FROM FR. PATRICK’S DESK







From Bulletin of OCTOBER 15, 2017


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


Our Wedding Garment is Good Deeds


The concept of the messianic era as a wedding banquet dates back to
the time of the prophets (Is 25:6-9). In marriage we celebrate God’s
burning love for us and our love for each other. This is the celebration
of a passionate love a young man has for his betrothed young wife. It
is a pure and passionate love that is waiting to be consummated. The
prophets use this pure desire for love to paint the picture of what a
human desire for the kingdom of God should look like. This image of a
soul’s desire for the kingdom of God continues to appear in the teachings
of Jesus especially in the Gospels of Matthew 9:15; 22:1-14, Luke
14:15-24, Jn 3:29.

In the Jewish world of Jesus, marriage occurred in three important
stages:
The stage of Engagement - this was usually done by the parents or by
professional match-makers (these are traditional men and women who
were known for their proficiency and wisdom). At this stage, the couple
who may still be minors might be meeting each other for the first time
at the event. One may begin to wonder how this ancient practice was
able to produce lasting and happy marriages.

The stage of Betrothal - this is in recognition that the couples have
reached marriageable age. It is accompanied by feasting that is as
elaborate as the marriage itself. This stage was binding and could only
be broken by divorce hence if a partner happened to die at this stage,
the other will be treated as a widow/widower.

The stage of Marriage - this usually takes place one year after betrothal.
The wedding day is a joyful day. Everyone joined in the celebration.
The wedding ceremonies were usually held at night (bachelor’s eve)
and the bridal couple was accompanied by torches. There is a procession
from the bride’s house to the home of the bride-groom. “Even the
rabbis left the studies to which they were so devoted because marriage
was something given by God.” During this week long celebration,
the newlywed couple was treated like king and queen by all.

For a king to prepare for the wedding of his son and the invited guests
fail to honor the invitation is to say the least embarrassing. In today’s
parable, God is the king that invites us to the kingdom established in
His son Jesus the Christ. The Jews were the first to be invited to the
wedding banquet but since they refused to honor it, the king decided
to invite the Gentiles, not as an afterthought but a reminder to all that
the kingdom of God cannot be taken for granted.

By virtue of our baptism, Christians have become the priestly, kingly
and prophetic people chosen and invited to participate in the Eucharistic
banquet of the Lord. The message of today’s parable, therefore,
does not aim at condemning the Jews but to serves as a lesson for us
whom God continues to invite to serve in His vineyard.

1. This parable emphasizes on the need for foresight (not necessarily
vigilance) on the part of the children of God who live in the
world (evil world). We need to set our priorities right.

2. Eschatology – this parable restates yet again the uncertainty of the
time of the parousia – the Day of Judgment and recommends constant
alertness, not the calculation of the signs of the times. It is by doing
good deeds that we prepare for the day of the Lord.

3. Relativity of values – the invited guests went to their farms and
businesses. In this life, certain things that prevent us from growing in
holiness, freedom and truth are not necessarily bad in themselves but
the use we make of them is what could make them bad. At the end of
the day anything that prevents us from saying YES to God’s call to
serve becomes unwholesome and sinful.

4. The necessity of being prepared - although God is a merciful God
yet last minute preparation may not always be good enough for admission
into the kingdom of God. Students who do well in an examination
always prepare beforehand. Noah built the ark almost a hundred years
before the flood.

5. True knowledge is power in action - the guests who refused to honor
the invitation knew how to do what they were asked to do but did
not do it. Knowledge is good but doing the will of God is better. And
ultimately that is what saves.

6. The lost opportunity - children of God should be as wise as the
serpent and innocent as the dove. We must be ready to seize the
opportunity when it comes and not wait for a second chance, which
may not come.

7. The Day of Judgment - one day we shall stand before the judgment
seat of God and there may not be a second chance or a last minute
effort. It is important to have ourselves always ready for the greatest
event of all - the judgment day.

8. Things that cannot be borrowed - there are certain things that cannot
be borrowed. In this parable it is the wedding garment but in our
Christian life – faith cannot be borrowed (we pray for a better world but
this is not possible unless there are women and men who are ever
ready to do the will of God); character cannot be borrowed. Bad habit
is like a flat tire, you cannot get to your destination unless you change
it. We cannot depend on the good deeds of another. At the end of our
life on earth, it is only our good deeds that go with us to the world
beyond.

9. Do not let the door be shut on you - there is a Jewish proverb that
says “A door that is shut is not so easily opened.” We must be careful
that we do not shut the door upon ourselves. Eternal vigilance is the
price we pay for freedom. We must never miss out on the opportunity
to achieve what we are supposed to achieve (holiness) or to become
the people we are called to be – the children of God.

Finally, marriage is an important human institution that was not destroyed
during Noah’s flood. It is necessary for a healthy human society
and for an ordered life. However, though marriage celebration is a
very important ceremony, yet, for the children of God, there is something
more important than marriage - that is the kingdom of God and
the salvation of our soul.





From Bulletin of OCTOBER 8, 2017


27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


Harvest Season is Here


The Catholic Church dedicates the month of May and October
to the Blessed Virgin Mary. During these months, the
church encourages us to engage in a more intense form of
prayer by way of novenas, rosaries and devotions to the
Mother of a Church still on her pilgrim journey to the kingdom
of God. More than any time in human history, the
threat of nuclear war, the violence and natural disasters
plaguing our world call for a radical form of prayer that will
empower the survivors of these hard and difficult times to
remain human and holy.

In tropical climates, October is a time of harvest. This is a time
when fruits are harvested while the chaffs are burnt to ashes to
prepare the land for the next planting season and as the Fall/
Autumn season sets in, some trees begin to shade their leaves
thus leaving us with some visible signs of death and the end-time.

In conformity with these forces of nature, the church’s liturgical
season begins to draw to a close. With seven more Sundays before
the celebration of the solemnity of Christ the King, our Sunday
Gospel readings begin to talk more about the last things using the
symbolism of harvest, accountability, life, death, judgment, heaven
and hell.

In other words, the natural law of beginning and end is highlighted.
If the world has a beginning then it will certainly have an end,
hence the mother church invites her children to reflect on how they
are using the many blessings they have received from God since
Advent to this present time.

Planting and growing the vine is labor intensive. In a rocky land like
Israel and at a time when there were neither bulldozers for removing
the stones nor irrigation for watering the plants, manual labor
was quite energy and time consuming. To plant a vineyard and
have it fenced was quite a reasonable investment, which the owner
has every right to expect some fruits during the time of harvest.

While it is sad for the vine to bear no fruit, it is certainly quite disappointing
for the workers in the vineyard to fail to render proper account
to the owner of a vineyard who had worked so hard to plant
and grow a fruitful vine.

Make no mistake about it, the world and everything in it, as we
know it, is the vineyard of the Lord. The Jews being the first to receive
the Good news (to work in the vineyard of the Lord) failed to
render account to the Lord of the vineyard at the time of harvest.
They usurped God’s word and to recreate the world in their own
image and likeness, they killed the messengers sent by God to
announce the good news of the kingdom.

God in His goodness decided to send Jesus, His only begotten
Son thinking that they will respect Him as the true heir of the vineyard.
The Jews rather decided to kill Jesus thinking that by killing
Jesus they will have the earth and everything in it for themselves
alone. Little did they know that the death of Jesus would lead to the
establishment of the church which is a new and universal movement
that will transform the face of the earth and will render account
to God at harvest time.

In Christ Jesus, death is no longer the end but the beginning of the
reign of the kingdom of God. The world as we know it may come to
an end giving birth to eternal life, which is the gift and the supreme
inheritance of the children of God.

In the world today, some people think that it is naïve to believe in
the end of the world or the Day of Judgment as the Gospel parable
relates to us today. But come to think of it, if the revelations of nature
are to be trusted, nature reveals to us that whatever has a
beginning must have an end. Hence it is more naïve to deny the
reality of the Day of Judgment when God in His goodness will demand
accountability from each of us.

In today’s parable, the church is not asking us to blame the Jews
for not being accountable to Jesus for the fruits of God’s vineyard.
We are being reminded that this world and its riches is the vineyard
of God. All we have and all we are, is a gift from God and God
expects us to give account of how we have used the fruits of His
vineyard on the last day.

Having said this, I am afraid that I’m often much like the Pharisees.
Seeing I do not see and hearing I do not hear. The beauty of truth
hunts the human mind. To truly see and hear would be life changing
and would necessitate acting upon the truth imparted. This
reminds me of the Apostle James’ link of faith and good works as
inseparable. I often prefer talking about theological abstractions,
philosophical jargons and socio-political concepts instead of living
out that which I know to be true. In fact, I may be doing that right
now while sinners, tax collectors, drug addicts and prostitutes are
taking possession of the kingdom of God.

Our God is not a God of half measures. To be a Christian is to be
accountable and dependable. We must at all times seek for excellence
– “whatever is true, honorable and just; whatever is pure,
lovely and gracious; if there is any excellence and if there is anything
worthy of praise, think about these things” that we may be
counted among those who use the fruits of the vineyard of the Lord
to build the kingdom of peace, justice and love.

Our God is a good and gracious God. His goodness is beyond
human comprehension, hence “the stone rejected by the builders
has become the cornerstone. This is the work of the Lord and it is
wonderful in our eyes.” It is one thing to be weak but another thing
to be wicked. God’s goodness belongs to the weak and not to the
wicked. No one should usurp God’s goodness or take it for granted;
for the one who does take it for granted may not be worthy of it.





From Bulletin of OCTOBER 1, 2017


26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


The Parable of the Two Bad Sons


Our Sunday Gospel reading is one of the series of parables used by Jesus to challenge the foundational basis of Jewish belief. It is not by chance that Jesus tells this parable a few days before His death. Its message ties in with the core message of the cross. Jesus’ death brings an end to the old order on which Jew-ish belief was founded, and opens a new order that establishes a universal ground of relationship with God: the kingdom of God.
The parable of the two bad sons has both a universal and particular application. The Jews claim that they are the children of Abraham and as the children of Abraham they are the true children of God to whom the promise made by God to Abraham belongs.

Now we remember that in Genesis 12 – God called Abram who later became Abraham to leave his land of Ur and to go form a people for God. God promised to give Abraham the land of Canaan and with the many blessings that go with it.

Jesus had no problem with that belief in God’s promise to Abraham but using it to justify the claim that others are not true children of God is where the problem lies.
The primary reason for excluding others from the commonwealth of Israel is because the Gentiles are neither the descendants of Abraham nor are they a covenant people. This exclusive view of the kingdom of God runs contrary to the true meaning of God’s covenant with Abra-ham.

Abraham, we know was a good man. He had a strong faith in God. He listened to the voice of God and did the will of God. Even while barren in his old age Abraham BELIEVED in the impossible – that God will multiply his offspring to be as many as the stars in the sky. Even when he was blessed with an only son Isaac, Abraham was willing to sacri-fice Isaac in order to please God.

The greatness of Abraham lies neither in the possession of a piece of land nor in the mere observance of the law; Abraham’s greatness lies in his ability to recognize the hand of God at work in his life and in the world such that he was willing to leave his homeland to go to a foreign land to form a people for God. That is credited to him as faith. It is this strong FAITH of Abraham that made him a friend of God.

The Jews during the time of Jesus had divided the world into two namely the Jews and the Gentiles. In the parable of the two bad sons – The son that said NO to his father and later changed his mind to go work in his father’s vineyard represents the Gentiles – idol worship-pers, the prostitutes, sinners, tax collectors, etc. who did not keep the covenant but upon hearing the word of God preached by Jesus, re-pented and believed in John the Baptist as God’s messenger and in Jesus as the Word of God incarnate.

The son that said YES to his father and later did not go to work in his father’s vineyard represents the Jews who in Abraham said YES to God but these same children of Abraham refused to say YES to Jesus by rejecting the Good news of the kingdom of God preached by Jesus.

In its particular application, we see that the two bad sons are not two different people. They are simply the two sides of each and every one of us. There is that side of me that says YES to God and yet ends up doing nothing; and there is that side of me that says NO to God yet at the deepest and challenging moments of life, tries to do the will of God.
We need to avoid complacency in life. The church is full of good peo-ple who do nothing in the face of injustice in the world. People who protest against injustice, corruption, climate warming etc. are often the unemployed and homeless people in our society. Where are the ‘good’ people?

The presence of Jesus in the world marks the visible presence of the kingdom of God. By rejecting Jesus and the Good news of salvation, the Jews who reject Him disqualify themselves from entering the king-dom of God. By their answer to Jesus question, the Jews condemn themselves while Jesus in turn establishes FAITH in His Person and the Good news as the new order for sharing in the commonwealth of the new Israel – the new people of God established neither on law nor on land but on the ground of FAITH in Jesus as God incarnate.

Becoming a member of God’s family is no longer determined based on the ground of birth, location or race but where-so-ever there are peo-ple who believe in Jesus, there are the people of the kingdom of God – there is the true commonwealth of Israel.
As people who live in a world where justification and condemnation is often based not so much on one’s own merit as on one’s status, race, political affiliation, family origin, etc., Jesus reminds us that human institutions, schemes, constructs, barriers, etc. cannot prevent us from being members of the kingdom of God. The only necessary condition is one’s acceptance or rejection of Jesus as the Son of God, which is exemplified in a life of love (in Jesus we have what it takes to be free). And if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.

Parents often praise their children for being obedient, and that is good. But wouldn’t it be better to praise them for working hard to be obedient because it takes a lot of effort to become obedient?

Personal responsibility becomes a necessary trademark of the chil-dren of God. To love God and to have a relationship with God is something one must do for oneself. Our father Abraham cannot do it for you and your mother, friend or brother cannot do it for you. To become a friend of Jesus and a member of the kingdom is a personal decision – a YES that is accompanied by a corresponding action founded on love.

