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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Blessings,

 

Deacon Modesto Cordero

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

Pastor

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Blessings,

Deacon Wally Mitsui

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

God Bless You!

 

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Blessings,

 

Deacon Wally Mitsui

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Fr. Eugen Nkardzedze

 

Visiting Priest from the Diocese of Kumbo, Cameroon

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

God Loves you,

 

Fr. Boniface Waema

Nineteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Pastor

 

 

 

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Blessings,

Dcn. Wally Mistui 

 

 

Sixteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus encouraged, because the apostles had just returned from a very successful missionary trip. The apostles who “came together” around their Master and assessed with him what they had done represent the community that keeps in constant touch with its Lord. Mark wants to warn us of the danger of starting projects and making decisions without constantly consulting and seeking the approval of the Master. This takes place when we neglect to meditate, pray, and assess with Christ about all that we plan to do or are engaged in. The apostles had healed some people, delivered others from demons, and brought many to conversion.

 

With this good news on his mind, Jesus took a practical approach and invited the apostles to a quiet place for a time of rest, but the crowd followed them. So he changed his plans and began to teach them. He saw beyond his needs and those of the apostles and focused instead on the needs of the people coming to them. His eyes were opened to a much wider picture. The apostles’ eyes opened as well. They gave up their plans for rest so that they could minister to the people. Of course Jesus wants us to be practical. He wants us to have our lives in order and to set goals and achieve them. But he also wants us to be flexible enough to be able to put aside our plans when other needs arise and when the Spirit prompts us to. The key is learning how to sense the Spirit’s promptings so that what is practical and planned doesn’t overshadow what is compassionate and spontaneous.

 

We can easily identify with the needs presented in this Sunday’s gospel: the weary apostles need rest; the persistent crowd needs to be where Jesus is. This need was so great that even Jesus’ seeking a “deserted place” for him and the apostles’ rest did not keep the people from hastening to him. The crowd won him and they interrupted his rest to tend their needs. So did Jesus win! He shepherded them beyond their need for healing to teach them what they needed to learn about the saving mission he came to fulfill. Jesus who is the true shepherd of God, always responds to the needs of all. He shepherds everyone toward fuller life through both the re-creating power of rest and the transformation of new teaching. He is the divine shepherd who both knows the needs of his followers and responds to them appropriately.

 

In our Christian journey, we all need to go to a “deserted place” occasionally to “rest a while.” Whether this means taking some time alone each day to pray and rest in God, making Sunday truly a day of rest, or setting aside a few days a year to make a retreat, all of us need time to regain our strength so that we can take up our own shepherding tasks. The Good News Jesus teaches and opens us to the transforming possibilities of his abundant life given to us. Like Jesus, we are called to shepherd- to care, teach, heal, listen, console and encourage others. At the same we must know when it is time for us to renew ourselves, to allow Jesus to shepherd and teach us, to balance our work of sharing the Gospel with rest, with time to replenish our spirit and energy.

 

God Loves You,

 

Fr. Boniface Waema

Fifteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

The gospel passage this Sunday recounts the first dispersal of disciples who continue the work of Jesus. Jesus summoned twelve disciples, two by two, and gave them authority over unclean spirits. The disciples drove out many demons, anointed many who were sick with oil, and cured them. It surely was a long walk of hardship for those first twelve disciples as they journeyed from town to town continuing the work of our Savior.

 

Today, Jesus continually calls his disciples to preach and teach. We are his disciples, called to reach out and touch others with our love, care and concerns. In today's society, where everyone is in a hurry or too busy to slow down, we can give the gift of our interest, time and support. This may not sound like much of a gift, but truly being present for another person may be the most precious gift they will receive today.

 

Will you take the long walk of commitment with our Lord Jesus Christ just as seriously as the first disciples? Will you believe in your heart the extra ordinary mission we are called to fulfill? Know that each person’s walk will be different from another. This walk may be troublesome with many obstacles, fears and doubts. We may walk when we feel our feet hurt, our minds troubled, and our hearts full of ache. We may walk with those possessed with unclean spirits of our day; those driven by a culture that at times seem doomed and full of odd discomfort and delays. There may be many risks, dangers and confusion, but we can trust in God and His signs of people, family and friends that HE places in our lives to help and guide us along the way. Our paths, like the paths of all the disciples, will not be easy, but the news we witness is the greatest news the world has ever heard. In the end, God's plan will succeed.

