues to give us Saints. In the last two months, Pope Francis added many other “ordinary men and women” to that list of “extraordinary people”: Rev. Junípero Serra (first canonization in the United States), Vincenzo Grossi, María de la Purísima Salvat Romero and Louis and Zélie Martin (parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus). These were not people who would seem to be destined for holiness, but gave up everything for God. 

 

For instance, St. Patrick was thee son of a deacon, who was kidnapped and held as a slave for years before he escaped and found his way home and to God. St. Dominic was the rich Spaniard who attended the finest schools, but when famine struck and he saw human suffering, he was so moved with pity that he sold all he had and joined a monastery. A young man from a prosperous and prominent family in Germany who did everything his father did not want him to do – including, finally, becoming a priest, was St. Boniface. The arrogant Italian playboy who scandalized and embarrassed his family, then gave up everything for God. We know him today as St. Francis of AssisiSt. Marianne Cope, whose original name was Barbara, was the daughter of Peter and Barbara Cope of Germany. She saw in the faces of those terribly afflicted and rejected by society, “the face of Christ, not asking for compassion, but demanding a love to match His own”.

 

Our ancestry may be different, we may come from various backgrounds and cultures, but the Saints we venerate and remember today, remind us of who we are and who we can be. They remind us of who we are and who we can be. An old saying puts it this way, “Every Saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”  That’s one of the messages of this feast day. No matter where we come from, what we have been, what we have done, we can all still aspire to be Saints. The gospel this weekend explains how it is done. The people described here, the “blessed,” embody virtues that are, in fact, very simple and very modest. To be blessed is to be merciful, to make peace, to be meek, to be poor in spirit. Greatness is rooted in things that are seemingly small. Yet, here are the seeds of sainthood, and those seeds grow with love. Love can change hearts and lives. Love can inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

 

Let us always remember that we are blessed when we are poor in spirit; when we rely on the grace of God and put Him first at all times.  We are blessed when we mourn, when we mourn for our sins and ask forgiveness of each other, when we are not so proud that we refuse to admit our need of forgiveness but turn humbly to God and each other asking for mercy.  We are blessed when we are meek; when we are gentle instead of domineering.  We are blessed when we are merciful, when we are clean of heart, when we live our life in a way that reflects our faith, like Saints.

 

Blessings,

 

Deacon Modesto Cordero

We Don't take God's Gifts for Granted

In the gospel reading today, Jesus says to Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you?" Bartimaeus answers, "Master, I want to see."

 

Our sight is a gift from God. We neither earn or deserve it. We receive it. Most of us receive the gift of sight at birth. It's like the premium package that comes with a new car: automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes and door locks, an audio system with CD changer, Bluetooth and more. These gifts of sight, touch, hearing, and speech, and many other natural gifts, are those we might take for granted each day.

 

Bartimaeus did not receive the gift of sight, and so throughout his life he sat by the roadside begging, but this was the means by which he encountered Jesus.

 

Crying out, "Jesus, son of David have pity on me," he was persistent to get Jesus' attention and yelled louder despite those around him quieting him down. When Jesus asks for Bartimeaus, he jumps up, throws off his coat, and runs to Jesus.  When Jesus asks, "What do you want me to do?”, Bartimeaus answered, "Master, I want to see." Jesus says, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Just as he asks, Bartimeaus receives his sight and follows him on the way.

 

Bartimaeus became a disciple, a follower of Jesus and took "the way", that is, the path to the Cross.  This is the road we must all take as we follow Jesus in our own lives.  With this new gift of sight Bartimaeus became a Christian steward: one who receives God's gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends to them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them generously with others, and returns them to the Lord with even more.

 

What does the experience of Bartimaeus teach us today? If we have a gift from God, or many, many gifts from God, it is our responsibility to say thank you and give back.  We must take special care of our gifts and share them generously with others.  The story of Bartimaeus also reminds us that the Church is a gift that no one deserves or is entitled to. We receive the Church from our Heavenly Father through all those who faithfully committed their lives for 2000 years to build up the Body of Christ and to establish and sustain our sacred place of worship.

