The Fourth Sunday of Easter - Year C

Evangelization, the fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic is the overarching theme of this Sunday’s readings. Listening and following the Risen Lord are the key words that capture the central message. The readings first remind us that the risen Christ, the Lamb slain for our sins is our Shepherd who gives us eternal life. That is the fulfillment of the vision in the Book of Revelations that speaks about those who are finally rewarded with new life, where they will never hunger nor be thirsty again.

 

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is about the evangelizing efforts of the early Church. It draws our attention to the difficulties that beset the Church in its witness. Paul and Barnabas follow the voice of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the message of the Shepherd to the Jews. The rejection of the Good News by the Jews in Antioch becomes a blessing in disguise, because Paul and Barnabas turn to the Gentiles who warmly welcome the Good News. The comforting message is clear. Countless difficulties, opposition, deceit and persecution have never succeeded in blocking the evangelizing mission of the Church.

 

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

 

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

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

 

 

 

The Third Sunday of Easter - Year C

Today's gospel details the transformation made possible by the risen Christ. Through his guidance, the apostles net a great number of fish after a catch-less night. They needed a spiritual nutrition of encounter and belief for them to declare their love for Christ and follow him with fidelity. After this incidence, Christ invites the apostles to share in his ongoing ministry and, at the same time, he asks Peter for his complete conversion, a radical change. He demands from him an unconditional capacity to love, a greater capacity than anybody else. This is the meaning of "look after my sheep". Peter, who is fortified not only by the gift of breakfast, but even more so by gift of encounter with the risen Christ, declares his total love for him, replacing his triple denial.

 

The experience of resurrected Christ transforms the way we are, enabling us to obey his ongoing invitation, "Follow me". We are strengthened by Jesus' risen Presence, by his invitation to follow him; by his own love for us that transforms our love into faithfulness and fruitfulness. Risen Life is a gift that is given to us by Christ, but we must also seek and grasp it. This faith in Christ has always suffered opposition. The apostles suffered similar opposition and persecution from the Jewish religious leaders. They were perceived as trouble-makers in the community. Should we wonder if even today Christians are considered so? In the past Christians gave trouble to anybody defending situations of injustice incompatible with the Gospel. True Christians have always resisted and will keep on resisting anybody wanting to perpetuate unbearable traditions offending the human dignity. They will never leave in peace those who make laws that trample on genuine rights of the person. Today, as Christians do we obey God or people?

 

We must open ourselves to be fortified by all the gifts given to us so that our follow-response is energetic, sustained, and fruitful. Sometimes we experience what the seven apostles experienced: they fished for the whole night and caught nothing! Why? For the very same reason that we also fail so often: they were not guided by the word of the risen Lord. Jesus gives us all the nourishment we need in order to meet the demands of daily discipleship. Accepting the nourishment that Jesus offers means that; by following him we ourselves become his risen Presence, those who lead others to him. Every day we must take care that our actions announce Jesus' gift of nourishment, and at the same time that they speak of his goodness and care. Leading others to Jesus doesn't mean doing big things; it means doing the little things well and so reflect the risen Life dwelling within us. No matter what our act of love is, it always means saying yes to Jesus and his risen Life.

 

Fr. Boniface Waema

Peace be with You!

Jesus is risen!  He is risen indeed!  This Second Sunday of Easter bears the name of Divine Mercy Sunday.  The title of Divine Mercy was given to this Sunday by Pope John Paul II in 2000, when he canonized Sister Faustina Kowalsaka. At the canonization he said, “To humanity, which at times seems to be lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the risen Lord offers the gift of his love that pardons, reconciles and opens the soul to hope. It is love that converts hearts and brings peace”. He added,“How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!” Saint John Paul II reminded us that we are called to act daily with a spirit of mercy toward our neighbors and our enemies with prayers, words, and deeds. Fifteen years later, Pope Francis declared an “Extraordinary Jubilee (Year) of Mercy”. Like St. John Paul II,  he also reminds us that mercy is “the beating heart of the Gospel” and that as Christians we are called to be “Merciful like the Father” toward our neighbors and our enemies.