 

Blessings to All,

 

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Prophetic witness, ministry with challenges, a thorn in the flesh; for “when I am weak, then I am strong.” The readings of this Sunday invite us to reflect on our call to ministry and the challenges that go with our extraordinary mission to give prophetic witness like Ezekiel, Jesus and Paul. While St. Paul compares the challenges in his ministry to a thorn in the flesh, the Gospel gives us a concrete example of Jesus who is rejected in his own hometown. We ordinary people are reminded that we have an extraordinary mission to stand for the truth in the face of risking being ridiculed, rejected, hated or persecuted. Perhaps that is what Paul in the second reading means by a thorn in his flesh. Paul sees an advantage in his weakness and refers to it as "a thorn in the flesh". It reminds him of dependence on Christ. Because of Christ Paul can say, "When I am weak, then I am strong." Being rejected can be a great obstacle and therefore a weakness in our witness. However the grace of God is well able to transform weakness into strength and failure into success. Even when our weakness is real, God has an incredible possibility for each of us. I am reminded of the many stories of people who were rejected and then suddenly turned around to succeed. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star as a cartoonist in 1919 because, his editor said, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas,” he turned around with his brother Roy to create one of the largest media empires in the world.

 

I tell this story because in the Gospel, Jesus is rejected in his own home town of Nazareth. What happens when Jesus is rejected? He moves on focused on his mission. Being rejected may be a thorn in the flesh, but we need to see its flip side as an opportunity. Jesus was a thorn in the flesh for the synagogue the people in Nazareth. The Church today is thorn in the flesh for civil authorities. In the face of such witness, the Church is ridiculed in the public media. Pope Francis just issued an Encyclical on the Care of our Common Home. While many have welcomed this historic document, it becomes a perfect example of prophetic witness and a thorn in the flesh for some civil authorities. As expected, the pope has been criticized by the media and some politicians. Surprisingly, some Catholic politicians have gone as far as to tell the pope to stay out of politics. These challenges are part of the enemy within the Body of Christ, manipulated by the evil one to see if we will cave in. Christ promises his grace and his presence as we fight this war which is also his battle on our side. That grace for us ordinary people is enough to win the war as we give witness to Jesus Christ. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Like St. Paul, we too have our weakness and challenges, but being the best version of ourselves can give us extraordinary power and boldness to witness. 2) Like Walt Disney being rejected, God’s grace can lead us to turn around towards the goal of our extraordinary mission. 3) As disciples and stewards we must never quit our extraordinary mission of witness nor be intimidated by threats, even if in our witness we have to die for the truth.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

Pastor

13th Sunday In Ordinary time

Today’s readings offer to us an invitation.  Like Jesus, we are invited to bring healing, life, and joy to others.  However, we need to keep God always present in our lives first before we can help others.  The first reading from the Book of Wisdom urges us to seek a right relationship with God above all else.  God creates this world as good, filled with gifts that lead its inhabitant’s right back to eternal life with God.  God did not make death, only good things.  Through sin, death entered the human condition.  This death spoken in the first reading refers to the ultimate separation from God.  This kind of death is due to the influence of the prince of this world, who seeks to steer people away from God.  The opposite of this second death is immortality.  In the words of this reading, “God formed man to be imperishable.”  St. Paul encourages us to grow and help others in faith by promoting, preserving, and choosing life over death.  As followers of Jesus, we are to support one another in our faith and in our needs.

 

Healing, life over death and faith are also the main messages in the gospel of Mark.  Jesus heals the woman with a hemorrhage and brings back to life the synagogue official’s daughter.  In both narratives faith is the key to triggering and focusing the Lord’s magnificent power.  In both cases, faith is the channel through which the Lord goes to work restoring life.  As Christian stewards we are called to have the same faith in Jesus so he can heal our mental, spiritual, psychological, and physical afflictions.  Faith is a gift of God.  We nurture it and allow it to deepen within us.  But when we come in faith to God for healing, why does it not always happen according to our prayer and expectation?  When we pray to Jesus for healing and we do get healed, we may call it a miracle, but when we don’t get healed, our faith trembles and we question God’s healing powers.  The faith that saves is not based on physical miracles.  Nor is the faith that saves merely an intellectual consent to revelation.  The faith that saves is an act of coming to Jesus.  Simply coming to Jesus is already a healing.