 

We are reminded that we cannot take for granted God's gifts for us all. We want our parish to be a vibrant community of faith, and so we must participate in our church mission and take action. We must take part in our parish formation programs not only for ourselves, but for our children, and for our youth. We must continue to pray for vocations, invite and encourage talented young people to respond generously to God's call.  We want good clergy and to participate and pray with beautiful liturgy in which our ministries thrive because of a dynamic community of faith.  Above all, we must continue to be good and faithful stewards, nurturing all of God's gifts as we persist in prayer.  This requires the same courage revealed by Bartimaeus when he threw off his coat and ran blindly to Jesus.  Let us run to him without doubt, but with conviction.

 

When the Lord asks, "What do you want me to do for you," let us be ready to respond to Him with faith and to trust in His call for each of us. Let us give thanks for all of our blessings, get up and follow the way of Jesus.

 

Blessings to All,

 

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Twenty-Ninth Sunday In Ordinary Time - Year B

Saints Behaving Badly – the title of a book by Thomas J. Craughwell, helps to capture best the message of this Sunday’s readings. The book shows that saints are not born but made. It also reveals that some saints were made of very rough materials indeed. It lays bare the unsaintly behavior of thirty-two venerated holy men and women, uncovering the scandalous and sleazy detours they took on the road to sainthood. The book, for example, profiles St. Hyppolytus in the 3rd century who was an intellectual genius, but so arrogant that he even considered and said publicly that the pope was intellectually inferior to him. When the pope died, Hyppolytus thought himself to be the logical successor, but as it always happens when the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, the successor was St. Callistus (218-223) his arch enemy. Hyppolytus was so arrogant and extremely ambitious that he allowed his followers to make him the “anti-pope.” The emperor condemned him to hard labor in Sardinia where he later repented. This story helps to highlight the enormous challenge of ambition the Church still faces today. One is struck by the ambition of seeking after positions of power in the Church at all levels quite similar to that of the sons of Zebedee in the Gospel.

 

In the Gospel Jesus gives a wonderful catechesis on leadership as service, by giving his own example.  By taking on himself the role of a servant and redeeming us by his own suffering and death, Christ has turned all human ambitions upside down. "Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Pope Francis has often spoken about ambition and power seeking in the Church. Last year he referred to people like these as climbers, people driven by ambition! He then challenged them: “But if you like climbing go to the mountains and climb them: it is healthier! Do not come to Church to climb! So what message do we take home? 1) Leadership is not about seats and positions, but about service and self-sacrifice for others. 2) Jesus challenges us to follow his own example, for he “did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 3) Pope Francis reminds us that the Church is not a place to climb. If you like climbing, go to the mountains!

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

Pastor

Twenty-Eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time

The rich young man must have had an inkling that keeping the commandments was not enough, or else he never would have approached Jesus with his question about how to inherit eternal Life. Looking at him, Jesus loved him. Wouldn't we all want to have such concrete affirmation that Jesus loves us? Jesus clearly told him the cost of following him: he must give up everything. The man "went away sad." Are we not also sometimes sad at the demands of being faithful followers of Jesus? What does it mean to give up everything? In spite of his faithfulness in keeping the God's commandments and his being loved by Jesus, the man nevertheless had divided heart: "he went away sad, for he had many possessions." He needed to turn his focus from earthly life to eternal Life, from possessions to single - heartedly following Jesus to salvation.

 

The rabbis taught that one was upright once he kept the commandments, but Jesus adds another demand that seems excessive: "To sell all that you have and give the money to the poor". Note well: it is not a matter of giving out something in alms; everything must be given up and this is no joke. Giving our all to follow Jesus doesn't mean that we literally sell everything; we all have family and social obligations that make having things a necessity. Jesus is saying that we can't let possessions divide our hearts. Too often possessions possess us; we must let go so only God possesses us. The man turned away from Jesus because he couldn't let go. It's not impossible to enter the kingdom of God because "all things are possible for God." But it is hard to enter the kingdom of God because too often our hearts are divided. The very hard demands of following Jesus include allowing ourselves to be possessed by Jesus fully and completely so that we receive the hundredfold promised those who are faithful to him. Riches are a stumbling block to following Jesus when they command our attention so that we are not turned toward doing what is right.

