The Second Sunday of Lent - Year C

 

Today the gospel gives us an account of an event that some interpret as an anticipation of the heavenly experience for some disciples.  Jesus begins to see the signs of failure in his ministry: the crowds, who at first were enthusiastic about him, now leave him; some take him as mad and others an extremist, and his enemies start planning his death.  The transfiguration takes place while Jesus is in prayer with his closest disciples. This made him understand his Father's plan for salvation and accepted it as his own.  His Father confirmed him as his "Chosen One", the faithful and beloved servant, to whom we must listen.

During this episode, we have the appearance of two important persons: Moses and Elijah.  They represent the Law and the Prophets, i.e. the whole Old Testament (OT).  The OT is important in the understanding of Jesus and his mission.   The OT is meaningless without Jesus, and Jesus himself without the OT would be a mystery.

On Easter day, in order to let his disciples understand the meaning of his death and resurrection, Jesus will explain the OT.   The disciple's sleep during transfiguration has a symbolic meaning: its significance is that they do not understand what is happening to Jesus.

Peter's response to this glorious event is surely quite shortsighted: he wants to pitch tents and stay put on the mountain.  Only by the disciples going through life with Jesus, embracing his passing through suffering and death to risen life, can they open up new possibilities and embrace flowering growth. Only by choosing the longer vision of going to Jerusalem with Jesus can we hope to share in his glory. Only by staying close to Jesus can such a journey end in a share in his glory.  Jesus' transfiguration cannot erase the stark reality of the self-giving that travelling to Jerusalem with him requires.

The glory only comes through embracing the passion.  This is a mystery and paradox. Jesus' transfigured glory comes only through our embracing something as demanding as dying to self for the good of others.  We are reminded that the only way to remain in that glory is to die to self. Anybody wanting to please God must listen and follow in Jesus' steps.  We have to come down off the mountain and go our own journey through death to glory.

Today we are invited to see our baptism in light of the transfiguration. Baptism isn't simply a ritual we perform, but initiates a covenant with God that we live out the rest of our lives. During Lent, as we walk with the elect through their final preparation for baptism, we too prepare to renew our covenant with God at Easter.

This Sunday we are given a glace of glory to help us ease away the discouragement of a lifetime of self-emptying. As disciples we must stay in the presence of Jesus, listen to him, and go to our own Jerusalem, to pass over from death to new Life.

Discipleship merges two seemingly different directions into one: we stay with Jesus as we go to our own Jerusalem to die to self. God emphasizes the primacy of listening to His beloved Son. These words, listen to Him, will eventually train our ears and hearts to sort and sift out what is important, to make room for the words of joy, peace, healing, and glory that Jesus whispers to us in the silence of listening hearts.  God Loves You. 

Fr. Boniface Waema

 

Love is in the Air!

This weekend we are celebrating Valentine’s Day and World Marriage Day, two events that celebrate the importance of LOVE in our lives, in the world.  This weekend we are celebrating the first Sunday of Lent, too.  We may ask, who decided to put Valentine’s Day on the first Sunday of Lent?  It just happened this year, maybe providentially. Some may see it as a contradiction.  The coincidence of this Sunday with Valentine’s Day, I believe is a happy event.  Both are about who we are, how we want to be in relation to others, and the importance of personal encounter (with the Lord) for our very well-being.

 

The Lenten Season began a few days ago on Ash Wednesday and it is the time of the liturgical year in which we remember how much God loves us.  He loves us so much that he sent his ONLY Son, to be sacrificed, to die for our salvation, so we can restore our relationship with the Father and to experience an encounter with His mercy and love. 

On his letter to the Romans, St. Paul speaks to us about mouth and heart.  We confess verbally that Jesus is Lord.  We believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead.  Lips and heart are also involved with valentines.

 

God led the people of Israel into the desert, to forge them into a new people.  The Spirit led Jesus into the desert to clarify the meaning of his Messiahship.  The Spirit leads us into the desert of Lent to reflect on how we have not always resisted temptation and have failed in love.  In the desert we seek mercy and forgiveness. 

 

In this Holy Year of Mercy, we are called to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, especially during the season of Lent.  Pope Francis, in his message for Lent, reiterates the importance of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and condemns the attitude of those who refuse to open the doors of their hearts to God.