 

In the first reading, we heard how the Holy Spirit filled the apostles with an ever-deepening faith and shared the power of God’s healing mercy with them.  In the book of Revelation, John shared with us an invitation to put aside all fear and know Christ as the living one. The gospel speaks about the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners.  This gospel is about new life, peace, faith and commissioning. As God breathed on Adam on paradise, and give him new life, Jesus now breathes on his disciples giving new life in the Spirit. He transforms them from frightened disciples into apostles. He sent them to go and be a witness, commissioning them to become witnesses of the Word.  It is at this time that Jesus imparts his spirit of peace and confers upon the disciples the power to forgive sins.

 

Jesus brought peaceto the disciples.  Three times in today’s gospel Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you.” What is this peace he brings? It is a peace that calms fears, empowers forgiveness, and prompts us to accept the reality of suffering and death as doorways to new life. The peace Jesus brings prompts us to face death rather than shy away from it.  The peace Jesus brings prompts us to set right our relationships.  The peace Jesus brings prompts us to accept a new life.  It is a peace that is the gift of the risen Lord.  This peace bestows on us the power to make a difference in our world, to continue Jesus’ ministry of bringing salvation to all. 

 

At the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” These words are an assurance that we ALL have the enduring presence of Jesus now and the gift of DIVINE sonship that is the basis of our Christian peace.  We are ‘ALL’ called to embody the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives in a matter that when people come into our presence they can experience peace in a way that reminds them that Christ is present and active in our lives. We need to remember that we are signs of God’s presence, God’s peace. We have these fifty days of Easter to come to a greater belief, deepen our relationships, forgive, and spread peace. More so, we have our entire lifetime to manifest the good works of our belief. So let’s get to work!

 

Happy Easter!

 

Dcn. Modesto Cordero

Easter Sunday Morning - Year C

The story is told of a child who began to read the Gospel. Like millions before her, she quickly became charmed by Jesus. Suddenly, she ran out of her room crying hysterically into her mother’s arms, "They killed him! They killed him!" Her mother comforted her then whispered, "now go back and finish the story." You and I know the rest of the story. Yet, we have difficulty in owning the resurrection and allowing it to impact our lives.

 

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter shares with the crowds the witness of his faith in the resurrection with utter conviction that Jesus, who died on the Cross, is now alive. Peter is so filled with the joy of it that he simply must share that same joy with others – so that it can be theirs, too. Similarly, the experience of the resurrection by Paul leads him to advise that we keep focused on the risen Christ, since Christ is our life. For Paul, we know that this experience brought a total revolution in his life, and gave him a totally new vision of things, especially of the meaning of Jesus' life and message.

 

In the Gospel, we have the experience of the empty tomb as a sign of Jesus' resurrection. This first day of the week is full of emotions, commotion and confusion. The discovery of the empty tomb by Mary of Magdala may have been very disappointing, even confusing. John, who writes today’s Gospel, tells us he entered into the empty tomb, “he saw and he believed”. Renewed by the appearance of the risen Lord, the disciples were moved to witness the mystery of the resurrection.

 

The message we take home on this joyful Easter day is threefold. 1) You and I know that the story of Jesus does not end on the Cross but that his resurrection is the motivation for our sharing that good news with others. 2) Like the little girl in the story, when we feel overwhelmed by our own personal issues, the risen Lord reminds us to go and finish the story and realize there is always hope. 3) On this Easter morning, may the resurrection transform us so we may lead others to discover the best way to live; may it give us the grace and courage to proclaim that “Christ is risen indeed, alleluia.”

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda 

 

 

Palm Sunday: A Call to Proceed in Innocence!

Palm Sunday marks the conclusion of our   40-day journey through the desert of our lives!  The journey we all started five weeks ago, when marked by the ashes, we were reminded to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” During this past five weeks, we heard the story about a man from Galilee that taught, healed, and prepared his way for the day when he would go to Jerusalem.  We heard stories about temptations, transfiguration, repentance, prodigal sons, tax collectors, adulterous women, and the raising of the dead. All these accounts, from the gospel readings, bring us to an end of our 40-day journey and to a beginning of a new one.