Jesus in this parable warns us not to get complacent, for faith without good work is dead. But besides the warning, Jesus gives us hope that CHANGE is possible. One may have been sensual like Mary Magda-lene, greedy like Matthew and Zacchaeus, impetuous like Peter; rebel-lious like Paul, etc. we don’t have to remain that way. It is possible to change for good and only faith in God gives us what we need to trans-form a wretched life into the blessed kingdom life.





From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 24, 2017


25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


Our God Is A Generous God


Whenever we recount the experiences of the Israelites, we do
so not with the expectation that those experiences could happen
again. We do so because their experience best captures and
explains the experience of human beings in the world. The two
main exiles in the life of the Israelites left an indelible mark in
the life of the Jewish people. Each exile is unique in character.
The exile in Egypt helped the Jews to realize that they are the
chosen people of God while the exile in Babylon made them to
become the frozen people of God.

Why do I say this? In Egypt all the Israelites – men, women and children
went into exile while in Babylon, only the selected few who were
mainly the aristocrats and the noble people of the time were handpicked
by Nebuchadnezzar to be exiled in Babylon.

Leaving the commoners in Israel, Nebuchadnezzar imposed the Greek
cultural practices on them, thus making them to inter-marry with other
cultures and worship other gods. The prophets especially Isaiah and
Jeremiah encouraged the Jewish exiles in Babylon to remain faithful to
the covenant. If they remain faithful to the tradition of their fathers,
their return from Babylon will be greater and more glorious than their
return from Egypt.

It did happen that God would use Cyrus the Persian king to liberate
the Israelites from bondage in Babylon. Upon their return, their first
task was to rebuild the temple and to restore the covenant traditions
because it was their infidelity to the covenant that caused their exile in
Babylon.

Their determination to restore rule of law (Torah) made these zealous
Jews to regard and treat the commoners who had embraced the
Greek tradition as sinners, gentiles or people who are damned. This
gave rise to the sharp division between the two regions which comprise
of the kingdom of Judah with two tribes in the South against the
kingdom of Israel with ten tribes in the North. While the kingdom of
Judah had its capital in Jerusalem, the kingdom of Israel had its capital
in Samaria – the Gentile region.

The orthodox Jews which consists of the two tribes in the South with
their center in Jerusalem saw themselves as the law abiding and beloved
ones in the eyes of God while the Gentiles in the North were
regarded as the forsaken sinners who worship the gods of Baal. While
the Jews in the South would claim their root from Abraham, the Gentiles
in the North would hold on to Jacob as their father.

The Jewish quest for holiness made them to isolate themselves from
the Gentiles, thereby dividing the world into two – the chosen and the
damned. The Jews became like the mouse in a story I once read
online: “A rat swallowed a diamond and the owner of the diamond
contracted a man to kill the rat. When the rat hunter arrived to kill the
rat there were more than a thousand rats bunched up and one sitting
by itself away from the pack. He killed the one by itself and that was
the exact one that had swallowed the diamond.
The amazed owner of the diamond asked: How did you know it was
that rat?

The hunter responded: "Very easy”
When idiots get rich they don't mix with others!!!”

In today's parable, God is the landowner and the world is the vineyard
of the Lord. The first laborer in the vineyard of God is Abraham. The
Jews who hold on to Abraham as their father are the first laborers
called to work in the vineyard of God while the Gentiles who would
later accept the teachings of Jesus and the apostles are the eleventh
hour workers.

It is a no brainer that in the labor market, people select the best and
most experienced workers to take care of their projects. The 11th hour
workers are usually those who are not so good and not so skilled as to
gain the admiration of many. The Jews, being a law-abiding people
and a people whose lives revolve around the law, human justice demands
that those who do more work should get more pay. Little did
they know that divine justice would say otherwise.

In a world where compensation is based on the length of time and
quantity of work done, it does not make sense for an 11th hour laborer
to earn the same amount as the skilled laborers who started to work in
the morning. Hence, the reaction of the early hour laborers when they
were paid the same amount as the 11th hour laborers.

In their reaction lies the central message of the parable – salvation is
not a human project. Salvation is God doing His thing in His own way.
We are all instruments in the hand of God. Human wisdom and
knowledge count for nothing in the face of divine justice. In the divine
sphere, compensation is qualitative not quantitative.

The kingdom of God is beyond time. Human standard of measurement
always falls short of the divine standard. Humans judge by appearance
but God judges the heart. When it comes to the dispensation of
divine justice, all that is required to inherit the kingdom is our willingness
and readiness to say Yes to God. Claims of descent from Abraham
or Jacob counts for nothing - It does not matter whether one has
been a Christian for 100 years or for 100 seconds, all that is important
is our willingness to allow the word of God to find root in our hearts.

Once we say Yes to God, the grace of God consumes us. God’s grace
is beyond measure. It cannot be reduced to space and time. It is as
easy as it is difficult to merit. To all who are partners in progress with
God in this world – those who accept to work for God, in the end, all
that counts is grace, and the grace of God will lead them home.

All are welcome to work in God’s vineyard, yet, it is a rare privilege to
work for God. As workers in the vineyard of the Lord, no one should
claim superiority over others or go into reckoning with God for a calculated
religion is a disservice to God. We are merely servants. At the
end of the day we should open our hearts to receive grace from a
generous God whose sun shines for all and as the children of a God
whose generosity is beyond human justice, our love should have neither
limit nor boundary.





From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 17, 2017


24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


“How Many Times Must I Forgive …?”


Our Gospel story for this Sunday is motivated by a question asked
by Peter – if my brother sins against me and I forgive him seven
times, isn’t that good enough? As a Jew who is well grounded in
the Mosaic Law, the Torah demands an eye for an eye and a tooth
for a tooth as the basis of justice in the land (Exodus 21:24 Deuteronomy
19:21), it is a no brainer that forgiving anyone up to seven
times is good enough if not perfect (given that seven is a perfect
number to the Jews – a definite but not specified number).

Peter’s position is justified by a Rabbinic saying “if a man transgresses
once, forgive him; if a second time, forgive him; if a third
time, forgive him; if a fourth time, do not forgive him.” What
Peter did was to take the Rabbinic limit of forgiveness, multiply it
by two, add one and then sit back and say “Am I not a wonderful
person to be willing to forgive like that?”

By his response “not seven times but seventy, seven times,” Jesus
uses another symbolic significance of the number to make the
number indefinite. No definite number could make forgiveness
perfect. This phrase reechoes the passage in Gen 4:24 in which a
limit is denied to the satisfaction of blood revenge. This parable
comes to dismiss this Old Testament practice – in the new dispensation,
we ought to forgive seventy, times seven - meaning not to
revenge at all.

The servant who owes 10,000 talents is not just a slave but a high
officer of the state, a viceroy, but you and I who hear the word of
God. The value of talents may not be easily reckoned in terms of
modern coinage with any degree of accuracy. The unforgiving
servant owed his master 10,000 talents. A talent approximates to
about $250, therefore, he owed about $2,500,000.

At this time the total annual tax of the provinces of Judea, Idumea
and Samaria was 600 talents; Galilee and Perea was 200 talents.
His debt was more than the income of several provinces put together.
The sum of 10,000 talents is intended to represent an incredibly
large sum, something like the national debt of a State falling upon
a single citizen. A day’s wage was one denarius or about 5p, and
100 denarii would amount to about $5.

Selling the unforgiving debtor and his family may not be enough to
pay his debt, yet, he promises to pay his debt. The king not only
accepts the promise but goes further to forgive the whole debt. It
bothers any right thinking mind why such a servant could not find
a place in his heart to forgive a fellow servant who owes him only
$5 a mere 100 denarii, which could easily be paid off in few
months.

Now the question is - How come that someone who was forgiven
$2.5m was unable to let go of $5 owed to him? Isn’t this what we
do whenever we refuse to forgive others?

The message of this parable challenges us to reflect on human
Double standards – “An honest person pays his/her debt.” The
unforgiving servant demanded from his fellow servant a standard
which he was not prepared to fulfill himself.

Of all human faults, this is very common – we are often very critical
of others but very easy with ourselves. We open our eyes to the
fault of others while we are quite unwilling to see our own faults
(Mtt 7:3). What we see as meanness in others is regarded as mere
thrift in ourselves. We often have “genuine” reasons for our failures
and regard those of others as feeble excuses. Hence, all the
gossip that goes around.

Golden Rule – we should always keep in mind Jesus’ mandate to
do to others as we would have them do to us Mtt 7:12. If we could
treat others with the same understanding charity with which we
usually treat ourselves, ours would be a happier world and there
would be less violence/hatred between brothers and sisters, families
and nations.

To err is human, to forgive is divine – this parable teaches us
that we cannot receive the forgiveness of God until we have shown
forgiveness to our fellow human being. This truth re-echoes the
“Lord’s Prayer – forgive us our trespasses as we …” (Mtt 6:12)
and the Beatitude – “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain
mercy” (Mtt 5:7). Ecclesiasticus 28:2-4 – “Forgive thy neighbor
the hurt ….”We are sometimes unfit to pray the “Our Father” for
whenever we say it with bitterness in our hearts; we are deliberately
asking God not to forgive us because we have not forgiven others.

The Four Categories of human beings – the Rabbis identify four
kinds of people on earth:

1. One who is easily provoked and easily pacified; his loss is
canceled by his gain.

2. One who is hard to provoke and hard to pacify; his gain is
cancelled by his loss.

3. One who is hard to provoke and easily pacified; s/he is a
good person.

4. One who is easily provoked and hard to pacify; s/he is a
wicked person.


What we know vs what we do – we know that forgiveness is a
lovely thing, yet, in actual practice it is not forgiveness that sway
us but rather our bitter heart’s desire for revenge move us into action.
Deep within our hearts we know what is good, yet, we do
what is evil. Harmony in thought and action becomes the sign of
spiritual greatness.

God’s forgiveness and ours - The attitude of the master does not
truly reflect the unconditional love of God. God’s forgiveness
knows no limit and is not swayed by human ingratitude. Any
wrong done to us is nothing compared to the wrong we have done
to God. Our sins break not just God’s law but God’s heart. We can
pay for crimes against the law but no one can pay or atone for a
broken heart. Therefore, the debt we owe to God is infinitely greater
than any debt anyone can owe to us. Yet, God forgives us.

As the saying goes, ‘to err is human but to forgive is divine.’
Forgiving others is not a sign of weakness but of strength, for
anyone who appreciates what God has done in his/her life cannot
but love others and always seek ways to forgive as s/he has
been forgiven in Jesus Christ who gave His life in atonement of
our sins.





From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 10, 2017


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


The Cross: Power of Relationship
Ezekiel 33:7-9. Romans 13:8-10. Matthew 18:15-20

After listening to Jesus say “For where two or three are gathered together
in my name, there am I in the midst of them” I remembered an
awesome story I once read online. This story made me to appreciate
more the importance of relationship in human life. The story goes as
follows: I had spent an hour in the bank with my dad, as he had to
transfer some money. I couldn't resist myself & asked...

''Dad, why don't we activate your internet banking?''

''Why would I do that?'' He asked...

''Well, then you won’t have to spend an hour for things like transfer.
You can even do your shopping online. Everything will be so easy!''
I was so excited about initiating him into the world of Net banking.

He asked ''If I do that, I won’t have to step out of the house?”

''Yes, yes''! I said. I told him how even grocery can be delivered at your
door step now and how Amazon delivers everything!

His answer left me tongue-tied.

He said ''Since I entered this bank today, I have met four of my friends,
I have chatted a while with the staff who know me very well by now.
You know I’m alone... this is the company that I need. I like to get
ready and come to the bank. I have enough time; it is the physical
touch that I crave.

Two years back I got sick, the store owner from whom I buy fruits
came to see me and sat by my bedside and cried.
When your mom fell down few days back while on her morning walk.
Our local grocer saw her and immediately got his car to rush her home
as he knows where I live.

Would I have that 'human' touch if everything comes online?

Why would I want everything delivered to me and force me to interact
with just my computer? I like to know the person that I'm dealing with
and not just the ‘seller’. It creates bonds. Relationships.
Does Amazon or Jumia deliver all this as well?' Technology isn't life
…. Spend time with people. Not with devices….

This is similar to what Jesus is saying to us when He says “For where
two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst
of them.” Jesus knows fully well that God answers prayers whether
said alone in your bedroom or with others in the church or community.
Jesus still encourages us to pray and worship together.

Since creation, through redemption to conservation of the universe, God
has always revealed the divine God-Head as a trinity in unity. We are
created, redeemed and preserved in being by a triune God. We are called
to worship a triune God and we who are created in the image and likeness
of God are called to be united with one another and with God.

In this we see the meaning of the cross – the cross has both vertical and
horizontal dimensions. The vertical refers to our relationship with God,
while the horizontal refers to our relationship with others around us. At the
meeting point between the vertical and the horizontal dimensions of the
cross is Jesus, with hands extended and inviting us to share in His love.

When Jesus said “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me,” Jesus is not asking us to buy a wooden
or golden cross to hang around our neck or to carry on our shoulder to
follow Him. Jesus is asking us to be in a constant relationship with God
and with one another. This relationship is inclusive and not exclusive. It is
an all embracing relationship that includes God and all God’s creatures.
It is a relationship that is centered on communication – Prayer is the constant
communication with God and with our fellow human beings.

A prayer-less life is an empty life. Since no one likes to experience emptiness
in life, we struggle to fill our emptiness with the concern of other
people. These are the signs of emptiness – we become noisy and abhor a
contemplative experience. We become argumentative and may give in to
our passions, be it anger, envy, jealousy or sexual passions.