 

A good Confession during Lent can open our hearts to God’s merciful forgiveness.  Confession comes out of the mouth.  It requires honesty and humility.  We need to put our sinfulness into words.  Our repentance must come from the heart.  It must be a sign of our love for God, who loves us very much, and whose love we often take for granted or reject.

 

Lent gives us the opportunity to face our failures – to resist the daily temptations that cross our path and seek to destroy our communion with God.  We are called to repent of past sins, to be sanctified in Christ, to perform spiritual works through the power of the Holy Spirit, to resist all glory and authority that may separate us from the LOVE of God Who greatly desires to see us united to Him.  May the grace of God be with you all as you search your hearts with great sincerity and allow yourselves to be transformed by the Love of God this Lent.

 

Lenten Blessings!

 

Deacon Modesto Cordero

The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

“I WAS JUST MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS.”  Isaiah and Peter both can say this when asked what got into them.  The First Reading is the call and response between God and Isaiah.  Presumably, he was praying privately in the temple area outside the Holy of Holies.  God’s call to people in the Sacred Scripture does not depend on being in the exactly right or holy place.  Moses was tending sheep and Amos was tending sycamores. 

 

In his vision, Isaiah feels “doomed,” because to have a vision of God means death or drastic change.  In the Scripture, those approached and invited have very good excuses to protect their well-being.  Isaiah tries to get out by acknowledging that he has “unclean lips.” The excuses are the truth, but God seems to play the trump card.  The Seraphim, or servant angels surrounding the royal throne of God, fly down with a burning coal and purify as well as inspire God’s call.  Isaiah has stated the truth and God has not denied that truth but makes a counter proposal. 

 

The story does not end there.  Now that Isaiah’s excuses and his past have been dealt with, there is a future.  The vision of God is accompanied by sound.  A voice asks a “leading question.” “Whom shall I send?”  Freed from his negative excuse Isaiah replies simply, “Here I am, send me.”

 

The Gospel relates the call and response between Jesus and Peter.  Jesus is always teaching and does some act which invites a response.  Jesus invites himself into the emptiness of the human condition resulting in a further and deeper response.  In the gospel, Jesus reaches out into the emptiness of Peter’s fishing life.  Jesus asks for a simple act of faith by lowering their nets into deeper waters.  “Put out into the deep water.”  What might that mean?  Putting out into deep water can mean a change in attitude toward our family, toward people in our community.  It can mean a change to a simpler lifestyle, so others may simply live.  It may mean venturing into the deep water of our own prejudices and habitual ways of thinking and making changes. 

 

In our lives of faith, we also believe that the deep water is where we will find Jesus.  As we look forward to Ash Wednesday we are all invited to go into the ‘deep water” in our lives.  The deep waters signify a place of uncertainty, challenge, risk, and the unknown.  But it also points to a tremendous opportunity for redemption and to experience the mercy of God.  Let us be open to “lowering our nets into the deep waters of faith” during this Lenten Season.

 

Blessings,

 

Deacon Wally Mitsui

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Crowds gathered in the synagogue to listen to Jesus speak.  The people were amazed at his words, yet after hearing his message, drove Jesus out of town.  After 2000 years, we gather in this church to hear Jesus speak through the Gospel readings.

 

Do we allow his message to transform our lives or do we fill with fury and drive Him out?

 

God has known and loved us even before birth.  Every person at St. John Apostle and Evangelist Church has been given God’s graces that we must share with the whole community.  Honor God by making the most of the skills/talents He has given to you.  Use your gifts to worship Him and to inspire change in the world.  All of us have a place here at St. John’s to improve our faith community.  God does not choose the qualified, but qualifies the chosen. 

 

All of us have been charged as “prophets to the nations.”  Together, we must proclaim the good news.  Invite and challenge each other to deepen our prayer life.  Evangelize your neighbors by sharing the Truth. Listen and be transformed: Have FAITH without waiver, HOPE for holiness, and LOVE unceasingly so that we may journey towards the fullness that is Christ.

 

Bishop Larry Silva’s Diocesan Coat of Arms is inscribed “Witness to Jesus,” a reminder of two things: Our desire to see/hear Jesus with all of our senses and to allow others to witness Jesus through our words, actions and joy!