 

In the Eucharist, we enact a great drama of life and death.  In recalling and re-enacting Jesus’ death and resurrection, we enter more fully into God’s life and are empowered to proclaim the joy of the gospel.

 

Blessings!

 

Dcn. Modesto Cordero

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary TIme - Year B

This Sunday we celebrate Father’s Day when we honor in a special way all dads and all men who have been a father figure for us. Happy Father’s Day! Before the final blessing there will be a special blessing for all fathers and grandfathers. Those who live around coastal areas know what it feels like when caught up in a storm at sea or on the lake. The Gospel passage reveals the identity of Jesus as the Lord of the rough seas and the storms of our life. When we find ourselves in such storms, we need a spiritual vision to guide us and reach the shore safely. In the Gospel reading, the disciples discover the mystery of Christ and his power over natural disaster. In the calming of the storm, Mark brings out clearly both, the humanity and divinity of Jesus, as well as the humanity of the disciples. Although the disciples had been accustomed to rough waters, this time the sudden storm gave them a terrible fright. Jesus was fast asleep, tired from the long hours of a busy ministry during the day. For a moment they completely forgot Jesus was with them, and in panic, they feared they would all sink in the waves. In their fear they cried to Jesus for help.

 

Jesus commanded the wind and the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then Jesus took the opportunity to offer his disciples an important catechesis, challenging their lack of faith and lack of awareness of who he really was, namely God, the Lord of all creation, including the storms. The point of this event is that in the midst of the turbulence of our life’s journey, Christ is present. Like the disciples, when we are so frightened, he asks us: "why are you terrified?" Sometimes we may wonder why bad things happen to us or even to good innocent persons. God does not cause evil, but He permits it in order to teach us the mystery of his presence in our lives; in order to strengthen our faith and trust in Him. We have only to turn to God in faith for God is always in control. In the first reading from the book of Job, God reveals himself to Job as the one who controls the storms and the seas; the one who made the clouds. Job has no reason whatsoever to doubt for God indicates to Job that He is in full control of creation. God explains to Job about the origin of the earth, the seas and the light. In the Gospel, Jesus is the revelation of God who has superiority over the seas, all powers and the final victory is His. To his Apostles Jesus asks a question which should resonate with each of us today because it is actually addressed to us: Why are you terrified? So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Like the apostles, in the turbulent storms of our lives, may we not forget that indeed Jesus is right there; all we need to do is to turn to Him in prayer of faith. 2) Christ is indeed saves us from the rough seas and the storms of our life. 3) Before such a God who controls the storms and the seas, as disciples and stewards we need not doubt, that He is well able to control the storms of our lives through Christ in our midst.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

 

Pastor

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

The readings this Sunday proclaim the mystery of the Kingdom of God. In the first reading, it uses the metaphor of a “tender shoot” that God will take from the exiled people in Babylon and replant on the mountains of Israel. The passage foretells a reversal of fortunes by God who will restore an exiled people into a nation. God will choose the weak and the lowly to make them strong. What was once weak and vulnerable will become exalted. That prophecy is fulfilled in Christ. I am reminded of the amazing story of St. John Vianney’s path to the priesthood, which had been marked by many uncertainties, failures and tears.  Virtually failing his studies, his ordination had only come about because his close friend was able to pull some strings in the Diocese of Lyons.  And even when ordained, few held any hopes for this illiterate, simple peasant.  For a man to be sent to Ars, he was held by his brother priests as a disgrace.  As pastor of Ars, he became known for his priestly radical spiritual transformation of the community and its surroundings through the Sacrament of Confession. I tell this story because this Sunday Jesus, in the Gospel, uses two short parables to show how the kingdom of God unfolds mysteriously like in the case of St. John Vianney.