In a prayer-less state, we give in to bearing grudges and we find it difficult
to forgive others not because of the gravity of what their deeds but more
so because of our lack of a good relationship with them. Think about it this
way - when we are in love, we find it easy to forgive our loved ones. We
do not find it hard to forgive those who offend us because of the gravity of
their actions but because of the shallow depth of our love for them.

It is a relationship of communion - Our relationship with Jesus and with
others is best expressed in the sharing of the one bread and the one cup.
Uniting ourselves with the Body of Christ which is symbolized by the Eucharist
and the Church is a sure sign that even now, Jesus is at work in
our lives. It becomes a contradiction to be in communion with God while at
the same time refuse to forgive those who offend us. Since man is what
he eats, we who belong to the church and share the body and blood of
Christ are by the very fact called to forgive, forget and move on for our
God is a loving father whose goodness and love are for all.

It is a relationship of mutual co-existence, governed by love. Where love
exists, mutual correction of a weak member of our family becomes an
obligation for love cannot co-exist with evil. What happens to one, happens
to all. The joy of one becomes the joy of all and the cry of one becomes
the cry of all. If one person is in debt, we are all in debt, hence the
obligation to pay the debt. And once the debt is paid, we owe nothing for it
is love that makes the world go round.

We owe nothing and should be indebted to no one. If we hold on to
the cross of Jesus Christ – if we are in a good relationship with God
and with our fellow human beings, there is nothing that we cannot
forgive those who sin against us. An eternal lesson of the cross, therefore,
is that, since Jesus has paid for the price of our sins in full, we
should not be in debt to anyone. St. Paul says “owe nothing to anyone,
except to love one another; for the one who loves another has
fulfilled the law.”





From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 3, 2017


22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


“Whoever wishes to come after me ….”


There is a story about a clean and well-educated gentleman who
is always at church leading prayers. He attends mass regularly,
always present during weekly novena prayers and he is always
good at whatever he does. However, he has this prideful and
domineering attitude, which makes him to think highly of himself.
He takes pride in what he does, but his quest for excellence
makes it difficult for him to tolerate anyone whose performance
at liturgy was not at his level. Though he hardly criticizes anyone
yet his hunger for perfection makes him to see more of
people’s mistakes than the effort they make to serve God.

Unfortunately, he suddenly died of a heart attack and everyone expected
him to have a smooth passage into heaven but Saint Peter did
not allow him. So he asked: “Why are you not allowing me to gain
entry to heaven, I was always at church leading the novena prayers. I
was always at Mass and I did no harm to anyone?” Saint Peter replied:
“Yes you were always in the church but you did not allow God to
change your ways, it was all for show.”

He was like a stone in the river – the stone may be in the river for one
hundred years but will never allow any water to enter into it.

Are we not mostly like this perfect gentleman – always in the church to
direct and change others but are not willing to allow the word of God to
change our lives? We are always active in the church, we attend Mass
but we refuse to let go of our pride and other annoying behaviors?

We serve God on our own terms. We pick and choose what to believe
in. We think highly of ourselves simply because we are handsome,
rich and well-educated. Then we carry over these negative attitudes
into our relationship with God, others and our workplaces.

Is it possible to gain entry into heaven with this kind of behavior?
In the gospel today, we see how Peter’s expectation of a conquering
messiah who will restore the kingdom of our father David, prevents
him from accepting the notion of Jesus as the suffering messiah who
will give His life as a ransom for many.

Our hopes, plans and expectations, good and excellent though they
may be, may not always be in sync with God’s plan for us. Human
beings have an innate desire to become happy, victorious or successful
in anything they do. Peter shared the same zeal. This desire in
itself is a noble one. However, it is the way we go about it that brings
out our unique character.

In the world, people become victorious by conquering others. It is inconceivable to think of victory through failure and suffering. Yet, this is
the novelty that Jesus comes to bring to world.

To appreciate this novelty, demands for a genuine transition from our
innate desire to receive to the desire to give. This occurs when we no
longer expect others to make us happy but we are willing to go an
extra mile to make others happy. It is such a radical transition in the
human being who is prone to self-preservation that marks the death of
selfishness and the beginning of a life of grace and sacrifice.

Summoning others to his revolutionary cause, Garibaldi cried, "He that
loves Italy, let him follow me! I promise him hardship . . . suffering . . .
death. But he that loves Italy, let him follow me!" (Strong 1907:766).

Only a cause worth dying for is truly worth living for. Hence, even till
date, Jesus continues to say to us “Whoever wishes to come after me
must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever
wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my
sake will find it.”

The age of heroism is not a thing of the past. Any generation deprived
of the quest for values greater than itself or causes greater than life
itself will not only outlive its true relevance but will become violent,
restless and disillusioned.

"Taking up one's cross" is not simply putting up with an annoying
roommate or tolerating a noisy neighbor. It means marching on the
way to one's execution, shamefully carrying the heavy horizontal
beam (the patibulum) of one's own death-instrument through a jeering
mob.

As we say in the Lord’s Prayer, Christian life is “let thy will be done.”

Since Jesus message was incompatible with Jewish expectation of a
conquering messiah, Jesus did not anticipate anything less for himself
and many of his followers from the hands of the Jews and the Romans
who were fond of executing lower-class criminals, slaves and revolutionaries.

“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit
his life?”

Following Jesus remains the most radical option one can make in life.
Those who make the radical decision to commit themselves to follow
Christ should understand from the start that Christian life means surrendering one’s life to Christ, for it is only when our hopes and expectations are in sync with God’s plan for us that we can truly be called
children of God.

To follow Christ involves a deep experience of His love, followed by
one’s understanding of His message, which calls us to judge for ourselves
whether to accept or reject it. And having decided to accept it,
His word exponentially transforms a wretched human life to a level
greater than its earthly nature. It takes it to the realm of love, which is
ultimately the realm of immortality.

This does not entail that Christians are perfect; however, it does indicate
that Christians recognize who their Lord is and are willing to open
their hearts to be molded by Jesus. While in this life, this decision may
not guarantee a pain free life. Christians still have to work hard to pay
their bills and receive medical treatment whenever they are sick.

Although the vicissitudes of life may challenge genuine Christians to
fall short on their commitment at times, yet, come what may, Christians
know that losing one's life in this age would be a small price to
pay for preserving it for eternal life. This is because eternal life is a gift,
which only God can give and those who receive this gift are called
blessed.





From Bulletin of AUGUST 27, 2017


21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


Who will be saved?


It was William Shakespeare who in “Romeo and Juliet” asked
“What is in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other
name would smell as sweet.” Yes, there is something in a name
especially in our contemporary culture where one’s success and
future could be determined by one’s name. Jesus is never in
doubt of His identity. His success does not depend of what people
think about Him. However, the knowledge and acceptance
of Jesus identity is essential to true discipleship. Knowing Jesus
as Lord and Savior is the key to liberation and salvation from
the bondage of sin and ignorance.

During the time of Jesus, Caesarea Philippi was a town notorious for
the worship of many gods. It was while standing in the midst of the
temples of Baal and Paneas in Caesarea Philippi that Jesus wanted
the apostles to confirm their faith in God. Jesus wanted to know if by
His exemplary life style, teachings and miracles, the disciples have
come to know, accept and believe in Him as the Lord and Savior of
their lives. So, Jesus asks them “who do people say I AM?

There is no shortage of names and events that reveal the identity of
Jesus in Sacred Scripture. There are about 250 biblical-based labels
that have been used to identify Jesus. In prophetic writings, Isaiah 9:6
says “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government
will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

So, both the crowds and the disciples had at least four names to
choose from. The crowd could have called Jesus a teacher, a prophet,
a wonder worker, Immanuel, Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son,
son of Mary, the story teller, the itinerant preacher, etc. Peter could
have called Him, the Son of Man, the Gate, the Bread of life, the Alpha
and the Omega, the Great High Priest, the New/Last Adam, the Lamb
of God, etc. Surprisingly, none of these labels was used to identify
Jesus but the “Christ.”

C.S. Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity, writes, "A man who was
merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a
great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with a
man who says he is a poached egg - or he would be the devil of hell.
You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or
else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or
you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come
with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.
He has not left that open to us."

We have a choice either to have a personal experience of Jesus or to
depend on public opinion. The operating principle of public opinion is
one’s public image “Hear-Say”, hence by association people think that
Jesus is Moses, Elijah or one of the great prophets who has come
back to life. Yes, to a certain extent Jesus shares some similarity with
Moses, yet, Jesus is NOT Moses. Moses brought the Ten Commandments
but Jesus brought the fullness of the commandments which is
love of God and neighbor. Elijah is the greatest prophet in Israel but
Jesus is the fullness of prophecy in Israel for all prophetic messages
find their fulfillment in Him.

“Who do people say that I am?” remains a generational question that
must be answered by men and women of every nation. Every day
Jesus stands in front of us to ask us, “Who do you say I am?” How you
answer this question says a lot about the strength of your faith and the
quality of your lifestyle.

Peter said in reply “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Even after Peter has answered this question to Jesus satisfaction,
many people today still have vague opinions on who Jesus is. Atheists
still see Jesus as a radical historical figure whose followers made wild
and bogus claims. Some Agnostics still see Jesus as a good teacher
who had good morals, while some Jews do not accept Jesus as the
Messiah since according to the Hebrew scripture; the time is not right
for the Messiah to come.

Buddhists still see Jesus as a teacher of enlightenment while Muslims
see Jesus as one of the major prophets God sent to the world but is
not God. There are some who still believe that Jesus was neither
killed/crucified nor rose from death. Scientologists, like Tom Cruise,
would argue that Jesus is classified below the level of Operating
Thatan, just a shade above the Scientology state of ‘clear.’

No matter what people may think, our faith in Jesus is not based on
speculations. It is a revealed truth - “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the
living God.”

The truth is that human categories and public images alone are inadequate
to reveal the true identity of Jesus. Faith is the ultimate truth that
reveals the identity of Jesus. The crowd does not and cannot know the
ultimate truth because the crowd does not believe. The crowd has
neither eyes nor ears. The crowd does not have a thinking faculty. The
crowd depends on public opinion which is always half the truth and
ultimately half-truth is a lie.

Living in a world where certain privileged groups have hijacked the
truth, what the press gives us is only the edited version of the truth
aimed at taking us to the direction they want us to go. At best the
press can only give us their own version of events but the truth that
liberates us is the fruit of human reflection inspired by the grace of
God. Hence, Jesus said to Peter, 'flesh and blood has not revealed
this to you but my father in heaven.'

It takes the believing individual to know the truth. The individual has
eyes to see, ears to hear and mind to reflect. To know Jesus and to
have a relationship with Jesus is a personal decision and commitment
which each person must make for oneself. If we live our lives based
on public opinion, we shall end up knowing and dying with half-truth
which is no truth. It is Peter, an individual, who knows and speaks out
the truth “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And you, child of God should not allow anyone or any institution to
keep you in perpetual bondage. No one or institution has a monopoly
of the knowledge of the truth. With a strong faith in God, there is no
limit to what we can know. We all have equal access to the truth;
hence we have a moral obligation to liberate our minds from crowd
mentality. And like Peter, all we need is to open our hearts to the
grace of God.





From Bulletin of AUGUST 20, 2017


20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


Who will be saved?


Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography tells how, during his student days,
he read the Gospels and saw in the teachings of Jesus the answer to
the major problem facing the people of India - the caste system. Seriously
considering to embrace the Christian faith, Gandhi decided to
attend church one Sunday morning, intending to talk to the minister
about the idea of becoming a Christian. On entering the church, however,
the usher refused to give him a seat and told him to go and worship
with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned.
“If Christians have a caste system also” he said, “I might as well remain
a Hindu.”

The word of God is not the problem, its practice is. Our religious life
could be unjustly structured to protect human selfishness in the practice
of our faith. Even our charitable services, if not well filtered, could go a
long way to institutionalize injustice. It takes a lot of faith to challenge
unjust structures. And this is the issue at stake in today’s Gospel.

The commonwealth of Israel is the core value upon which Jewish institutions and beliefs were founded. This sacred belief in the divine election of Israel is highly challenged by the Canaanite woman in today’s
Gospel. The Jewish claim to salvation is not so much based on their
good works as it is on the mere fact of being the descendants of Abraham. The Canaanite woman thinks that if salvation is for all the children
of God, then it ought to be more inclusive rather than exclusive.
There should be a reasonable justification for it to be possible for people
of Gentile origin to have access to the kingdom made visible by the
presence of Jesus in the world.

The argument leading to the revolutionary pronouncement made by
Jesus becomes even more controversial given the weak nature of the
protagonist in this encounter. The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel
is a woman with many problems. Firstly, she is a Canaanite, which is
way outside the boundaries of the elect. Secondly, her daughter is
possessed of evil spirits and evil possession for the Jews points to
problems at home or a punishment for sin.

Her situation becomes even more pitiful given the fact that she is a
woman in a culture where gender equality was not in vogue. This Canaanite
is not just any woman, but one with a nagging personality. She
is like one who has used up her three strikes, hence should be way
out of her league but her faith in God makes her to believe that there
must be a way of coming out of the predicament she finds herself and
the presence of Jesus makes the rule of the game to assume a radical
transformation.

It becomes a different ball game when she appears face to face with
Jesus, which is what she has always wanted to happen. In this chance
of a lifetime, she did not disappoint. She presented her case in the
best manner possible. Seeing the Canaanite woman’s fiery and passionate
faith, the Lord became even more resolute, if not subtle in
testing her faith.

In the interrogation that followed, Jesus did not so much as doubt the
woman’s faith as to re-echo the sentiment of his apostles who were all
male Jews, who ordinarily would believe that salvation is first for the
Jews and “may be” later for the Gentiles.