 

Jesus is the wisdom of God - no possessions compare to him. When we choose to follow him, all good things come to us. It is human tendency to do the minimum - just enough to get by. According to Jesus, keeping the commandments is the minimum; faithfully following him requires much more. And we know that inheritance is not something that can be gained, nor can it be received as a reward, or as a kind of salary, but it is a free gift. Thus eternal life is not a reward for our good deeds, but a generous gift of the Father to his children. The inevitable mistakes that we make do not prevent us from looking at our lives as good.

 

Salvation comes only through dispossessing self of all that stands in the way of making God the complete focus of one's life. The teaching is hard - the young man walks away from it and the disciples question their ability to live it. The price is nothing less than our giving everything; the reward is nothing less than our receiving fullness of Life. Let us ask God to fill us with divine love and wisdom we need to make this choice. God granted such love and wisdom to Solomon and Jesus offered it to the young man. A wise person, one who learns to give things their proper importance and value, who chooses things according to the plan of God, and gains all: he finds happiness. We are, in a sense, the young man in the gospel of today. Are we ready to accept the invitation or we prefer to walk away because too high a price to pay?

 

Fr. Boniface Waema, Parochial Vicar 

"Family is a Factory of Hope!" -Pope Francis, 2015

Today’s readings are timely in our society, especially with the recent visit of Pope Francis to United States and the incoming Synod of Bishops on the Family this month.  Our readings may seem “controversial”, but we must view them in the context of which they are presented.  Their underlying message is about the importance of family.  Family can be defined and regarded from a number of different notions.  They range from the family into which we are born, to our faith family here at St. John Apostle and Evangelist Church.

 

The reading from the Book of Genesis speaks about the creation by God of the first man and the first woman.  Adam and Eve are described as ‘”partners”. We are all partners, in stewardship if you will.  That is what makes us a family and a community.  God’s intention, “from the beginning of creation”, is that we live our relationships with each other with the openness and trust of children.  The idea of family is extended in the Second Reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews. 

 

Our reading today opens with “Brothers and Sisters.”  That is a clear statement that we are a family of faith, and that in loving one another as we should, we need to see one another as members of a family.  However, for us to truly be a family, regardless how we may define it, it involves sacrifice. That, too, parallels the idea of stewardship.  To be a steward, to be a disciple means that we are willing to serve one another in love.  Our gospel unfolds two interrelated situations.  It speaks about the sacredness of marriage - traditional marriage - and that children are truly blessed and a blessing in the eyes of God. 

 

The Pharisees approach Jesus to test him about his stance concerning marriage and divorce; the disciples rebuke the people for bringing their children to Jesus.  In both situations, God’s intentions for human relationships are being thwarted.  In both situations, Jesus upholds human relationships as fundamental to embracing the kingdom of God.  In both situations, faithful ones are embraced and blessed by God.  In this gospel Jesus exposes the hardness of the Pharisees’ hearts.  This challenges us to look deep within our own hearts.  Jesus said that, “Because of the hardness of your hearts (Moses) wrote you this commandment.”  The Pharisees show “hardness of … hearts” by putting the Law of Moses, which allows divorce, ahead of the plan of God (“what God has joined together, no human being must separate”).  Even the disciples show “hardness of … hearts” in rebuking the children.

 

The dignity and stability of marriage is of the greatest importance to families, to children, and to society itself.  When Jesus elevated matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament, he was doing something completely unprecedented. Christ elevated the natural reality of Christian marriage to a supernatural plane. For a Christian, marriage is not simply a social institution, much less a mere remedy for human weakness.  The family is the primary vital cell of society and the Church itself.  The family has a sacred status that deserves the veneration and attention of all its members, of civil society, and of the entire Church. 