 

In the first parable, Jesus compares the growth of the kingdom to a seed that a farmer plants and then retires from the scene, going about other duties. The growth of the seed does not depend on him, for it has its own potential growth. The point of the parable is that the kingdom of God starts small, in each of us, but when we allow ourselves to grow in God’s life, we become powerful instruments of growing the kingdom. God has incredible possibilities for each of us to be transformed into something beautiful for God and for the growth of the Church. “Transforming people one at a time is at the center of God’s plan for the world.” The growth of the seed is God’s plan, and thus the growth happens in the most unexpected ways, times and places. Even the people that come our way in moments we never planned is part of that growth. The kingdom of God grows in the most unlikely places: in the poor, in the midst of persecution, in our sickness or that of our relatives, in our family trial moments; in times of personal struggle. What seems humanly insignificant, failure or impossible is transformed by God’s power and grace into success, and a wonderful experience of God’s salvation. The message may be summed up in three points. 1) The readings proclaim the mystery of the kingdom of God that grows unnoticed in each of us. 2) The readings exhort us to be open God’s planting of the seed of his word in our hearts.  3) As stewards, we must never be discouraged by what seems to be insignificant or failure in our lives, for God thrives in failure and powerlessness.

 

Msgr. John Mbinda

 

Pastor

This is My Body and Blood Given for You

Today we celebrate the fact that Jesus has made himself - body, blood, soul and divinity - available to us in the form of bread and wine.  He gives himself - his very Body and Blood - to us as our heavenly food. This is the mystery we celebrate on Holy Thursday and this Sunday. In the Eucharist, Jesus is always present to us. He comes to transform us just as the Host is transformed, not an outward appearance but in our inner lives. During the Eucharist we stay as God’s guests. Then we move on from one place to another, from one person to another, to witness God’s mighty deeds of salvation. From the time of the Last Supper until today, Jesus “disdains” no dwelling, but consents to come like a guest to any heart disposed to receive him. No one can call him on the phone, but you can visit him in person. Just to sit in Jesus’ presence with a quieted heart can do wonders.

 

During the last supper Jesus instituted the Eucharist. The words of institution are the most important he ever spoke to his disciples. This was the last time that he would have an opportunity to speak to them, so he summed up all his teaching, and indeed the very meaning of his life among them, as “Body-broken-for-them” and “Blood-poured-out for-them.” He wanted to impress on them that human success and happiness would come only to those who join him in “breaking” their bodies and “pouring out” their blood for others. There can never be a better Prayer than to respond to this love of God, expressed in the self-giving of Jesus. We can never be grateful enough for what he has done for us. We commit ourselves to the full extent of our ability, to love and serve the needs of others, in the sure knowledge that we too will thereby share in his resurrection glory. God’s gifts to us are not so we can settle in, stay put, become passive. God’s gifts always impel us to move on, to spread the Good News, to “pass over” into someone new.

 

The Eucharistic bread is not medicine that heals the sick miraculously. It requires faith, which is the acceptance of what the rite signifies. Our interior transformation does not depend on the number of times we receive the Holy Communion, but on the faith with in which we receive it. The effectiveness of the Eucharist is bound up with the firmness of our decision to let ourselves be molded by Christ and identify ourselves every day more with him in this sacrament. Without such faith, without our interior acceptance, even the blood of the new Covenant won’t produce the required fruit.

 

It is always appropriate to spend some devotional time before the Blessed Sacrament. Our time of adoration and thanksgiving, however, must always flow from the action of the Eucharist itself and lead us to witness more clearly in our lives the self-giving of Jesus. Every act of self-giving for the good of others is also preparation for celebrating Eucharist. Dressing in something other than every day or work clothes is another way we prepare ourselves and also witness to others the importance of Eucharist in our lives.

 

Fr. Boniface Waema

Parochial Vicar

The Most Holy Trinity

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

 

The Holy Trinity is perhaps the deepest and most profound of all mysteries. The church teaches us that through our one God, we identify three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So, we do not speak of three separate Gods, but see three in one. We see a love that is truly powerful!

 

Our Father gives his compassion, as he always calls for us, reaching for his children. His love is forever present, even when we are distant, just like the love for the prodigal son. With his son, Jesus an overflowing love is revealed through the cross, his sacrifice for our sins at Calvary and by the way He constantly gives himself to us in the Eucharist. And, with the Holy Spirit we are moved, taught and guided in our very personal lives on our journey to heaven. Together they represent the fullness of love.

 

Our lives should reflect the Trinity. We should always be creative like the Father, compassionate like his Son, and generously give our talents in the service of others through and like the Holy Spirit.

 

As we are God's creation, we are his beloved children. And his love will remain with us surrounding and sustaining us in all that we do and in all that we are.