By stretching and evaluating her endurance even further, Jesus aims
at bringing to light just how dedicated and steadfast the Canaanite’s
faith was. Truly, how patient, humble and persistent was this woman!
Great faith like that of the prophets is what Jesus attributes to this
woman and far from leaving her being denied, granted her wish because
of her "great faith." Jesus establishes a new parameter for determining
membership of the commonwealth of the new Israel (the new people of God). Her faith makes her precious in the sight of God hence it would be contradictory to deny her request for the healing of her sick daughter. And most importantly, faith initiates her into the community of the elect. In fact, faith is the only sure hope that she has, one of which the disciples should take note as the real key to the kingdom of God.

It is faith that turns a dog into a god (note the word inversion). It is
faith that makes us the children of God. “For we walk by faith, not by
sight” (2 Cor 5:7). Yes, with faith impossible is nothing.

This great faith transforms a woman, who was formerly labeled a nuisance
by the apostles, into a healing and graceful-presence. True faith
builds bridges not walls; it unites and not divides. Hence, the woman’s
past history and present dilemmas are recast in a new light as signs of
promise. Note that it is once her faith is now recognized as "great" that
great things begin to happen: her daughter is healed instantly.

We ought to be sure that faith's object (the dog - god) has something
to do with that remedy. And we dare not discount that this vocal and
persistent Canaanite woman who had a troubled past, has now become
an agent of the kingdom. “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation,
the old passes and the new begins” (2Cor 5:17).

In this story of the Canaanite woman we see where the future lies. As
Israel continues to reject God's mercy in Christ, that mercy will inevitably
move toward faithful Gentiles. No one has a monopoly of salvation. God's
mercy and kindness is freely given for the asking. And God’s grace is not
given because of status, either family origin or association (because a
person is a descendant of Abraham), or goodness (because a person
is obedient to the Law). Grace is given through the instrument of faith.
The woman believed that Jesus was God's messiah and as a visible
presence of God, that Jesus could and would dispense God's mercy
to all without distinction.

This story serves to further establish the truth of God's gracious gift of
salvation freely offered and appropriated through faith in Christ. The
healing of the Canaanite women's daughter thus situates the substance
of the gospel, reminding us that salvation is ours for the asking.

The letter to the Hebrews thus assures us that “faith is the substance
of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The
Canaanite woman in today’s gospel enables us to see what God has
revealed to us in Jesus the source of our faith, His power, and our task, to
humble ourselves constantly. As Jesus healed a daughter from a hopeless
situation and at the same time renews and encourages our weak
faith by highlighting the rewards of those who diligently seek God,
Jesus opens the flood gate of God’s mercy and salvation to all who
like the Canaanite woman persevere in their prayers even if they, like
Gandhi are rejected at the entrance to the church.





From Bulletin of AUGUST 13, 2017


19 th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”

As Jesus Walks on the Sea, the Disciples Were Terrified.

This Sunday’s Gospel features Jesus picking his way
to a boat of disciples through a storm of windy darkness
over a sea of nighttime waves. At three in the
morning, he finds them being tossed about in their
own storm of windy fear. Then Peter, who always
seems to say the right thing by saying the wrong
thing at the right time, calls out across the tumult,
“Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you
across the water.” So Jesus calls back and says,
“Come.”

That is when Peter must decide if he will step off the
platform and into the roller coaster, or if he will play
it safe. Amazingly, Peter decides not to play it safe
but rather steps into the swirling storm of life. There
he begins to sink and drown, but it’s also there that
he discovers God reaching out and grasping him.

Had he played it safe and stayed in the boat, he
might never have known God’s saving hand. He also
realizes that what Jesus came preaching was not an
amusement park of fun and games but rather a kingdom
where life is known only through great risk.

Such is the story of all of our lives when we must
choose between a life of apparent security and the
real life that is always revealed through risk and
trust. Such choices may arise when we face the prospect
of marriage counseling or first-time parenting
or late-life parenting or job loss or spouse loss or
health loss or even what may appear to be loss of
faith. At these times, not to step out of the boat and
into the swirling storm, not to risk all for the sake of
all is to lose all. On the other hand, to step out, even
though it be with great fear, is to meet our saving God.

—Rev. Joseph J. Juknialis

Living God’s Word
Those moments arise for each of us when we come face to face
with death or the possibility of real failure. Then it is no longer
so easy or so enticing to step off the roller coaster platform, for
suddenly the ride is no longer carefree or without risk. Yet
through the risk, it is possible that life in God may be found.

Copyright © 2012, World Library Publications





From Bulletin of AUGUST 6, 2017


18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


The Transfiguration of Jesus


Speaking about the power of human transformation of the world of
traveling, David Roher says that “the motor home has allowed us to
put all the conveniences of home on wheels. A camper no longer
needs to contend with sleeping in a sleeping bag, cooking over a fire,
or hauling water from a stream. Now he can park a fully equipped
home on a cement slab in the midst of a few pine trees and hook up to
a water line, a sewer line and electricity.

One motor home I saw recently had a satellite dish attached on top.
No more bother with dirt, no more smoke from the fire, no more drudgery
of walking to the stream. Now it is possible to go camping and
never have to go outside.

We buy a motor home with the hope of seeing new places, of getting
out into the world. Yet we deck it out with the same furnishings as in
our living room. Thus nothing really changes. We may drive to a new
place, set ourselves in new surrounding, but the newness goes unnoticed,
for we've only carried along our old setting.”

The realization of a new life in Christ begins when the comfortable
patterns of the old life are left behind, giving birth to the new and radical
life of the transfiguration which is aimed at the higher and eternal
good.

To be transfigured is to be transformed from the known to the unknown.
In the transfiguration event, an earthly body is transformed into
a heavenly glory and by so doing Jesus reveals God's glory as the
supreme purpose of life on earth.

The revelation of God's glory and goodness started in creation. Before
creation everything was in chaos. It is by the word of His mouth that
God put order in the world. With order, there is purpose and with purpose
the world becomes meaningful.

The divine order in the world finds its highest expression in the creation
of human beings in the image and likeness of God. It is this divine
image (Imago Dei) that makes the world beautiful. We have the breath
of God in us, or put in another way, there is a spark of God's beauty
and goodness in each and every one of us. This is the glory for which
Jesus came into the world to reveal with His life and death on the
cross.

It is no coincidence that the transfiguration of Jesus took place on the
Mountain in continuation of the same revelation of the Torah to Moses
(the Law-Giver) and Elijah in the gentle wind. Jesus shares some similarities
with Moses and Elijah – (Jesus gives us the new commandment
which is love and Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy in Israel).
However, the transfiguration event goes further to teach us that important
though the Law and the Prophets may be, the ultimate revelation
of the Glory of God is found in Jesus. “This is my beloved Son,
with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

Peter, James and John would like to remain on the mountain that
provides security, serenity and peace, but Jesus insists on taking them
back to the real world of suffering where He will sacrifice His life for
the salvation of the world.

To those who doubted the true identity of Jesus – who is Jesus? - In
the transfiguration, God sets the record straight. Jesus is neither Moses
nor Elijah but the “beloved Son” in whom God is well pleased. The
transfiguration event becomes not a cause for fear but a tool of empowerment,
enabling Jesus and the apostles to face the scandal of the
cross.

Like Jesus, the world may confuse us to be who we are not. And we
spend most of our life trying to show the world who we are. All these
we do in vain (because the world cannot know Jesus), hence the feeling
of dissatisfaction and failure that always accompany even the
greatest and the best of human achievement.

The world did not know Jesus because it did not have what it takes to
know God. It takes faith to know God and to believe that Jesus is the
chosen One of God. Unlike the transformation wrought by the creation
of the mobile motor home which makes us to carry our baggage with
us wherever we go, the transfiguration of Jesus is a process of renewal
and empowerment, which catapults humanity into the divine presence
and glory of God.

It is the same faith that empowered Moses to go onto Mount Sinai,
Jesus to be transfigured, which will empower us to live for God.
Though we live in the world with mountains of problems that surround
us here and there, self-realization often demands that we make out
time to go out of this world in order to be alone with God. This is what
we call prayer.

Prayer is the key to a successful life on earth. We do not pray to
change the mind of God, for God's mind cannot be changed. What
God is today, God was yesterday and will be tomorrow. God is an ever
present God. Eternally divine. We pray to know the mind of God.
When we know and accept God's plan for us, our life assumes a new
dimension - life becomes purposeful and meaningful. And in this lies
our own transfiguration.

When we pray, we become not only happy with God, we become happy
with ourselves and with others. Past events assume a new and
radical dimension. Everything that happens in our lives becomes
meaningful. We have reason to smile again as we begin to see that
there is no accident in God. Things happen for a reason - to prepare
our lives to give glory to God. We begin to please not people but the
God in people. This is living for God. This is our personal transfiguration
and a sharing in the divine election.

Transfiguration, therefore, is not a thing of the past. Transfiguration is
an on-going event. It is while praying that Jesus was transfigured. You
and I still have what it takes to be transfigured if and only if we anchor
ourselves to Jesus through prayer. It is by so doing that we are ennobled
to make our life on earth purpose and meaningful. It is through
prayer that we shall be transfigured to share in the glory of God on the
last day – the Judgment Day.





From Bulletin of July 30, 2017


17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


The Kingdom of God: the Greatest Good.


A greedy treasure hunter got a hint that a certain Hermit was in possession of the biggest size of diamond in the world. While the hermit was in a deep meditation, he went behind him to steal the diamond.

Upon realizing the great value of the diamond he had stolen from the hermit, the treasure hunter knew that he was going to become rich forever. He spent the whole night making plans about how to sell the diamond and the type of investments he will make.

Three nights passed and the treasure hunter begins to realize that he could not sleep because of the diamond. Instantly, the diamond has taken away his peace of mind. He becomes suspicious of everyone else and begins to separate himself from family and friends.

Being unable to sleep on the fourth day made the treasure hunter to decide to confess and return the diamond to the hermit. All the hermit told him was to keep the diamond where he had found it. And that he did without hesitation.

Surprisingly, the treasure hunter's encounter with the hermit awakens in him the desire for higher values. He immediately realizes that what he needs in life is not the diamond but THAT which made the hermit to live in peace in the midst of such a great treasure.

Today’s Gospel parable “The Hidden Treasure” is one of those parables that may sound unreal to the present generation. This is because we hardly keep our treasures in the house, how much more hide them in the field. Treasures are usually kept in safe deposits in the bank and often with insurance coverage in case of loss or damage.

However, this parable makes sense to the audience to which it was addressed. Palestine during the time of Jesus was a land of wars.
Since it was easy for enemies (foreign invaders, brigands, etc.) to burn, destroy and loot a man’s house, it was reasonable to hide one’s treasures in places where enemies could hardly imagine e.g. in the garden, backyard court, farmland, etc. so that upon his return from exile he could still dig out his treasure.

The Rabbis have an adage that says “there is only one safe repository for money – the earth.”

To find a treasure in the land, therefore, was a common occurrence during the time of Jesus. There have been instances of great archeological findings of treasures that were stored in the earth by their owners e.g. the Dead Sea scroll, coins, jewelries, etc. So, the parable of the hidden treasure becomes another attempt by Jesus, to use daily life event to teach us the truth about the nature of the kingdom of God.

What Solomon refers to as WISDOM, we may call it justice, peace, happiness, serenity, peace, joy, beauty, etc. is what Jesus refers to as the KINGDOM OF GOD. The kingdom of God is the greatest desire of the human heart. It is the greatest good (summum bonum), which contains in itself that which is capable of satisfying the deepest desire of the human heart.

A critical mind may ask if it is morally sound for one to discover another’s wealth and did not make some effort to return it to the rightful owner? In this we find the central lesson of the parable – Jesus did not pass judgment on the ethics of the finder but uses his avarice as an example of the zeal with which the believer should pursue the kingdom
of God at any price.

What Jesus means to teaches us here is that ‘if a man will go to all that trouble to get a treasure that perishes, how much more the children of God should use all their energies and make every sacrifice to get the treasure that matters most of all?’ It implies therefore that “if only Christians were as much in earnest (desire) about the things of the kingdom as sharp-witted business men are about the things of business, what a difference it would make.” Our world will become a better place for all.

It is true that the kingdom of God demands total renunciation, yet the emphasis of the parable is on the greatness of the kingdom. The kingdom has a supreme value that is greater than all that a person owns.
To discover this treasure is a decision that involves risks and an adventure. It must be embarked with passion and many sacrifices have to be made for it.

The accidental nature of the discovery is also an important point to note. The treasure was found in an accidental way, when the man was not looking for it. There have been instances of those who found Jesus Christ in what could be described as accidental. Mtt 27:32 – Simon of Cyrene was a passer-by who was going to attend the Passover feast when he was selected to carry the Cross of Jesus Christ.
You could imagine what a great change that event brought to his life.
Both success and failure could bring us to Jesus depending on how we respond to such experiences. They could enrich or diminish us.
There is no scientific or calculated way of coming to know Jesus. This is true because God is always looking for us even before we look for Him.

Like the treasure hunter, we desire happiness and all we do in life is to become happy. Yet, happiness remains elusive to the human heart.
This is probably because we seek for it in the many diamonds of this world. The WORD of God is revealed to us today as the tool of trade, the road-map to true happiness. To realize this treasure demands that we embrace the Word of God with PASSION and LOVE.

The word of God we hear should fill our hearts with such great gladness that no price would be too great to pay for it. “The joy we find in Christ should be so overwhelming that no sacrifice would be too heroic to make for him. Once we taste the goodness of the Lord, the unreserved surrender of even valuable things for Him becomes easy. Once we experience the peace that Jesus alone can give, the renunciation of everything that interferes with it becomes reasonable."