 

Blessings to All!

 

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

In the beginning of his gospel Luke explicitly states that he sets out to "compile a narrative of the events" of Jesus' person and mission. His story of Jesus, however, is more than facts. Jesus clearly proclaims who he is and what he comes to bring in today's gospel. He summed up his plan in these few words: liberation of people from any type of slavery. As he read the scripture text, all eyes were focused on him. At that time whoever sat down to instruct others was considered master, a teacher, and Luke wants to tell us that Jesus is now our master; our attention must now focus on him alone, we must not look at anybody else. Although in Jesus' time the Jews were not in captivity, the situation was difficult. Other forms of oppression had taken its place: the rich were exploiting the poor, the masters were not paying their workers, and the strong abused the weak. And Jesus "in the power of the Spirit;" comes to bring a new teaching. As God's anointed one; he comes to bring the human community glad tidings, sight, freedom, favor.

 

In the first reading, Ezra identifies the reasons of evil in among the Jews who had returned from the captivity. He immediately realizes that it was due to their failure to keep the law. The people failed to keep the Lord's commandments and precepts not out of wickedness, but out of ignorance: they didn't know them anymore. Ezra addressed this by calling an assembly of all people old enough to understand, and "reads the book of the law from dawn till noon." In this assembly nobody remains at home or seeks excuses to stay away to look after his own affairs. The people attentively listened and at the end bowed down in worship. After making an examination of conscience, they realized that they had not kept God's law and manifested the will to repent. Sometimes we forget that it is the task of everyone to nourish his/her faith together with others through listening to the word of God. Aren't there members of our parish who sit back, or keep talking, or move around without paying attention, forgetting that the word of God is being proclaimed?

 

In Jesus' proclamation, he dramatically asserts that the passage of Scripture he read is fulfilled in their hearing. Jesus now is the book, the Good News, the Word made flesh. His word is a creative word fulfilled in him and continues in the gospel in which we ourselves encounter him and are moved to be disciples. Jesus is enfleshed today in the lives of those who encounter him in the gospel. This happens only when we ourselves respond to those around us who need a nourishing, strengthening, joyful word, and our deeds. We can do so because, like Jesus, in our baptism we have been anointed with the spirit. By our baptism we have received a share in Jesus' saving deeds. This means that God's word isn't something we only hear on Sundays, but becomes a living word in our hearts, inspiring us to become living gospels. As we gradually grow into being "anointed by the Spirit," we, like Jesus are the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

 

As Christians we must keep claiming this hope of liberation and thus continue Jesus' work. Do we open up the eyes of the blind, that is, of those who are morally blind to the truth of the gospel through ignorance? Are we like the master, against any form of oppression? Spiritual blindness impairs vision, our sense of sin and makes us to compromise and accept what is evil as good. It makes us accept any form of oppression as good in the name of human rights and freedom. Each Sunday we come to celebrate what God has done for us. Jesus' sacramental presence will empower and fill your heart with his love and his grace to live a holy life. If you are properly disposed, like the Israelites, God will surely fill you up!

 

 

Fr. Boniface Waema

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

From today, we are in the Ordinary Time of Liturgical year and the Holy Mother Church invites us to participate in a Marriage function at Cana.

 

Towards the end of the gospel, we read the comment of the head waiter that "everyone serves good wine first ....but you have kept the good wine until now". It is to be understood that the life we enjoy is not the best one, but better life is yet to come. The food that we have eaten, the coffee that we drank so far, the friends that we have, and the day that we have are not the best ones, but there are better ones waiting for you and for me. Yes, the life to come and the things to enjoy are the better ones. Do not be trapped in the present one, but look forward to the future with hope because God has prepared better days and better things for our beautiful life. Let us take courage and have hope in Christ, through His grace everything is possible.

 

This week, Jesus’ message is simple - "fill the jars with water."

 

When the wedding party was in need, Jesus turned water into wine. Jesus works miracles. Nothing is impossible for us as long as we listen to Jesus. Imagine the "impossibilities" we accomplish if we work together and listen to what God is telling us. Christians must fill the empty jars of loneliness, prejudice, and hate with mercy, kindness, and love, and allow God's miracle to transform the world.

 

Take Mary's advice: "Do whatever he tells you." John 2:5

 

Blessings to All!