 

Palm Sunday begins an extraordinary week — a week that concentrates on the ultimate meaning of our whole life. We must slow down and make choices so that this week does not go by without us taking the time to listen and entering into the understanding of its meaning.  It is clear that the suffering of Jesus is the most prominent feature of the passion story we heard today.  However, it is necessary to insist that this story is not primarily about suffering: it is about love. It was Jesus' love for us that brought him to his passion and early death, and it was his love for us that opened the way for our redemption. The suffering was a consequence of his love for us.  Now, the question we have in front of us is: How do we let the power of the passion account move us when it is so familiar to us?  Again, the only way is to slow down, pray, and reflect on the innocent Man that gave His life for us so we can become more innocent ourselves.

 

In the first reading, Isaiah announces the obedience of a suffering servant whose tongue faithfully proclaims God’s Word.  He encountered suffering and abuse from the crowds; yet he endured mistreatment and continued to proclaim God’s word.  In the second reading to the Philippians, we heard about Jesus’ self-emptying love for us.  First, he self-emptied himself by becoming human, one among us. Second, he self-emptied himself again, by embracing a violent and cruel death. How many of us are ready to take, to endure so much pain, shame and mocking to defend God’s Word?

 

In Luke’s passion account, Jesus hands himself over, not to his executioners, but to his Father: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” An innocent man! On five occasions Jesus is declared innocent - three times by Pilate, once by the Good Thief, once by the centurion at the foot of the cross.  Jesus died not because of guilt, but because of infinite compassionate love for us.  Even in the midst of great suffering, he extended his compassion to others - to the servant whose ear was cut off, to the weeping women, to the Good Thief. His compassion was so total that he willingly emptied himself “to the point of death.”

 

Today we are invited to proceed in innocence by being compassionate toward others and our own selves. This means doing our usual tasks with joy, being kind to those cranky folks around us, meeting setbacks as paths to learning. This innocence is possible when we commend ourselves into God’s hands. We grow in innocence through imitating Jesus’ compassion for others. 

 

Today we look at the cross and know that the Compassionate One is looking back.  He sees the pain we have within us, our weakness, our insecurities, our fears, and our sins.  He accepts the cross so our pain can become His pain. He calls us to let go of all that is destroying us and trust in His Compassionate Mercy, as you see more clearly the needs of others, love them more totally, and empty yourselves for their sake. Then you and I will share the innocence and compassion of the one whom we celebrate today.

 

Blessings!

 

Dcn. Modesto Cordero

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Ezekiel, in our First Reading, is speaking of a vision he had.  He is speaking to the disheartened people of Israel in captivity, away from their promised land.  These verses follow immediately upon the famous “Dry Bones” vision where the prophet calls upon the “Breath” or “Spirit” of God to bring life and spirit together as the bones are rejoined.  We hear a promise meant to bring joy and hope back into their lives.

 

Two points of hope are stressed with a comforting introduction.  “My people” proclaims that God has not disowned Israel while they are in captivity.  As the bones in the vision will be rejoined, so their graves will be opened and the dead shall rise.  They will be returning to their land and to affirm the promise, the Lord says that “This is my story and I am going to stick with it.”  God is professing fidelity to the people.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is told about the illness of His good friend, Lazarus.  John has Jesus saying. “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.  Stated simply, Jesus does these “signs” or “works” so that seeing them, people will come to believe that He is the One who has been sent.

 

Seeing is a means to see beyond what is seen, we call that faith.  Recovery of sight and recovery of life go together; they are the same work or sign.  Glory for John is revelation or visibility.  We do not believe within a vacuum, and God has come as the Light to enlighten us through the presence of the God made Flesh.

 

Lazarus was dead and again apparently the impossible situation presents a drama through which Jesus brings resolution.  Can a dead man rise?  The answer is clear, but the physical is a bit symbolic.  There is more to living than being brought back from death.  Jesus says to Martha that believing in Him is what life is, and those who do believe will never die.  When Jesus asks her if she believes, she says simply, “Yes Lord.”  At the end of the narrative we hear, “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what He had done began to believe in Him.”    All John’s stories end with such statements of belief.  The man who was blind, the woman at the well, those who were fed in the desert, all had to see the “signs” and surrender to what was really present beyond.