Like Solomon, this is a PERSONAL DECISION each of us must make.
And even greater than Solomon's desire for wisdom should be our desire for the kingdom of God and its righteousness. So, seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and every other thing will be added unto you.





From Bulletin of July 23, 2017


16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


The Parable of the Wheat the Weed (Darnel)


An elder Native American, teaching his grandchildren about life said to them, "A fight is going on inside me ... it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, prejudice, deceit, superiority, and ego.

The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith."

"This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too", he added.

The Grandchildren thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied... "The one you feed."
You Feed the Good Wolf and you will Do Good (and the Evil Wolf will
starve and become weak and will eventually die).

You Feed the Evil Wolf and you will do Evil (and the Good Wolf will starve and become weak and will eventually die).

Pretty simple Huh? You are the wolf you Feed - Good Wolf…OR...Bad Wolf.

The problem of the existence of evil has preoccupied the mind of men and women in every generation. The question we often ask is “why do good people suffer and bad people seem to make progress and enjoy life?
Where is God when bad things happen to good people? Justice will be
served if good people were to enjoy while bad people suffer. More challenging still is the belief that evil does not exist. If evil does not exist, why is there a lot of violence, injustice, betrayal, disappointment, etc. in the world? Such sickness like cancer and diabetes could not have come from a good and merciful God.

Not only in the world but also in the House of God, we have come to see that the church is not entirely a community of the elect. It has weak and unfaithful members.

Jesus uses the parable of the Wheat and the Weed (darnel) to address these questions. Jesus teaches us that what God created was good (wheat), but the Evil One planted the Weed, which is the source of evil in the world. And not just in the world, in the heart of each and every one of us is the struggle between good and evil.

“Let them both grow ….” At its early stage, it is difficult to distinguish the weed (darnel) from the wheat. In an attempt to remove the darnel, even the best farmer may mistakenly uproot the wheat. So, the Master allows both the weed and the wheat to grow. But when fully grown, the darnel is shorter than the wheat. During harvest, farmers usually cut the top of the wheat to collect the grain and afterwards set the rest on fire.

As the wheat resembles the weed when it is still growing, so does evil have the appearance of good in the world. In our effort to destroy evil doers, we may end up destroying good people as well.

Since every person is precious in the eyes of the Lord, God permits both the good and the bad to co-exist in the world.

There will be no freedom if God were to single handedly destroy evil in the world while leaving only the good to exist. There will be neither sin nor personal responsibility. There will be only uniformity. There will be neither authenticity nor uniqueness in the human person. We shall all be like robots and zombies. Without free-will, the authentic realization of human excellence in the world will become an impossible task.

A human being is a unique entity - created with intellect and will, and has the power to choose between good and evil. Human life on earth is a struggle. As St. Paul puts it, “we are struggling against principalities and powers in higher places. The Goodnews is that those who believe are not alone in their struggle for emancipation, liberation, justice, truth and goodness in the world.

The incarnation of God marks a turning point in the story of human existence. As human, Jesus experienced pain and suffering. By His death on the cross, the grace of God has been made available for the selfrealization of the human person. It is the Grace of God that empowers the human will to opt for what is good.

But, the human mind when uninformed by the grace of God is prone to choose evil. Our actions begin to divide rather than unite us. We have more reasons to fight rather than to live in peace. Competition and not cooperation becomes the order of the day. The human project becomes a tower of Babel rather than a Pentecost experience of unity.

The lesson of the parable of the wheat and the darnel (weed) is entirely one of patient tolerance in the presence of evil in the world - the wicked in the community of the faithful/elect (church).

The resemblance of the darnel and the wheat reminds us that in spite of our good intentions, it is not always easy to distinguish between the good and the bad, if we try to, the result will most probably be that we will destroy good and bad alike.

It teaches that judgment must be left to the Day of Judgment and committed to the hands of God. Hence, Mtt 7: 1 – “judge not that you be not judged.”
- It is possible to condemn the finest actions simply because we misunderstand them. Being too quick to judge is dangerous.
- God Himself does not judge anyone until death. So why should I? Only God can be the true judge because only God knows the true facts about anyone.

Our God is a God of a second chance. The power of the blood of Christ pleads incessantly for sinners thus giving us time to repent and to believe in the gospel of the kingdom. So, God’s patient silence should not be construed by the faithful as weakness but as an opportunity for everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved (2 Pet 3: 9).

Jesus is our model. By our acceptance or rejection of Jesus, we have placed ourselves among the wheat or the darnel. It is not so much that God judges us but that we judge ourselves by the choices we make. In a sense therefore, judgment is here and now. There is a consequence for every choice we make (our choices judge us). The fundamental question to ask ourselves today is whether our actions build a human society where peace, justice and love reigns or whether our actions create division, violence and hatred among the children of God? Since we are the Wolf we feed, only good and noble action will bear good fruit at the end.





From Bulletin of July 16, 2017


15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


The Parable of the Sower


A philosopher once went home to visit his people and to show how educated he has become. One common trait of philosophers is the tendency to engage people in a discussion, even when the topic does not make sense at all. This
young academia is not an exception.

While taking a boat ride to visit his maternal uncle he asks the boat driver how many minutes it will take to get to their destination, the boat driver answered, “I don’t know.” Looking for a reason to engage the driver in a discussion, the
learned philosopher asked the boat driver if he knows the name of the president of America, the name of the pope, the name of the prime minister of England, the day’s date, etc. The boat driver in all honesty answered, “I don’t know” to all the questions.

The philosopher concluded that the boat driver is a fool and hence decided to keep quiet. Shortly after the philosopher had stopped talking, the boat driver looked up and down, and looking straight into the eyes of the philosopher, asked him “young man, do you know how to swim?”

The learned philosopher answered, “I don’t know.”

The supposedly uneducated boat driver said, “Young man if you don’t know how to swim, you are dead.”

This is because the boat driver had seen a fast approaching storm that could capsize their boat. Suddenly, the boat was capsized. The uneducated boat driver held on to swim ashore while the educated philosopher drowned and
died.

The story ends by saying that “TRUE knowledge is only the knowledge that can save you.”

The learned philosopher had good knowledge of science, geography, politics, religion, etc. but lacked the knowledge that could save him – swimming …, and he died.

In the parable of the Sower, we are reminded that we are planted like seeds in this world to bear fruit. Another way to say it is that you and I have a VOCATION and a MISSION. It is not enough to exist in the world, we need to live a purpose driven life – a life that bears fruit in abundance for the greater glory of God and the sanctification of the world.

We read from the Catechism of the Catholic Church thus - What is the purpose of life on earth? Why did God create us? The Catechism goes on to say that God created us to know Him, love Him, serve Him, be with Him in this
world and in the world to come.

This means that creation is not an accident. We are created for a purpose. We are not created to be mere spectators in the world. We are not here to sap the earth. A human being is the only animal created with intellect and will. By
virtue of this we are co-creators with God. We are in this world to share in the glory and beauty of the creator. We are in this world to build, protect and sanctify it.

Since the mother earth protects us, we ought to have a meaningful relationship with the earth. The call to preserve and conserve the earth is not a mere political statement. It is both a moral and a religious mandate. It is a mandate to live authentic, meaningful and productive lives.

The Word of God is the seed and the Human Heart is the land in which the seed is planted. The word of God is always good, but its outcome depends on the heart and mind into which it is planted. The different kinds of ground stand for different states of the heart and mind of human beings.

The seeds that fell along the path/road refer to those who shut their mind to the word of God, those who do not want God to have any place in their life.
We sometimes say of such a person “You might as well talk to a brick wall as to talk to him/her.” Such a person has his/her mind shut and the truth cannot gain entry into it.

Some people shut their minds due to mental laziness – they are so lazy as to refuse to think. In Hosea 4:17 – the prophet said “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.” The human mind is made to think but there comes a stage in mental laziness where a person’s mind is shut. Not to think is to shut the mind from the truth and this attitude does not give glory to God.

Mental arrogance is also an obstacle to spiritual growth. This is the attitude of one who thinks that he knows it all and has nothing to learn. This was the attitude of the Pharisees to Jesus. Many ways lead to God and no one should shut his mind or think that his own way is the only way. No one can do it alone. We need the cooperation of all to build a healthy society.

Mental fear or wishful thinking could also lead a person to shut his mind. We do this whenever we consciously or unconsciously shut our minds to whatever we do not wish to be true. Ps 53:1 – “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” The fool referred to here is not one with lack of intellectual knowledge but rather one who denies the existence of God not because he is intellectually convinced that God does not exist, but because he does not want God to exist.

The seeds that fell on Rocky ground refer to a Christian whose faith is shallow.
Alexander Findley said “it is not easy to become a Christian but it is easy to start.” Most times our Christian life stops at the starting point. It is often easy to be deeply moved by the words of Jesus and to be attracted to Jesus.
Allowing the word of God to influence our life is the challenge. It is only in difficult moments that one could truly say if one truly believes in God as claimed. The aim of the church in any generation is the formation of the human
conscience. Christian faith must be deeply rooted in order to withstand the storms of life.

The seeds that fell on Thorny ground refer to those who hear and accept the word of God but are distracted by worldly interests. These are those whose lifestyles are crowded by other things such that Christ gets kicked out. 1Kgs
20:38-40 – “As your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” The second best is the greatest enemy of the best. It is possible to be so busy living that we forget to think how we are living. We could be too busy to pray, meditate or have time for devotion. Our life must not be so full of other interests that the main interest or goal in life is neglected i.e. eternal life, truth, beauty, goodness, justice, etc.

The Good-news is that some seeds fell on a Good ground (fertile soil). This refers to those who hear, understand, accept and act accordingly (James 1:21 -27, Mtt 7:21-29). The seeds that fell on good soil are those who understand Mtt 13:23, those who accept the word (Mk 4:4-20). We often say of a bad listener that he lets things to go in through one ear and out through the other.

To accept things into our minds means that we really possess it and it really becomes part and parcel of our life. They are the good listeners who HOLD fast to the word of God – this is to accept the word of God and to obey it under
all circumstances. It is not something upon which one accepts when it is convenient and discards when it is inconvenient.

The world may be full of thorns, dry and rocky grounds, yet, there is a fertile ground which makes it possible for children of God to bear fruit. The unconditional love of God is the only knowledge that can save us from the radical
storms of life. It is when we cultivate this TRUE knowledge that we are empowered to produce the fruits that will make the world a better place for all.





From Bulletin of July 9, 2017


14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


“Come To Me All You Who Labor ….”


One day a man saw an old lady, stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still
sputtering when he approached her.

Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn’t look safe; he looked poor and hungry.

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold.
He knew how she felt. It was that chill which only fear can put in you.

He said, “I’m here to help you, ma’am. Why don’t you wait in the car where it’s warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.”
Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough.

Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire.
But he had to get dirty and his hands hurt.

As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn’t thank him enough for coming to her aid.

Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped.

Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him.
This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty, who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.

He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they needed, and Bryan added, “And think of me.”

He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn’t erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving
to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan .

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill.
The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin.

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: “You don’t owe me anything. I have been there too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I’m helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you.”

Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard….

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, “Everything’s going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.” – Unknown Author.

Like Bryan Anderson, Zechariah’s unshakeable faith in God made him to believe that “Everything is going to be alright.” Zechariah in today’s first reading is addressing the people of Israel who were being oppressed by their neighbors. He invites Israel to put her trust in God, for God "shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior's bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations."

Although we may not be oppressed by enemies like the Israelites, however, we do experience different forms of weariness that make us to find life burdensome. As professionals - nurses, doctors, teachers, secretaries, etc. we do feel fatigue from work after a hectic day in the office, thus making us to look forward to our retirement someday.
As retired men and women, there is the weariness and boredom that comes from the feeling of dissatisfaction with life as the colors look gray and the atmosphere begins to feel heavy and the food becomes tasteless.

Not having a reason to wake up in the morning takes away the joy of life from us thus making our weariness to give birth to feelings of depression and suicide. As life becomes empty and meaningless, we find no reason to stay in the struggle for life, hence the temptation to give up.

There is another form of weariness that comes from sickness, being handicapped, jobless, widowed, divorced, physical, financial and emotional restrictions. We are wearied by living in broken families with disobedient children, caring for retarded or senile family members.
Worse still is the feeling of being a failure in life after all your hard work and now with no one to inherit your wealth.





From Bulletin of July 2, 2017


13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “A”


We are Called to Share in the Goodness of God


I once read a Facebook posting about the story of a lady who worked at a meat distribution factory. One day, when she was about to finish with her work schedule, she went into the meat cold room (Freezer) to inspect something, but in a moment of misfortune, the door closed and she was locked inside with no help in sight. Although she screamed and knocked with all her might, her cries went unheard as no one could hear her.

Most of the workers had already gone, and outside the cold room it's impossible to hear what was going on inside. Five hours later, whilst she was at the verge of death, the security guard of the factory eventually opened the door. She was miraculously saved from dying that day.

When she later asked the security guard what made him come to open the door, which wasn't his usual work routine, this was his explanation: "I've been working in this factory for 35 years. Hundreds of workers come in and out every day, but you're one of the few who greet me in the morning and say goodbye to me every evening when leaving after work. Many treat me as if I'm invisible. Today, as you reported for work, like all other days, you greeted me in your simple manner 'Hello'.
But this evening after work hours, I curiously observed that I had not heard your "Bye, see you tomorrow". Hence, I decided to check around the factory.

I look forward to your 'hi' and 'bye' every day because they remind me that I am someone. By not hearing your farewell today, I knew something had happened. That's why I was searching everywhere for you."

No good deed goes unrewarded, either in this life or in the next.