 

Pope Francis said, “Family is a factory of hope.”  The very first thing that was not in God’s good creation, we encounter in today’s first reading when God looks around and proclaims: “It is not good for man to be alone!”  It helps to understand why our Church insists that we cannot be Catholics by ourselves; we need this weekly community celebration we call “the Mass,” in which we worship and pray, think and believe, eat and drink together.  God wants the family to be a school of virtues where children are formed as good sons and daughters of God and good citizens.  The love shared by a family needs to be shared with all those around us.  That is what Jesus expects of us and that is what living a steward is all about – Love.  The Eucharist is a good place to learn this lesson.

 

Blessings,

 

Deacon Modesto Cordero

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Recognizing the working of the Spirit in others and tolerance are the key words that help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. Both the first reading and the gospel challenge us to recognize the work of the Spirit in others, to be inclusive and tolerant.

 

In the gospel, the disciples try to stop someone who was driving out demons just like them. They had to learn that their way was, in fact, a much narrower way than the Lord’s way, and that their narrow perspective was an obstacle to the Lord’s work getting done. Those they judged to be ‘not one of us’, Jesus regarded as ‘for us.’

 

In contrast to his disciples, Jesus was able to recognize and encourage goodness wherever he found it. He knew that the Spirit blows where it wills. He was alert to the presence of the Spirit in anyone.

The main point is that we all have a role to play in recognizing and supporting the working of the Spirit in each other. Towards the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” (Thess 5:19) How do we quench the Holy Spirit in others?  There are several examples. We can become a stumbling block, an obstacle, to God’s working in their lives. We can quench the Spirit in others and hinder the good work that God is doing through them for a whole variety of very human reasons. We can be motivated by jealousy, as Moses suggests Joshua was in today’s first reading.

 

Like the disciples, we can refuse to acknowledge God’s good work in the lives of others because they are not ‘one of us’, because they belong to a different church or religion or ethnic group. We can also be dismissive of the good someone else is doing simply because it is not the way we would have done it, forgetting that the Holy Spirit works in many diverse ways in people’s lives.

 

So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The mark of a true disciple and steward of Jesus Christ is an attitude of encouragement, tolerance, compassion and acceptance of the gifts of others. 2) God's Spirit is not limited to those of our company or to a chosen elite group. The Holy Spirit is not even limited to this or that Church.  3) Rather than quenching the Spirit in others and hindering the good work that God is doing through them, we are urged to recognize, encourage and affirm others.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

Pastor

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Gospel, we begin with the second prediction of the passion. Like many things in the biblical tradition, a threefold repetition gives emphasis of its importance.

 

Mark places this teaching in the context of a secret journey. There is a suggestion of a time alone with the disciples. The three predictions of the passion are inserted with very little reference to the rest of the narrative. The predictions are a reminder to us that Jesus was not surprised by the later events in Jerusalem; he had seen them on the horizon for a great part of his journey.  The comment “they were afraid to ask” suggests that awkwardness had crept over the relationship between Jesus and the disciples. 

 

“What did you talk about on your way home?” The disciples couldn’t answer, we are told, because they were arguing about their various positions in the group. This highlights the complete misunderstanding of pain, suffering and rejection as a part of the way to` liberation. 

 

In the manner of the great prophets, Jesus now uses a concrete sign. He gathers his disciples around him and picks up the child of one of them. He holds the child on his knee while he speaks, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

 

This basic Christian teaching, common to all the Gospels, is one that has not always been honored. An attitude of servanthood is not one that permits a triumphal attitude, yet much of our history, has been about seeing ourselves as better than others.

 

Finally it is important to listen to what the child means to us. “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and the servant of all.” In the first part of the gospel, the disciples are told that a measure of their discipleship is their attitude of power. In the second part, discipleship can be judged on the disciple’s attitude to children.

 

When Jesus placed a child in their midst, the symbol of simplicity and powerlessness was to teach the disciples that he himself was born a poor child to a poor family in a poor town. Jesus illustrated the value and dignity of simply being human. Just being a child of God is value enough, not what one has or one’s status. He uses the child to exemplify the importance of doing what is just and right, not for rewards or status. Serving others, doing what is right and just, is its own reward; serving a child who has nothing to give in return reinforces this notion strongly. 

 

We can all learn from little children and they have much to offer us in our faith journey. Take the time to observe, interact and simply be in their presence in our homes, schools and parish community.