 

These days of Lent, as we pray our way towards the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, we can also pray with the graces of resurrecting pain from the tombs of our heart. Let us remember, “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

 

Peace & Blessings,

 

Deacon Wally Mitsui

Called to be Bearers of the Light

The central message of this Sunday is that Christ heals our spiritual blindness in our Baptism and makes us bearers of the truth. That is the meaning of the second Scrutiny celebrated this Sunday for those preparing for Baptism at Easter. The celebrant prays over the Candidates and anoints them with Holy Oil in a rite of exorcism that symbolically restores their spiritual sight so that they begin to see Jesus, follow him become bearers of the light.

 

The purpose of the second scrutiny is to symbolically restore the spiritual sight of the catechumens, so that they can see Jesus and follow him. For those already Baptized, Christ renews our vision as if it were from 10/10 to 20/20 vision, so that we can begin to see as God sees (cf. 1 Sam 16:7). The three readings help us to see a sharp contrast between light and darkness. In the first reading, Samuel struggles as it were in darkness, trying to find a king, but only succeeds in finding young David when he begins to see as God sees. In the second reading, Paul reminds us that we were once darkness, but now because of our Baptism we are the light in the Lord. We are therefore challenged to be bearers of the light.

 

The story of the man born blind in the Gospel contrasts the sight of the man born blind to the blindness of intellectual Pharisees. The Gospel reminds us that our Baptism enlightens us to see and embrace God’s vision, life, goodness and truth. Our Baptism commits us to be bearers of the light and to confront the spiritual blindness of the world with the truth.

 

The passage clearly contrasts light and darkness, faith and the refusal to accept the truth. In the story, Jesus not only gives the blind man his sight, physical light, but he also gives him the light of faith. The story is about you and me in moments of our own spiritual blindness and darkness. In our selfishness; our inclinations for pleasure; in our greed for material things, we become spiritually blind and lose our spiritual sight.

 

The message we take home is threefold: 1) In baptism, Christ has healed our blindness and given us the light of faith, so that, like the healed blind man, we may proclaim Christ boldly despite the opposition from those still in darkness. 2) Just as the blind man, after being healed, began to witness to Christ, we too are challenged to become bearers of the light even in times of opposition. 3) Just as in the Gospel story, we must not allow dishonesty and the distortion of the truth to dim our light, because Christ is our Light.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

Pastor

The Catholic Church: The Well of Living Water

Long ago, when people were thirsty and out of water, they journeyed to the nearest well to fetch a bucket full of clean water. Today, our reliance on fresh water has not changed. We all must constantly hydrate to remain healthy. Fittingly, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that everyone who drinks water from the well will always be thirsty, but those who drink from Christ's living water will never thirst - and will be led to eternal life.

The story of the Samaritan woman is a metaphor for our own lives - often lived in deserts of alienation, sinfulness, and despair. This season of Lent, we long for refreshing water to acknowledge our own need in the midst of the desert, our need of breaking down barriers, and our need of finding the living water that will truly quench our thirst.

Welcome to the Catholic Church - the Well of Living Water! When we enter through the doors of our parish, we have journeyed to the Well of Living Water. Here, we partake in Christ's Word, His Body and His Blood. In the Church, we find rejuvenation and strength to continue our journey towards holiness. Within these walls, we thank God for everything he has given to us. Our spirit cannot live without Christ. When we fill our spirit with Him, we allow ourselves to also become full of Living Water. At St. John Apostle and Evangelist Church, the Well of Living Water will never run dry.  We are all invited to come and take the water of life as a gift. May we respond to that invitation with an ever greater thirst, and say “in spirit and truth" to Jesus now, "Give us that life giving water always!"

 

Christ is the Living Water. We are challenged to be filled with Christ and bless the World with Living Water!

 

Blessings to All!

 

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

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