Today’s readings take us back to the fundamentals of human existence in the world. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, we are in this world to know, serve and praise God, to be with God in this life and in the life to come. Eternal life is not what happens after we are dead. Eternal life begins now and this is based on the choices we make every day. Our choices put us on the path of eternal life or on the path of eternal damnation.

Going by earthly standard, it is good to be rich and powerful, yet, we are not in this world to build mansions or to humiliate others.
Each of us is in this world to make a face to smile and there is no shortage of opportunities to make this happen.

There are good and bad people everywhere. I have seen and experience good people and good deeds in my life. I have also been a victim of evil minded ones. And it hurts. The work of the evil one may enjoy a wider press but we should not lose sight of simple and gentle people who spend their time visiting the sick and the lonely, the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist who sacrifice the precious time they could spend in movie theaters to bring the body of Jesus Christ to the homebound and the sick.

Sequel to this are the good people who like the Shunemite woman in the first reading today, are willing to use their resources to render some help to the people who cross their way in life’s journey.
She said to her husband; “I know that Elisha is a holy man of God.
Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him … so that when he comes to us he can stay there.”

Contrary to all patriarchal laws, it is the woman who reached out to speak to Elisha and to prevail upon him to find a home in her own home. Make no mistake about it. It takes a lot of courage to do a good deed. Every good deed takes something out of us. Most generous
people live beyond ordinary expectations of people, hence the reward for her courage is as extraordinary as anyone could imagine.

Living in a culture and society where a woman who had no male child was looked down upon, it would have been easier for the Shunemite woman to resort to self pity. She did not do that. She neither blamed God nor man. All she did was to go about doing good, and God in His goodness rewards her through the intercession of His prophet, Elisha.

Being described as “a woman of influence” she used her power to make this world a better place for others. In this unnamed Shunemite woman we see a perfect mix of faith, beauty, wealth and generosity. A rich person can also be a true servant of God. Yes, it is possible for a rich person to gain eternal life. Like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. she qualifies as one whose deeds were pleasing in the eyes of God, hence Elijah rewards her with the gift of a son, not because of her faith but because of her generosity and kindness to the messenger of God.

Good deeds sanctify us. This is because sin leads to selfishness while grace leads to selflessness. The ability to do good deeds is a sign of the grace of God at work in our lives. When Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing” Jesus implies that every good thing comes from God. Doing a good deed entails that we are anchored to God, from whom comes the work of our hands. Doing a good deed, therefore, is a sharing in the beauty and goodness of God

In the Gospel, Jesus says “Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple – Amen I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” Every good deed shows that even now, God, through us, is redeeming and recreating the world in His own image and likeness.

Call it heaven, eternal life, happiness, peace, justice, etc. Jesus is telling us today that it is as easy as it is difficult to enter into heaven. If a simple greeting “Hi” said to a gatekeeper could gain the woman of our story such a huge favor, how much more would a good deed done in the name of God go to win us eternal life? It is not enough to go about observing and complaining about all the evils in the world. We do have within us all it takes to make the goodness of God shine out in the world and by so doing become co-creators with God whose goodness, like the sun and rain, is there for all.





From Bulletin of June 25, 2017


12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year "A"


Pray and Be Not Afraid


In an article titled "10 Real-Life Hidden Treasures You Could Still Find" Corey Gibson writes about Thomas Beale who was mostly regarded as a strange man. "Legend has it that in 1816, Beale and a few men he was traveling with came into a large sum of gold and silver
<
http://www.usdeclarationofindependence.com/id21.html> while mining somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. With such a large fortune, estimated to be around $63 million in today’s money, all of the men wanted to make sure their next of kin would get the money should they perish.

So Beale wrote three ciphers <
http://bealetreasure.net/?page_id=9> .
One described the exact location of the treasure, the second described the contents of the treasure, and the third was a list of the men’s names and their next of kin. Beale then entrusted Robert Morriss, a Lynchburg, Virginia innkeeper, with the safekeeping of a box containing the ciphers.

Morriss was supposed to wait 10 years before opening it. At this point, if Beale did not return for the box, a key to the cipher was supposed to be mailed to Morriss. But it never arrived. For years, Morriss and a friend tried to decode the three ciphers, but they could only manage the second cipher (the one describing the contents of the treasure)."

Unlike Morriss and the kinsmen of Thomas Beale who could not decode the two other ciphers that would open the door of wealth for them, the prophet Jeremiah knew what it takes to decode the door of blessings for the Israelites but no one would listen to him. Imagine how frustrating that could be especially for Jeremiah and the lovers of truth!

Jeremiah was a good man. He loved God with all his heart, mind and strength. The disobedience of the chosen people - Israel could neither diminish Jeremiah's love for God nor for his fellow men. He wanted the best for the people of Israel, but before his eyes Israel was languishing in ignorance and sin. Jeremiah's only desire was to bring Israel back to the true covenant but Israel would not listen to the prophetic message from God.

The message of Jeremiah which was supposed to bring blessings to Israel rather brought a curse to an obstinate people who would not allow their lives to be guided by the truth. Their strong belief in the supremacy of the commonwealth of Israel and their determination to protect the establishment made them to call for the death of Jeremiah instead of changing their ways. Jeremiah says - "I hear the whisperings of many: Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him!"

Why do we denounce good people?

To all those who are denounced by others, both Jesus and Jeremiah have a message for them - Never give up! Jesus says "Fear no one ... And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna."

Like Jeremiah, Jesus invites us to a life of prayer. In his time of persecution and rejection, Jeremiah prayed to draw strength from God.
Prayer is spending time with the Beloved. Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will not never find time to pray, says an old Benedictine monk.

Any event that brings down our knees in prayer to God is victorious and successful in divine eyes. To pray is to say, I need God more than I need the world - I need more of Him and less of myself. Praying in our brokenness and humility is usually when our prayer is most alive and this is usually when Big Things begin to happen in our lives.

The brokenness of a man is not the end of his life. Challenges open wide the door of blessing and prayer makes the blessing and riches of God to flow in our lives beyond measure, for God answers the prayers of the broken hearted.

It is through prayer that we redirect our hearts to want what God wants. Any heart that wants what God wants, will surely be at peace in spite of the troubles that abound in the world. Both Jeremiah and Jesus want what God wants, hence the success of their mission on earth for the salvation of mankind and the emancipation of all sentient beings.

Prayer is an essential part of the mission that has been entrusted to us - the life of Jesus was a life of prayer. Jesus prayed always. He prayed before making any making any major decision or embarking upon any major project in His life. Jesus' life was open to God at all times.

Prayer is a great conversation with God. When conversation seizes, relationship begins to fade. It is conversation that keeps relationship alive. Prayer can be scary though because it is the best test of our sincerity. Its purpose is not to hurt us but to keep things real. In prayer we come to Jesus as we are - it is God and I. It is not unkindness for God to reveal to us our hidden faults. It's rather kindness.

"Man know thy self" is still the best and most powerful maxim of all times. It is impossible to know and understand others if we do not know ourselves. In prayer, Christ wants to have a complete control of
our lives. Prayer is the glue that holds all things together in Christ.
Prayer helps us to see how God is at work in our lives ... And in the lives of others.

Prayer, therefore, should be in the midst of whatever life brings to us.
As the prophet Jeremiah became a man of prayer, he began to see that though Israel had abandoned the ways of God, God had not abandoned them, hence the hope of human salvation cannot be dampened by the evils in the world.

Without faith in God expressed through prayer, all we have is fear and worry. We live our lives in fear of politicians, nuclear weapons, earthquakes, sickness, neighbors and even our own children. By telling us not to live in fear, Jesus invites us to a journey of faith that is rooted in prayer in thanksgiving to the God who knows even the number of hairs on our head - like Jeremiah, our life is in God's hands, there's no reason to live in fear.





From Bulletin of June 18, 2017


Corpus Christi
The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.


The feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ was introduced to the church in 1264. It is the fruit of the vision by an Augustinian nun – Juliana of Liege, who in her vision saw a perfectly shining moon but with a hollow dark spot on it. In her effort to find out the reason for the dark spot on the moon, she was told that it was due to the absence of a feast in honor of the Eucharist in the church. Hence Pope Urban IV on September 8, 1264 introduced this feast to the universal church to be celebrated yearly on the second Sunday after Pentecost or better known as the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.

In spite of the beautiful history of this feast, many continue to ask if we really need a feast in honor of the Eucharist. We will not hesitate to say YES and this is due to the central nature of the Eucharist in the church. It is the Eucharist that forms the church and it was at the breaking of bread that the risen Lord revealed himself to the community of believers, strengthening and commissioning them to embark on the mission of evangelization (Lk 24:30-35).

St. Paul in 1 Cor 12:27 reminds all the baptized that we are the body of Christ and each of us is a part of it. Whenever we gather in prayer, the body of Christ becomes visible and this divine presence is completed by the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist – “For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matt 18:20).

The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word ‘eucharistia’ which means ‘thanksgiving.’ Gathering to celebrate the Eucharist affords believers the opportunity to give a collective thanks to God for Christ’s redemptive work and the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence with us.

In the Gospel of John 6 on the bread of life and Matthew 28:20 on Jesus promise to be with us till the end of time, believers see in the Eucharist a visible sign and effective means of Jesus presence in our midst at all times. Jesus says anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abide in me and I in him/her (Jn 6:56).

In Jn 10:10 Jesus said that He has come that we may have life and have it in abundance. The life that Jesus brings is eternal life, which is a divine gift that only God can give. Hence, Jesus did not hesitate to tell us “truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day (Jn 6:53-54).”

Some of the Jews who first received this message doubted it and distanced themselves from Jesus. How about you and I today? What is our attitude towards the Eucharist? Is it that of avoidance or one of laissez faire attitude? St. Paul warns us in 1 Cor 11:29-30 that “All who eat and drink the body and blood of Christ in an unworthy manner … eat and drink judgment against themselves.

Some of the Jews who first received this message doubted it and distanced themselves from Jesus. How about you and I today? What is our attitude towards the Eucharist? Is it that of avoidance or one of laissez faire attitude? St. Paul warns us in 1 Cor 11:29-30 that “All who eat and drink the body and blood of Christ in an unworthy manner … eat and drink judgment against themselves.
For this reason many of you are weak and ill, some have died.”

The Eucharist is the food that unites the world. It is the food that reveals the unconditional love of God. We may sometimes construe it as a sole property of an institution; it is certainly the food of God’s children.

Institutional requirements may at times seem to hijack it yet believers do know that when God fed the Israelites with manna in the desert and when Jesus fed the multitude, God did not give them conditions. Neither the apostles had first to confess their sins nor did they have to produce their marriage certificates in order to partake of the Eucharist.
People who desire the Lord feed on the Eucharist, reminding them that even now God is with us.

The Eucharist ought to unite and not divide the children of God. In the true sense of it, no one is worthy to receive the Eucharist.

Only God’s love makes us worthy to receive His love. His mercy and love heals and purifies us, inviting us to “take and eat.” The Eucharist is the food of those who love the Lord and desire to grow in His love.
Partaking of the Eucharist becomes a profound expression of faith through which we manifest our resolve to grow in holiness and to become Jesus Christ made visible to others in the world.

The Eucharist was established in a covenant relationship between God and us – the new Israel (the new people of God). By celebrating the Eucharist, we keep the covenant alive. We celebrate who we are and who we are called to become - the priestly people, the kingly people and God’s chosen people who reveal God’s love in the world.

This covenant which was sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross is reenacted and made present in the celebration of the Eucharist. It is an eternal and everlasting covenant, irreversible and pleasing to God.

The Eucharist is the apex and summit of Christian life. It is the highest and the best sacrifice of the church. During the celebration of the Eucharist time ceases to exist, eternity begins and all boundaries are broken. Only love reigns. By re-enacting this everlasting covenant we
enter into a closer and intimate bond with God. We are not simply God’s people; we are in fact God’s beloved sons and daughters.

We are God’s family.

As long as we re-tell the story of the Eucharist, its redemptive power remains effective in us.

We celebrate what we become and become what we celebrate. The right attitude of God’s children towards the Eucharist should be one of deep reverence and love.





From Bulletin of June 11, 2017

The Most Holy Trinity.Year “A”

Three Persons in One God – Undivided in Unity

It was while reflecting on how to write his treatise “De Trinitate” – “On the Holy Trinity” that St. Augustine experienced something that changed his life forever. While walking by the sea-shore he saw a little boy who was running back and forth from the sea to a hole he had dug by the seashore. With a shell, the small boy wanted to empty the sea water into the hole. Augustine approached the little boy, and asked him, “Little boy, what are you doing?’

“I am trying to empty the sea into this hole,” replied the little boy with a sweet smile.

“Isn’t that impossible, little boy, since the hole cannot contain all that water?” said Augustine.

The boy paused for a while, looked straight into the eyes of Augustine, and said, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – to comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

Augustine, surprised by such a keen response from the little boy looked down in shock, but when he raised his eyes to ask the little boy another question, the little boy had vanished.

Some theologians say that it was an Angel sent by God to teach the world through Augustine on the need to humble ourselves before the divine majesty of God. Faith in God and the mystery of the divine Godhead cannot and should not be reduced to a conceivable and observable piece of knowledge.

Living with mystery is an essential part of human life, and the greatest mystery ever is the mystery of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity holds that there is one God in three divine persons – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Some of the arguments proffered in the early church in favor of the various relationships between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit could be summarized as follows:
• Jesus was merely a good man, adopted by God
• Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just labels for the different roles of one being (Sabellianism or Modalism).

Jesus was created by God and subordinate to him (Arianism).
There is no doubt that these are all plausible interpretations that could be justified with some Bible passages. However, even in the absence of a sufficient explanation of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the church rejects the above views as heretical.