 

Blessings,

Deacon Wally Mitsui

 

 

 

"Ephphatha!" - The Deaf Hear & the Mute Speak!

The deaf hear, the blind see, and those bowed down are raised up. Our associations affect us. Teenage friends dress like friends, talk like friends and effect a walk like their friends.  Parents know this.  Though difficult to do, parents will sometimes not allow their child to play with another child out of fear that the association will lead their own child down the wrong path, but association can improve us as well.  That is why we sometimes join certain groups.  We all know people who seek out special associations, especially with the rich and famous – and to some degree, we also are guilty of doing it.  How many of us love getting our picture taken with a famous person?  There’s not necessarily anything wrong or sinful in this, but it does point out that we like to have certain associations.  Having a picture of ourselves with someone famous is fun.  It makes others notice us. 

 

Saint James is speaking to us about our Christian associations.  If nowhere else then at least within our faith communities we must strive to freely and comfortably associate with all who come to pray with us.  In God’s kingdom as it is meant to be lived, we would freely and comfortably associate with everyone, but we know this is not yet the case.  The prophet Isaiah was writing to the northern Kingdom of Israel in the days it was besieged by Assyria.  People were frightened.  They had despaired.  Isaiah needed to restore hope.  His choice of method to restore hope was to try to convince people to once again associate with God.  If they would only associate with God once again, then their friendship with Him would bring the peace they sought.  Isaiah proclaims, “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!”  These are comforting words to us as Christian stewards in an uncertain world.

 

There is a hidden association in our Gospel today.  “People” brought Jesus a deaf man.  We don’t know what motivated these friends, but they took him to Jesus and begged Jesus to do something.  It could be that these “people” simply used the man to get Jesus to do something interesting, but these “people” could also have been friends looking out for one of their own.  Using spittle, which was believed to have curative powers, we know that Jesus responded.  Today we might question our own associations.  With whom do we choose to spend our time?  What is the criteria we use to make friends and keep our friendships?  How many of our friendships are based on our shared faith?  How many are life-giving?  How many associations with other people are formed just so we can gain something?   Isaiah, James and Mark offer us a vision of what proper associations can do for us.  They can bring hope.  They can facilitate healing.  And if used properly, our associations can also spread faith in Jesus Christ. Discrimination and prejudice are evils in our society.  To be Christian disciples and good stewards, we must understand the kingdom of God is open to ALL who love him.  The good steward must not show favoritism. 

 

God Bless You!

 

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

All of the readings for today have the common theme of law.  There are commandments to be observed if we are to be faithful to God.

 

To think of it as a collection of laws is to miss its wonder.  Torah is about witness or testimony.  Is God good?  Look at the evidence, judge for yourself.  Observances or commandments are to help us be worthy witnesses to the goodness, mercy, love and justice of God.  This is not the way we generally think about law.  We often see it as something, which gets in the way of our pursuing our own aims and desires.

 

Problems occur if laws themselves become more important than the people whose lives they are designed to serve and protect.  If we remove the first three of the traditional Ten Commandments, which have application to a group founded on belief in God, the other seven commandments are the minimum for basic community living.

 

The reading from Deuteronomy goes beyond a set of observances to provide for a way of life.  It focuses attention on the benefits that come from a life of fidelity.  You will have life, and you will take possession of the land.  Your life of observance will be evidence of your wisdom and intelligence.  You will be an example to all.  Through your way of living others will come to know God.

 

The passage from the letter of James belongs to the later part of the first century of the Christian era.  The emphasis by the writer is to live a life that reflects it nature as a gift from God. A good image is that of a mirror, as it is a convenient way to check our appearance, for others it is a reminder of who they are and what they aspire to be. If the word of God is something you listen to occasionally but never put into practice then you are like the first person.  The second type of person carries the image of what they are called to be and this affects their actions throughout the day.

 

The gospel shows us what happens if observance becomes separated from the heart and mind and spirit.  It is not the observance itself that Jesus criticizes but the attitude of the “law observers” who see their position as one that enables them to judge others.