 

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord - Year C

The first reading from Isaiah is a prophecy: the promise of good news that salvation is on the way. The promise of salvation is fulfilled in the Gospel passage that moves us from anticipation of the coming of the Messiah to His manifestation when Christ is baptized, anointed, and revealed.  Jesus is the one who fulfils Isaiah’s prophecy of bringing the goods news of salvation to the nations. The dove that descends upon Him symbolises the nature of His mission as an instrument of peace and reconciliation in the world. Jesus is the one who fulfils Isaiah’s prophecy of comforting God’s People and speaking tenderly to them. He is the one who heralds the good news of salvation; the one who comes like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care.

 

The readings proclaim the good news that our salvation is not only coming, but already here in Christ anointed and sent by the Father to comfort His people to shepherd them, nourish them and lead them with compassion. By virtue of our baptism we become stewards of the Gospel: we are anointed, commissioned and sent by Christ to continue his presence and to proclaim his good news of salvation until he comes again.

 

In this Year of Mercy, we are called to relive our stewardship as a way of life by proclaiming the good news with conviction; by living lives that manifest the mercy and compassion of God. We are called to be the good news of salvation to those alienated; those caught up in the web of modernity and postmodern values of satisfying human desires only; those that question the fact that you still go to Church. May they at last be led by our example to come back to the faith and find joy and fulfilment in Jesus Christ.

 

The message we take home is threefold. 1) The Baptism of the Lord is the fulfilment and manifestation of God’s promise of salvation revealed in Jesus at His Baptism. 2) We celebrate Jesus who is anointed and sent by the Father to proclaim God’s Good News of salvation: mercy, compassion and forgiveness. 3) By the virtue of our baptism, we become Christ’s messengers: anointed, commissioned and sent to continue his presence and proclaim his good news of salvation until he comes again.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

Pastor

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord - Year C

Today’s gospel is unique to Matthew who presents Jesus as both the One Who is to come and One who has come to all.  The Magi represent the “beyond” or distant lands and peoples to whom the Christ will offer His universal wisdom.

 

These “Wise Men” also represent the former ways of thinking and wondering.  They come in a sign of surrender to this new “epiphany” or display of the “One God” Who is for all and is now known as the God who does the seeking and the finding.  The Magi are the figures of the world that did the seeking for and the finding of God.  The Light is initiated by God and this Light is meant for the whole world.

 

As with the shepherds, these wise men continue in a liturgical manner.  They arrive, having wandered in faith, have an offertory procession, a time of adoration and then a sending.  Were they totally satisfied by the whole experience of stars, warnings, and findings?  Yes, they were somehow missioned by the encounter to go farther and further and deeper.  Like shepherds they were changed and yet returned to the desert way of life.

 

The gifts, which the Magi had presented, represented what had been valuable to these seekers who left them at the “house” and leave by “another way”.  They have not so much found as they have been found and leave that place to begin spreading the news of the One they found.  This is all a grand ending and beginning.  The Magi-story is the revelation that mere human wisdom searches for more that it can understand. The Wanderers, who have come from afar in distance and tine, arrive not with an idea or principle, but at the mystery of a Person. 

It can be assumed that, as with the shepherds before them, the Magi went back by “another way,” not merely geographically.  They return to a new and different way of relating with life.  Their hearts and spirits are comforted and their minds still turning these things over in wonder, not a bad way to journey. 

 

We are invited to pray on this Day of Revelation to be women and men of “manifestation” ourselves.  It is not so much what gifts do we have to present to Jesus, but what gifts has God given us to reveal to others, some particular feature of God’s personality.  We are the receivers and yet Christ has come to make us gifts offered back to the Giver.  What of God do we reveal?

 

Peace & Blessings for the New Year!

 

Deacon Wally Mitsui

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph - Year C

Today's feast and the readings remind us that being a "Holy Family” is a matter of valuing the memories and traditions that make us who we are- a holy family, a holy people. Holiness consists of finding a worthy way of keeping the traditions alive while at the same time remaining open to something surprisingly new. Holiness is finding the way to be who we are in God's sight: people of tradition and people open to God's surprises.  We know whether to accept something new into our family tradition when that change deepens our holiness. In the Jewish family, parents were expected to tell their children what the Lord had done for his people. Obedience to one's parents meant to accept their teachings and to imitate their fidelity to God. It is in this sense that Jesus "honored his parents". He was infused with their deep faith in the God of Abraham and their love of the Word of God, to which he referred throughout his life. We have to continuously ponder the Word of God in order to understand His will for us. The motivation for choosing to be a "Holy Family” is God's way of inviting us into the "family" of the Holy Trinity.