 

May God's Holy Trinity continue to teach and guide our lives, as we continue to discover His ever-present love poured into our hearts through the Father and through the Son and through the Holy Spirit.

 

Jesus said to his disciples, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

 

Blessings,

 

Deacon Romeo Ganibe

The Ascension of the Lord

We have journeyed together forty days from Easter and now we are heading for the Holy Spirit’s descent at Pentecost.  For many the feast of the Ascension of the Lord feels like a “farewell celebration” for Jesus, a farewell until we see Jesus again at the end of time.  Ascension is definitely not a farewell.  Far from being a farewell, what our feast actually does for us is to remind us that Jesus has become present to us in a new and more powerful way.  One way we might envision the ascension is by imagining that Jesus is saying good-bye and the Christ is saying hello. 

 The disciples, then and now, can no longer see Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified and has been raised from the dead, but the disciples can see the Christ into whom Jesus has been transformed.  He becomes present to all of us in spirit.  He had to return to the Father in order to change the way He could live in our midst.  The ascension of Jesus completes his mission on earth.  He came from God and now he returns to God.  We are commemorating the moment that Jesus handed the continuation of his great work over to us, the Church.  Jesus commissioned his disciples to baptize in his name, reminding them that he is always present through his Spirit.  He sent his disciples and us “into the whole world to proclaim the gospel” by the way we live.  Jesus is lifted up.  Yet he is not taken away.  He remains with us and will come again. 

 After Jesus’ ascension what are we to do?  Do we sit around and wait for something to happen or do we go and do something?  The ascension of Jesus reminds us that during our lives we are “only passing through” on this earth, as we say.  We are pilgrims on a journey.  Just as Jesus’ earthly life was temporary, and he ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, so also our lives here are temporary, will come to an end, and we will meet God in the next life.  Jesus ascended into heaven, blessing His disciples and promising that they would soon receive the power of the Holy Spirit.  

 We who have received that promised gift of the Spirit are now empowered to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth – to use our time and talents to spread the Good News of salvation.  As good stewards let’s sing praise to God in thanksgiving for His glory and rule in our lives!

 

Peace!

Deacon Modesto Cordero

Sixth Sunday of Easter Year B1

Readings: Acts 10:25-26, 30, 35, 44-48; 1John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

Happy mother’s day! As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, the readings helps us to focus attention on God's universal love, expressed in Jesus Christ as our model for loving others as God has loved us. But for a moment let us focus on what a mother has in common with God. A mother goes long ways to ensure the security of her children and in fact even to risk her own life to save her children. There is a true story of a mom who was walking with her two-year-old daughter, when she suddenly made a quick decision to cross the train tracks, even after the warning bars had descended and the lights were flashing. Suddenly, the stroller was stuck and in her panic managed to push her daughter free, but she could not free herself and was hit by the train and died instantly.

 

I tell this story because it is a concrete example of what Jesus is teaching in the Gospel this Sunday. The focus is on our relationship to others in the same way that God in Christ relates to us. "As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” Just as a mother’s love is not about a feeling, but real love, so too God loves us with real love, and asks us to extend that same love to others. The mom in the story risked her life to the point of death. God in Christ does the same for us in Christ who risks His life to save us from our enemy within – sin. When Jesus commands us to “love one another, as I have loved you", He challenges us to be prepared even to die for others. We are invited here to reflect on the example of Christ who has loved us to the point of suffering and death on the cross for us. The ultimate expression of Jesus' love for us is the cross - the "greater love" which emanates from the Father. "Greater love than this no one has". For a mother to love her child is natural. To love others as Jesus did is indeed a far greater challenge for us. Jesus loves all without exception, without discrimination, without preference. He loves all to the point of death, death on the cross. To love others to the point of death is to be prepared to risk one's life for others; to give up one’s comfort for the sake of others; to detach oneself, and in all humility to empty oneself of pride; to let go so we may become totally for others. The example of Jesus leads us to die to self so that others may have life in its fullness. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings challenge us to love all people without exception just as Jesus does; 2) Like the mom in the story, we too must be prepared to lay down our lives; to risk for others; to speak on behalf of the poor; on behalf of those debt burdened, even when that might mean risking our lives, out of a greater love for others. 3) The only way we know that we remain in the love of Jesus is by loving others as Jesus has loved us to the point of dying on the cross for us. Think about it!

©2015 John S. Mbinda