 

The other criticism is about making human laws sacred.  He accuses these people of setting aside God’s way for human ways.  Jesus uses one custom, that of hand washing before eating, to expand on the theme.  Of course, it is important to observe the rules of hygiene but if there is to be an emphasis on purity, surely the most important thing is purity of heart.

 

As adults in the Christian community we need to reflect on our religious laws from time to time to check that they promote growth and freedom and do not quench the spirit.  Healthy community living promotes and serves the wholeness of each individual.

 

Blessings,

 

Deacon Wally Mitsui

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

At some point in our lives, each individual makes some major decisions, and, in one way or the other, makes them known to others. Such may comprise the decision to marry and whom to marry; the decision to pursue a religious vocation for the priesthood or religious life and which diocese or congregation to join; the decision to begin a business and which business to embrace; the decision over the choice of school for our children or for ourselves; the decision as to which friends we want in our lives or not, and so on. It is precisely the decisions we make after weighing our responsibility (response ability) over them that make us happy or sad in this life. We are happy and grateful when we make the right decisions, and sad and regretful when we make wrong ones and say, “If I knew.”

 

To avoid “had I known,” Joshua teaches us in the first reading to begin with life’s decisions by making the right decision – opt for God! Jesus took an entire night in prayer before choosing his friends, the apostles (Lk 6:12-13). [He scored 91.67%, not because he made a mistake in the choice of Judas, but rather because the material he had to work with was human and weak, for he knew all the time who was to betray him (Jn 13:11)].

The decision of Joshua to vouch for himself and for his household on an uncompromising faith in Yahweh in the face of other gods, whom the rest of the Hebrews were beginning to drift after, did not come in the spur of the moment, but was a decision coming after long reflection and prayer, and so it was deep rooted and firm in his person: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” It was his firm decision to serve no other god but the Lord alone that turned the minds and hearts of others to God.

 

At the height of his ministry, when other human beings would have been careful against losing the large following that Jesus’ ministry was beginning to attract, Jesus made the decision to state the central teaching about his life and ministry by declaring his body and blood as true food and drink for anyone who desires to have life. In today’s gospel, we see the consequence of that declaration: “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”

 

The decisions we make in life have consequences, good or bad. Most often we lack the audacity of Jesus to tell our friends, our spouses, our colleagues, our families, the truth about ourselves for fear of similar consequences of desertion. Yet Christ assures us to speak the truth, and if it is the truth that we speak, as he did, he will always stand by us. In the second reading from his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul sets another example in speaking the truth about marriage, referring to it as a mysterious union between a man and a woman, husband and wife, which resonates the mystical beauty of the church with Christ as its head. The Church, therefore, says like Joshua, “As for me and my household, this is what we believe.”

 

Christ is the eternal companion whom we should always consult for every decision and option we make in life, as Peter’s words continue to resound: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” We do not change eternal words; rather, they change us; we do not keep Christ company; rather, he keeps us company; we need Him, he does not need us. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to his greatness but makes us grow in his grace.

 

Fr. Eugen Nkardzedze

 

Visiting Priest from the Diocese of Kumbo, Cameroon

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Quarrels are brought about by misunderstandings and disagreements. They are usually marked by anger, selfishness and stubbornness. Jesus' teaching and the quarrel of the Jews go to the heart of issues of what they held dear in their tradition. The cause of the quarrel is centered on the question who is "this man" and on telling them to eat his "flesh and blood." For them this meant eating "the whole person." Jesus declares that he is the "living bread sent by his Father"; who shares the divine Life with the Father. These words of Jesus were scandalous to the Jews. Their embarrassment does not seem to worry Jesus who repeats what he said; he even adds a provocative proposal that it is necessary to drink his blood. The Jews could not accept that Jesus was divine.

 

In Jesus the divine Life has been incarnated in human flesh. When we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we partake in that same divine Life he shares with the Father. And so, like God, we will "live forever." And so, like the risen Christ, we will be the Presence of God incarnated in human flesh. The depth of this mystery challenges us no less than the Jews of Jesus' time. We, too, are faced with the question, who is "this man"? To follow Jesus is to let go of tradition and enter a whole new way of living and believing.