 

The Holy Family was ordinary in the sense that it dealt with issues that affect our families. Mary and Joseph were not safe from family challenges; they were refugees in Egypt and lost Jesus for three days on a pilgrimage! I can only imagine the fear, stress and the "great anxiety" that loss created for his parents. It must have been the worst week for Mary, until the last week of her son's life, when he would again go missing for three days. When they found him, they struggled to understand who he was and who he was meant to become. In doing so, they were able to help Jesus and themselves grow in wisdom, age and grace. In this same love and care for each other, we also grow in holiness as a family. Our families are schools of holiness, developing memories and learning traditions that make us who we are and who God wants us to be: God's beloved children. It is with family that we learn virtues and practice them. Every family is special to God, vital to society, and receives favor. So your family can make a difference in the world.

 

The familiarity of family life can sometimes blind us to see the goodness in each other. This feast reminds us to open our eyes and be "astonished" at the goodness of each other rather than being anxious about our own concerns. Families grow in holiness when each person in the family, from parents to the smallest child and including anyone else, is treated with hospitality as a member of God's family. This is challenging when we sometimes only see each other's faults. We must remember that love never sets conditions. The love we have for our children does not mean letting them do what they like; we must make an effort to understand and help them to be happy. Children misbehave at times, but parents do not give up just for this; they keep on hoping for improvement. In the family, children and the elderly represent two pillars of family life, but are also the most vulnerable ones. Societies that neglect children and marginalizes the elderly cut off its own roots and endangers its future. Caring for the young and the elderly is a sign of an enlightened civilization of love.

       

As Christians we must be clothed with virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and reciprocal forgiveness. Over all, these we must put on the coat that completes and keeps them together, Love. This uniform is to be permanently worn by all men and women, priests, religious and laity. We all know that only one who serves can show true love. There should be a constant attitude of service towards our brothers and sisters, a readiness to suffer for them. Love and peace can come in the family only through this dress suggested by Paul. Praying together, dialogue, and reciprocal instructions are essential means to keep all the family members of one heart and mind. In keeping this advice we can ask ourselves, “Do we foster to our children and nephews and nieces the love for the word of God and for the study of the Bible shown here by the boy Jesus? Do we teach them to make their life options in accordance with the will of God?”

 

Fr. Boniface Waema

 

Parochial Vicar

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Year C

As we enter into the final week of our preparation for the coming of Christ, we are given an opportunity to look at Mary as our guide and example in preparing the way of the Lord.  In the past days and weeks, we hear the call of the prophet Isaiah and many other prophets to prepare for the coming of our Lord by repenting and believing in the Gospel. We also hear John the Baptist in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight His paths.”

 

The Gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Advent reveals Mary's total obedience and submission to the will of the Lord. This is her preparation for the entrance of the Messiah into her life. She opens the door of her heart for Jesus. She anticipates His coming with joyful hope and vigilant expectation. In her "yes" to the will of God, we see her desire to truly welcome the Lord into her life.  Elizabeth exclaims with joy upon Mary’s visit: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit."

 

Unfortunately in today's society we are tempted to fulfill our own desires to accumulate material possession, to stay in power, to be popular, and to be admired. Yet, the readings show that none of these make us truly blessed.  It is only in following the Lord and making room for Him in our lives that the abundance of God's graces will be brought to us.

 

Inspired by Mary's example, let us truly commit ourselves to complete obedience to the will of God, even if it means letting go of our own desires and aspirations. If we follow in the same way and put our trust and faith in the Lord, we allow abundant and immeasurable blessings into our hearts and lives.

 

As we approach Christmas, we honor and laud the Blessed Virgin Mary for her obedience to God's will and for her courage to choose what is right, true, and beautiful. May our blessed Mother be our true model and inspire us to live a life filled with Faith, Hope, and Love.

 

Merry Christmas to All!

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

 

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