It is a fact of life that we are supposed to understand before we believe, but in our relationship with God we are called to believe before we can understand, for true religion is nothing but faith seeking understanding.
Though challenging the doctrine of the trinity may be, yet, it is a fact that faith opens the mind’s door to an infinite knowledge of the truth that liberates us from the bondage of sin and ignorance.

Divine knowledge is a treasure to behold. No doubt about that. But come to think of it, the human mind does not yet posses any infallible reason why things are the way they are. Many things in life are given to us - parents, siblings, DNA, the world, etc. and many limitations in life are imposed on us. We have come to accept it for what it is.

We may take it for granted that we know a lot of things, yet, human beings have not come to know up to 20% of the universe and the many other realities that surround us. We do strive to understand our environment and make sense of it, yet, the core essence of life remains a mystery to us.

Lack of an adequate knowledge of the trinity does not entail that our Christian faith is unintelligible, it is rather non-intelligible. It is good for faith to be intelligible, yet, faith cannot always be reduced to reason.

Faith is a mystery and salvation is all about God doing His own thing. Salvation is not a human project that needs to be reasonable and intelligible. Faith is a mystery because the more we want to comprehend it, the less we are able to understand it. It is what it is.

Mystery creates the feeling of awe and humbles our pride. And awe evokes the sense of wonder and praise in the human heart. It is this feeling of wonder and praise that gives birth to worship. And worship is informed by faith; hence faith characterizes most of human relationship with the world as it is given to us.

Yes, we live by faith.... And you can say that again.

Faith is not for lack of trying but rather the result of a deeper knowledge of the truth of human existence in the world. Christian faith is not the product of ignorance but an honest acceptance of the limitation of human knowledge - that there is more in life than the human mind can comprehend.

Our Christian faith teaches us, among other things that there are three Persons in One God - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Our God is a trinity of eternal glory whom we worship in a unity of infinite and powerful majesty.

The Trinity works in Unity. In God the Father, the world is created.
In God the Son, the world is redeemed and in God the Holy Spirit, the world is sustained in being. In the act of creation, salvation and conservation, the trinity is always present. Human beings thus are a product of a mysterious God whose trademark is love.

The Trinity, therefore, is not a doctrine of reason but of faith. It is not a mathematical formula for science but a religious formula for authentic existence - a successful and happy life. It is not a historical truth since it has neither a beginning nor an end. It is a mystery and as a mystery, the Trinity is greater than us, but as love, it is within our hearts to behold and cherish.






From Bulletin of June 4, 2017

Pentecost Sunday, Year “A”

“And they were filled with the Holy Spirit”

Taylor shares his experience of how the Holy Spirit confirmed his faith
in God – “Growing up, my mother never really spoke of God, needless
to say, I didn't know much about God or religion. When I was about
12, I stayed with my older sister for a while and she was very religious,
she made me go to church with her every Sunday, but I disliked it, it
was too long for a 12 year old to bare who wants to read her text messages
and I didn't understand what was being said.

As the years passed, I occasionally thought about God and had times
when I believed in him and times when I didn't believe. Truthfully, I
only spoke to him when there was trouble in my life or when I needed
something. A few months ago I decided I wanted to know God and I
started to pray, but every time I prayed I felt disconnected and it
seemed very mechanical, I asked God to please help me believe in
Him because I wanted to go to Heaven.

So I decided to visit this church that is a few blocks from my house to
see if it would help me in my spiritual growth. The first visit was ok;
although I still felt disconnected I decided to keep going because I
figured that after many years of not knowing God, it would possibly
take time to feel "connected". I decided to start doing research about
God and I learned an abundance of information within a week. But
when I prayed this time I felt more of a connection but Satan still planted
seeds of doubt in my head.

During my week of gaining knowledge, I discovered how blinded I was
and how the devil had some influence in my life. A lot of the music I
listened to was inspired by the devil (cheating, sex, lies etc), a lot of
the shows and movies I watched was inspired by the devil (HOA, BGC
etc). A lot of the things I did was inspired by the devil (cursing, lies,
and pre-marital sex). I was upset with myself and decided enough was
enough, I erased a host of songs that I felt were inspired by the devil,
stopped watching TV, and I deleted my instagram ….

This time when I prayed, the connection increased but still doubt
would creep on me. I started to watch the show the Bible and it has
given me more faith and has increased my knowledge about God, all
while watching it the other day, my admiration for Jesus increased
greatly and I remember saying to myself I wish God would come to me
like He did with Abram and the prophets etc. …”

I can remember being really young and feeling God's presence as
young as a baby, knowing always without a doubt that it was God right
there with me. For the first time I felt God the strongest the following
Sunday when I went to church and in my prayer I started to say please
forgive me of all my sins I have done ( I had been drinking and partying
a lot and now I wanted to stop) as soon as I said please forgive me
of my sins, I felt this power of electricity (it’s the only way I can describe
it as) go through my body I lost all feeling in my legs and fell to
the bench I was crying so hard I couldn't pray any more my chest felt
like it was on fire I could barely breathe or move I felt paralyzed, I never
felt that much love in all my life.

It was so beautiful, my body was in pain I know this part doesn't sound
or feel beautiful but it was worth it to feel His love! My body felt like it
was shutting down because His presence was so powerful and Holy it
is the best way I can describe it….

I Knew it was God, when I looked up everyone was crying in the
church and one of the ministers stood up and said how powerful the
spirit was in the room, even though I was the only one who fell to the
ground, I know everyone else felt His presence as well.... It wasn't
until I was 26 that I felt His Holy Spirit visit again in the way I just described.
When I was 26, His visits were stronger and longer, I have
been so blessed beyond measure! I'm so thankful and wish everyone
could feel the Holy Spirit like this at least once before leaving this
earth... They would know how much they are really loved... and what
true Love feels like.”

Life in the Spirit is an awesome experience. To me the Holy Spirit is
like my mother – no matter what I do, she is always there to nurture
my spiritual and emotional well-being. She is my guide, counselor,
sanctifier and witness. She helps me to live my Christian life to the full.
She guides my growth, making me to become a loving, hopeful, caring
and compassionate person for Christ in the world.

The Holy Spirit is revealed to us today as a personal being, and as
such we need to be in a relationship with Him. It is out of the love between
the Father and the Son that the Holy Spirit is sent to us. It is the
Holy Spirit that transforms the human nature and gives it a divine nature,
thus making it possible for the human being to be capable of
living for God - praising the Lord.

In this life, certain things may not go the way we would like them to go,
yet, it is the Holy Spirit that gives us hope and courage to believe that
God is still faithful and dependable. God loves us and by His incarnation,
saves us, and in the Spirit, lives among us.

Jesus knows the many challenges that face human nature and knowing
how frail and weak human life on earth is, He promised that He will
not leave us orphans - that He will send the Holy Spirit to be with us,
to guide, to strengthen us and to lead us to the truth. The Holy Spirit is
indeed our comforter - the Paraclete.

Our God is a generous God; hence the Spirit that emanates from God
comes with gifts - wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude,
knowledge, piety and the fear of the Lord. These gifts remind us that
we are the chosen and not the frozen people of God. We should live
with passion and not be lukewarm. We should be passionate about
justice, truth, peace and integrity of all creation.

These gifts are meant to renew God's goodness in our lives. The power
of sin and the problems of life often becloud the divine presence in
our lives. However, it is by opening our hearts to the anointing power
of the Holy Spirit that we receive the gifts that empower us to overcome
self-pity, selfishness and to embrace acts of selfless sacrifices
that renew the face of the earth.





From Bulletin of MAY 28, 2017

Ascension of the Lord, Year “A”

Jesus Christ Ascends Into Heaven

When it comes to belief in the existence of heaven, I recall the story of Moorjani which was narrated by CNN Randi Kaye and Chelsea J. Carter on February 29, 2013. According to the CNN reporters, “on February 2, 2006, Anita Moorjani was in a coma. With her body riddled with cancer, doctors told her husband that her organs were shutting down and she likely would not make it beyond the next 36 hours.

"I was just so tired of fighting to try to stay alive," she said. Moorjani knew what cancer could do to the body. She had seen it ravage her best friend, Soni, eventually killing her. So when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2002, she was afraid.

In a way, Moorjani had always been afraid -- of living and of dying. Growing up in Hong Kong, she said she was bullied because of her Indian heritage. She went so far as to lighten her hair and bleach her skin to fit in at the British school she attended.

"I felt I had to apologize for being me," she said. Then she was diagnosed with cancer, one of her biggest fears after seeing it take the life of Soni. Slowly the cancer took its toll on Moorjani. By February 1, 2006, sick and weak, she thought to herself: "Even death can't be worse than this."
So she said she let go.

The next morning, she didn't wake up. Her husband rushed her to the hospital, where the family was told the bad news: Moorjani was in a coma and not expected to wake again. Moorjani can't put her finger on the exact minute that she says she left her body.

She saw her husband standing next to her hospital bed. "He was very distraught. He was there by my bedside. I could feel he was willing me to come back," she said. Moorjani could also hear conversations that took place between her husband and her doctors, far from her hospital room.
She heard them, she said, discuss her pending death. "Your wife's heart might be beating, but she's not really in there," a doctor told her husband -- a conversation, she said, he would later confirm to her after she asked.

Hovering between life and death, she said she was surrounded by people who loved her. Her best friend, Soni, was there. So was her father, who had died years earlier from heart failure. There were others there, too. She didn't recognize most of them. But she knew they loved her and cared for her. It was a feeling unlike anything she says she had ever felt.

"At first, I did not want to come back. Why would I want to come back into this sick body?" she said. Then, hovering between life and death, she had a moment of clarity -- a true understanding. "All the years of beating myself up, of feeling flawed, had manifested itself and turned into cancer," she said.

About 30 hours after being hospitalized, Moorjani awoke. Within days, she said, her organs began to function again. Within weeks, doctors could find no evidence of cancer in her body, she said.

"I'm not scared of death. Whenever that day comes, I'll feel I will have accomplished what I came here to do," Moorjani said. "I believe that all of us have only come here to realize who we are, and to be true to who we are." She recounted her experience in her book, "Dying to Be Me: My Journey From Cancer, To Near Death, To True Healing." Today, she remains cancer free.

It is a thing of joy to go back to where you belong. As Moorjani came back to her earthly family, so did Jesus go back to His heavenly family where He truly belongs. The sublime beauty of the Ascension is that while on earth, Jesus did not lose sight of heaven and now in heaven Jesus is still with us in the gift of the Holy Spirit. So, in Jesus, heaven and earth unite as One, bonded by the Holy Spirit, the Advocate from God, sent to lead us to the truth, the whole truth.

By ascending into heaven, Jesus redefines the purpose of life on earth. To those who believe, impossible is nothing. We are not born to die. We are born to live. Eternal life is the lot of those who have put their faith in God, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, there is no limit to the good we can do in this world.

Even the law of gravity could not stop Jesus from going back to His Father and our Father. Yes, love triumphs over nature. Human injustice, oppression, betrayal, lies, rejection, hatred, etc. could not prevent Jesus from fulfilling His mission for the salvation of the world. Love will always overcome, love will always win and love will always reign.

Today Jesus hands the baton to us. We are part of God's divine plan for the salvation of the world. Jesus invites us to follow His footstep. The victor has conquered and love has regained its pride of place in the struggle between good and evil in the world. Love God and you will reign forever with Jesus in heaven.

By ascending to heaven, Jesus transforms and elevates the quality of our relationship with God from the physical to the spiritual. Physical relationship is limited but spiritual relationship is limitless. God is spirit and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth.

Here on earth, we are on a journey. This world is not our home. We are only passing through but while it is within our limit, we ought to be good. We are in this world to prepare for heaven. We are a product of God's love. We came from God and we are going back to God.
Our sufferings purify us as gold is purified in the furnace. If we need gold (heaven), we must dig. Although there is no joy in digging, there is joy in picking up the golden treasure that lies beneath the earth.

Jesus ascends to heaven to prepare a place for us and after He has prepared a place, Jesus will come back to take us so that where Jesus is, there we shall be. While we experience the travails of life, Jesus asks us today to be patient. Trust in me. I have overcome the world and so will you if you believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.





From Bulletin of MAY 21, 2017

6th Sunday of Easter, Year “A”

"I will give you another ADVOCATE to be with you"

It was after going through the Sunday readings that I remembered a story posted on the Daily Strength of A ShareCare Company titled “My Sad Story of a Wasted Talent. It reads “I used to paint. Like on a bad day, 1-3 paintings in one day. On a good day, I’d paint 8. I painted daily for almost a year or a little over. I like to think I had a talent. I had all kinds of styles and media. I had painting made with things from oil to acrylic and watercolor pastes. Some were still life, some were landscapes. I had drawings in pencil of people and such. I also had drawings of wedding gowns and summer clothing, even jewelry sketches.

I don’t have anything now.

Six months ago maybe, I drew a Chinese lady, a geisha if you will. Her hair looks great. In my living room, I have two paintings, which I didn’t do... the things is, every time I have visitors, they all ask me if I painted them… wish I could say yes….

When I used to paint, my work was compared to Claude Monet, Winslow Homer, Edouard Manet and even … Thomas Kinkade. In fact I was good... and worked fast. When I used to paint, I had my entire room filled with all these works of art, and also had some paintings to decorate my mother’s living room. This is how everyone had seen some of my work.

Sadly, I live on a coastal island, we get hurricanes and sometimes we have to evacuate. Well I took all my paintings down and placed them on top of my bed… long story short, after evacuating I came to find nothing. The flood surge took my work.

For approximately 3 years after, I had some form of depression when it came to someone asking me if I still painted or what happened to my work. Explaining how I lost so much work I cannot ever replace, I said it in tears. I hated when people asked. After many tears and many stories of how I had nothing left, people stopped asking.