 

We spend our lives encountering Jesus in many different ways and grappling with the mystery of who he is. The mystery of life and death is at the heart of what Jesus was teaching about being the "living bread" given for us. The mystery of the Eucharist is present to us on the altar of sacrifice during mass and on the altars of sacrifice of our daily living as we give ourselves over for the good of others. In this way of living we learn who Jesus is. His invitation to "eat and drink" his flesh and blood is an invitation to enter into his own mystery of self-giving, dying and rising. Eucharist is self-giving. We can be self-giving like Jesus because by eating his flesh and drinking his blood we become more perfectly the Body of Christ. This is why we can "remain" in Jesus - we are transformed by what we eat. So the Eucharist transforms us to assume the mind and life of Christ. The Eucharist is both gift given and an invitation to live as Jesus did. This mystery strengthens us for our daily dying and rising, our daily giving of ourselves for the sake of others so that we all might share more abundantly in the divine Life.

 

To receive the Eucharist sincerely means to be assimilated and identified with Christ. This is also the reason why we should not receive the Eucharist without first listening to the word of God. If we choose to become one person with Christ in the Eucharist, we must first accept his teaching. It is like signing a contract: one has first to read and assess all its content carefully. Before receiving the Eucharist it is fitting that we read or hear the word of God and resolve to make it the food of our minds, so that we may welcome him warmly and lovingly. Receiving the Eucharist day after day without knowing its true value might become a routine and make us cold and indifferent towards this Most Holy Sacrament. Each time we receive the Eucharist, we are truly receiving Jesus and he comes to abide in us and make our lives more enriching and holy. How do we approach this Most Holy Sacrament? How does it change us and make enlivened each time?

 

God Loves you,

 

Fr. Boniface Waema

Nineteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

It is often said that it is better to give than to receive, but it is usually more difficult to receive than to give.  The person who gives has the satisfaction of helping and supporting another.  On the other side, the person who receives is in a different situation.  They become indebted to the person who gives.  However with this, a bond of friendship is formed.  We all know the experience of exchanging gifts and feeling a bit uneasy when we realize that someone has given us a gift that is much nicer than the one we bought for them.  Receiving a gift changes us because it binds us responsibly to the one who gives.

Receiving something of great value transforms us from within.  It creates within us a special bond from the giver and reveals to us a new sense of responsibility. 

In the same way, when we receive the Eucharist, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hold the most beautiful gift. This entails more than we can ever imagine.  In the gospel today Jesus says “I am the living bread that has come down from heaven."  At the altar, the gift of Jesus himself is offered to us in the most precious Eucharist. When we partake in this meal we are profoundly indebted and empowered to do as our savior plans.  We are responsible to build God’s kingdom, to see God's will be done on earth. 

The bread, which is the sign of the Eucharist, is also the sign of what that responsibility entails.  Every piece of bread reveals our connectedness to the rest of the world.  It is Christ in His very self and we hold a sacrament that opens our lives to see how we are all connected to one another.  We are all part of His body.

We are called to receive the Eucharist and remember that we and those around us are all one family in Christ.  Jesus speaks to us, and invites us all to take and eat. 

When we receive Jesus, we are entitled and responsible to build the kingdom and be a symbol of His love and justice to others in our world. As Pope Francis shared, “by receiving Christ in the Eucharist, taking part in His life and entering into communion  with Him, we in turn are called to promote unity among ourselves, transforming our life into a gift, especially to the poor, to the suffering, even to the smallest and most defenseless.”

Blessings,

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

This Sunday Paul in the second reading calls us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. This is a spiritual revolution that transforms us to desire encountering Jesus, the bread of life who is simply irresistible.

 

Let me first share with you a brief story. It is about the situation in China and other parts of Asia in the 19th century during a period of years when there was a rice shortage. Many families in the Asian region converted, were baptized and became active Christians as long as their physical needs were met by the Church. The name given to these Catholics was “Rice Christians” because as soon as the food situation improved they drifted away from Church. I share this story because in the Gospel of this Sunday, people go in search of Jesus, not because they really believed in Him, but because He gave them free lunch which was irresistible. 

 

Jesus however takes the opportunity to proclaim himself as the bread of life. "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never hunger; he who believes in me will never thirst". Both the first reading and the Gospel this Sunday speak about God who miraculously provides for the physical needs of the people. The readings invite us to go beyond the physical needs; to focus our attention on Christ, who is the bread of life. Our concern for the physical needs must never overshadow our desire for the real bread of life that transforms us to be the best version of ourselves. In the Gospel we are told that the crowds were coming to Jesus because they had their fill of earthly bread. They were simply drawn to following Jesus because they knew they would be hungry again and that Jesus would feed them.

 

Jesus, in the Gospel passage, challenges us to be radically transformed by moving to a new level of awareness, to realize that Christ is everything that matters most to us. He is the bread of life. He is the one who satisfies our spiritual hunger and thirst. Jesus invites us to go beyond our superficial, selfish encounters, to a deeper spiritual encounter, a genuine intimacy with him. The readings invite us to assess our motives for coming to Church on Sunday or even daily. Are we simply running after food that perishes? If so, Jesus invites us to rethink our encounter with him, to be transformed so we may seek food that satisfies our deepest hunger. You and I are here because we seek to be transformed by a real encounter with Jesus, whom God has sent; we want to be deeply touched by Jesus so we may assume his way of thinking his vision, mission and purpose. So what is the take away message this Sunday? 1) The readings challenge us to evaluate our motives for coming to Church. Are we like the “Rice Christians” simply running after food that perishes? 2) Do we come simply to fulfill a Sunday obligation; or are we here for what we get rather than what we give? 3) Paul invites us to assume a radical way of thinking; to seek and encounter Christ, the true bread of life that radically transforms us, so we may transform others by leading them to encounter Jesus Christ who is simply irresistible.

 

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

 

 

 

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Second Book of Kings, we read of the Prophet Elisha and a multiplication of loaves. Elisha’s name echoes Jesus’ name.  They both mean:  God saves.

 

There was a famine and a community of prophets who were trying to make a soup. Unfortunately, someone put in a poisonous plant by mistake.  The community was saved by Elisha’s intervention. His good turn was reciprocated by a gift of twenty barley loaves brought by a man from a neighboring town.  Elisha asked the donor to set the bread before the community.  The man objected on the grounds that the supplies were too meager to put before a hundred men.  Elisha encouraged him to go ahead, saying that God would provide in abundance.  All ate and there were leftovers. This story and others from the life of Elisha showed the people the truth of his name.

 

The feeding of the five thousand in the Gospels is a similar story.  It is about the gratuitous nature of God’s love.  The story begins with a journey across water. As all details are significant, we are invited to consider what this symbol means. 

 

Water makes the division between the old life and the new life in Christ.  John emphasizes this by placing the story in the context of the Passover.  A crowd of people seek Jesus because they have heard of or have experienced healing.

 

Jesus notices the problem that is coming in terms of the need to offer hospitality. His question is, “Where will we buy food?” Philip responds with a practical answer.  Never mind the where-where is of no use without the cash.  Andrew points out a little boy, the word can also be used of servant, who has more than enough for him.  He has no illusions about the usefulness of the supplies.  Jesus takes over the direction of the action.  “Get the people to recline,” there was plenty of room.  Reclining is the proper posture for a banquet.  Jesus began with a blessing.  He probably used a typical blessing from his tradition.  “Blessed are you, O Lord, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”

 

After the meal, Jesus instructs the disciples to gather up the left overs, there is to be no waste.  This story offers a basis for John’s reflection on the Bread of Life.  Jesus who feeds is also the food. 

 

At the heart of Jesus’ mission is the love he has for all people.  As a devout Jew he sat in the synagogue listening to the Word of God, which challenged him to the realization of the vision of God, expressed through loving kindness, mercy, tenderness and compassion.  The task of our parish community is to pick up the vision of Jesus, through our sharing of the Word and Sacrament and becoming the food and drink for our hungering community.

 

Blessings,

Dcn. Wally Mistui