Now, like I mentioned earlier, I have two paintings in my living room, one is regular size I believe and the other is pretty damn big. It resembles things I painted, so people walk in and immediately ask if I painted them. Wish I could say yes... but I didn’t. It is very expensive to replace all the supplies I need. But I am trying to work on getting supplies so that I may get back into the arts. I really want to. I think it would be good for me, I know it would be. Plus I can sell them and who knows, I may do something better....

What I do have under the big painting in my living room is a small, well regular sized frame, approximate the size of a regular sheet of paper ... picture of a brain I drew and labeled. I’m an artist waiting to paint one day.

We are all gifted in many ways. Some realize it and use their talents to achieve greatness, some preserve their talents and watch it grow cold without ever using them, while others do not even care to recognize their talents but would rather go through life admiring others and wishing to be like them.

It was Thomas Wolfe who once said that “if a man has a talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If he has a talent and uses only half of it, he has partly failed. If he has a talent and learns somehow to use the whole of it, he has gloriously succeeded and won a satisfaction and a triumph few men ever know.”

Yes, you and I are gifted in many ways but talent is not enough. We need to be prayerful and persistent too. Prayer gives us a form of energy that creatively put our talents into a fruitful use in the way that it serves not the self but others.

Talent does not guarantee immunity to failure. In fact the more talented one is, the more he is prone to fail. Indeed, every person who lives above the level of cats and dogs, lives so as to give a meaning and value to his own life. However, human effort notwithstanding, not everyone succeeds in life even after having done so much.

In our struggle to live and be successful in the world, three worse things that could happen are:

- To lie in bed at night and sleep not
- To try to please and please not
- To wait for someone who comes not

The disciples suffered all these – imprisonment, sleepless nights, ungrateful crowd and false expectation of a conquering messiah.

Jesus having experienced the reality of life in the world, knows that we need help. No one can do it alone. Good intention is not even good enough. Hence, in His parting word, Jesus promised His disciples that He will "ask the Father and He will give you another ADVOCATE to be with you always … to remain with you and be within you."

Possessing the Spirit of God makes us partners with Jesus. Empowered by the Spirit of TRUTH, whom the world cannot accept, there is no limit to the good we can do in the world.

We may live in a world where the forces of nature present to us numerous obstacles that retard our growth. Betrayal and disappointment make life miserable. Jesus experienced it all and yet remained victorious. “For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God” (1 Pet 3:17-18). As a conqueror, Jesus invites us to follow the ways of God the Father.

It is the Holy Spirit of God that empowers us to become conquerors in the world. With the Spirit of God, no talent is wasted. Even in the midst of confusion, the power of the Holy Spirit will enable us to see the way forward when others wish to turn back. The anointing of the Spirit will make us otherworldly - as earthly things are put in the service of heavenly reality, they are stripped of their power to entrap and enslave us.

On the day of our baptism, we received the Spirit of God. This very same Spirit is awakened in us on the day of Confirmation. It is through prayer and good works that we keep this Spirit alive in us. And since the Spirit of God dwells in us, Jesus asks us today to begin to pray for the anointing of the Spirit to open the mind of our hearts to behold the beauty and art that surround us. It is by so doing that we share in the power of the glorious resurrection of Jesus.





From Bulletin of MAY 14, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter, Year “A”

“I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life”

The story of Maureen Ryan who receives a bag of vegetables at the Union Ave UMC Church food pantry is one that we need to hear in order to appreciate that the hardship people go through in life is not always for lack of trying. “Maureen Ryan used to have a steady, secure job in accounting and credit collecting.

“I was the best credit collector in the City of Chicago,” she laughed.

That was about 10 years ago. After losing the job, Maureen hasn’t been able to find consistent work. She now works odd jobs and cleans houses to make ends meet. Between her part-time income and $126 per month in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, she doesn’t make enough to support her disabled husband and two teenage daughters.

“They don’t give enough for food stamps. It’s just not enough,” she said.

To fill in the gaps, Maureen and her husband get fruit, vegetables, meat, bread, and canned goods at the Union Avenue UMC Church food pantry, a Greater Chicago Food Depository agency in the South Side neighborhood of Canaryville.

“Since my husband has been disabled, the doctors want him to eat better, so I get my vegetables here, because they’re just too expensive otherwise.” Maureen and her husband have been coming to the pantry for a year. “It’s tough to scrounge up money to buy food these days,” Maureen said. “That’s why this is such a blessing for us.”

Every month, the pantry serves more than 400 individuals, and the Ryans’ story is all too familiar to pantry coordinator Ray Carey. “We’re working with desperate people now,” he said. “People have lost their jobs and are struggling through no fault of their own. That story needs to be told” – Greater Chicago Food Pantry “52 stories.”

Imagine saying to someone like Maureen Ryan, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

Human life on earth could be worrisome indeed. We are living within the tension of the threat of nuclear war, terrorism and economic disaster. There is hardly any element of peace in sight. Our streets are full of violence and crime. People want to get rich by all means. We deprive the sick of healthcare opportunities and legislate unjust laws that favor the rich to the detriment of the poor who have no one to speak for them. We see all these things happen and the popular press force us to accept them as the way to go.

Yes, whenever cows meet, they say 'eat more chicken.'

Even when official statistics say otherwise, yet, there is still high unemployment among the poor. To be safe, everything must be insured. Family life is in crisis. Divorce has become a lucrative business. We condemn violence and yet encourage people to own a gun. It is now considered old fashioned for children to be obedient to their parents as if disobedience is the new norm for civilized ones.

We have lots of bills to pay the grandmaster. Corporations enslave us. The corporation that owns the house you live also owns the car, the network system, and the insurance company that manages your
wealth and health. We go out every day to work for them, thus making human work a new form of slavery rather than a process of making our world more human, more loving, more caring and more compassionate.

All these things upset our peace of mind. They sap joy out of life and make human life on earth a problem solving enterprise rather than a journey towards self-realization and self-perfection.

Jesus knows all that we are going through in life and it is in the midst of all these worries that He says "Do not let your hearts be troubled, you have faith in God, have faith in me." Jesus is not telling us not to be concerned about how to solve our problems. Jesus is rather telling us that we should not lose sight of the fact that God knows our problems. Our problems may weigh us down but God is bigger than our problems. Despite our problems and challenges, God can be trusted.

Worry cannot solve our problems. Worry instead takes away the joy of the now and makes human life on earth more miserable. Just like the Apostles, we are being reminded today that nothing should distract us from focusing on the Word of God which is the Way that leads to true happiness; the Truth that empowers us to live without fear and the Life that endures forever.

In spite of this reassurance by Jesus, the reality of death, betrayal, poverty, sickness and the many threats to our peaceful co-existence in the world today, could make Jesus message look naive. If you have ever thought that way, you are not alone. Jesus audience - the Jews, the disciples, the apostles, etc. thought so too. Some even abandoned Him.

However, Jesus, the living cornerstone of our faith assures us today that God can still be trusted. When you run alone in this life, it is called a RACE but when you run with God, it is called GRACE. And the grace of God will surely lead you home.

People of faith have come to see in the risen Lord another reason to trust, to be joyful and to be humble. In spite of His denial by Peter, betrayal by Judas, false accusations by the high priests of the people, the injustice of the crowd, crucifixion and death on the cross, Jesus rose again because Jesus trusted in the faithfulness of God to see Him through all the troubles of life. By His resurrection, Jesus reassures us that God is faithful and worthy of our trust.

Those who put their trust in God, like Jesus, should not live in fear. Christians today are the “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, called to announce the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Neither death nor enslavement can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Only in God shall we live forever in an atmosphere of freedom and trust. And this is still our resurrection story. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.





From Bulletin of MAY 7, 2017

4th Sunday of Easter, Year “A”

The Good Shepherd and His sheep

“The Lion and the Sheep”, a Farsi story told by Mareia Abed has it that “once upon a time, there lived a lion who was always bragging about his bravery, his strength, and his cunning. ‘There is no animal in the jungle who is braver than I,’ boasted the lion to all who would listen. ‘I am the biggest and the best, and I am afraid of no animal!’ he proclaimed.

But the lion was not being entirely truthful. He was very afraid of rats, and he did not want any of the other animals to know this in case they made fun of him.

There was also a little sheep who was very meek and quiet. The sheep did not boast because the sheep did not consider himself to be brave or strong or cunning. Because the sheep was so quiet, the lion often picked on him and called him names. ‘You are a frightened little animal,’ goaded the lion. ‘You are too quiet and too timid. You should be more like me.’

The gentle sheep never answered this name calling, he simply went about his business in his usual manner. ‘I may be quiet,’ thought the sheep, ‘but at least I have friends and do not spend my time boasting about myself or judging others.’

One day, when the sheep was walking through the jungle, he heard the lion screaming at the top of his voice. ‘Help me! Help me!’

The little sheep ran in the direction of the lion’s desperate cries for help, until he found the mighty beast clinging to the lowest branch of a tree in a small clearing. ‘Help me, little sheep!’ pleaded the lion.

What is wrong?’ asked the sheep as he looked about on the ground to see what had frightened the lion in such a way.

‘Rats!’ exclaimed the lion, and with his tail he pointed towards the ground where there was a family of rats searching for food at the base of the tree.

The little sheep trotted up to the rats and gently pushed them away from the base of the tree. ‘Run along now,’ said the sheep, 'You are scaring the lion.'

And with that, the rats all scurried off into the jungle in search of more food.

When the lion was sure that the rats had gone, he dropped to the ground and tried his best to puff out his chest as if he had not been frightened at all. But the little sheep was not convinced by the lion’s bravado.

‘Why is it that you are so scared of rats?’ asked the little sheep.
‘They are slithery and slimy and dirty,’ said the lion.
‘That is not true,’ protested the sheep. ‘How can you know what they are like if you have never spoken to them?'

The lion thought about this for a while and eventually admitted that he had never spoken to the rats at all but had always been afraid of them. ‘You are right, little sheep,’ said the lion, ‘I decided that the rats were slithery and slimy and dirty, just as I had decided that you were timid and frightened, but it is not true. You are brave and strong, perhaps the bravest and
strongest animal in the jungle!’

The sheep thanked the lion for his kind words but admitted that this was probably not true. The two of them laughed together and the sheep had to admit that it was very funny to see the mighty lion hanging from the tree looking so scared.

From that day on, the sheep and the lion became very good friends, and the lion learned from the sheep that it was best never to judge another animal by the way they looked.”

The sheep may be the animal with the lowest IQ, yet, there is something about the sheep that endears it to all. What the sheep lacks in terms of physical strength and academic intelligence is made up by its gentle and simple nature, and this is probably why assuming the attitude of a sheep is necessary for success in missionary life.

Using the imagery of the shepherd, the sheep and the sheepfold, Jesus paints the picture of how God expects the children of God to live in the world. The relationship that exists between the shepherd and the sheep should be similar to our relationship with God. God’s world in which we live is an ordered world. It is not an accident. It has purpose, meaning and direction. It’s structure is divinely rooted in God the Good Shepherd. We, the sheep will find pasture if and only if we are willing to listen to the voice of the shepherd.

It takes a lot of patience and love to care for the sheep. Training the sheep to listen, hear and understand the instructions of the shepherd demands a relationship. This is what Jesus has done for us – to restore a fallen humanity to the love of God. We see the climax of Jesus sacrifice on the cross when He said “It is finished” – it is paid to the full. We owe nothing to anyone.

As the members of God’s sheepfold, every step we take on earth matters – the work of our hands, must contribute to the humanization of the world.
We, the sheep of the Good Shepherd, are called to become co-creators with God in building a world rooted in peace, justice and love. Unlike the lion, the sheep must be able to creatively discern the inner potentialities of others and adjust their voice so that this inner possibility can hear them.
We should not be quick to judge others by appearance. We should always discern the spirit so as to be able to lead other sheep to greener pasture.

There is no shortage of goodness in the world. Hence, we do have the choice either to live like the lion whose rash judgment explains away the good in others or the sheep whose patience empowers it to recognize and cherish the good in others.

On the day of our baptism, Jesus our Good Shepherd gave each of us a name – that name is Christian meaning those who want to be like Christ.
That name is love, meaning those who want to love like Christ. That name is justice, meaning those who give to others what is due to them. Jesus continues to call us by this name and as often as we answer this name, we are the children of the kingdom for whom Jesus has come that “they may have life and have it in abundance.”

By dying on the cross, Jesus becomes the GATE to the sheepfold - HEAVEN. “I am the gate for the sheep - Whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the GATE is a thief and a robber. To appreciate what Jesus did for us on the cross at Calvary entails living our lives today in accord with the direction of the Good Shepherd for “Whoever enters through ME will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.”





From Bulletin of April 30, 2017

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year “A”

The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus.

Leones in a write-up titled “Expectations” shares her dream of what life would be when she is grown up. She writes “Once upon a time there was a small girl. She was a bit shy and quite timid. But she was a very kind and happy girl. She had so many dreams and plans for the future. The little girl was very excited about the future. She didn't have that many friends as a little girl, so she often daydreamed about her future. It made her feel less lonely. The other kids thought that she was quite odd and called her ugly and gave her nicknames. But the little girl didn't think of the mean kids that much, because she had high hopes that life eventually will get better. She didn't need those kids. She thought that she has all the time in the world to get to know new nice people when she gets older because she knows that older people are always nice to each other.

She really looks up to older people, she respect them and adore them. She wants to be like them and she really can't wait until it's her turn to be like them. She longs to have many friends that care about her; maybe even a romance will bloom. She is so excited about getting to be old enough to be allowed to spend late nights away from home with her friends. She can't wait until she can get her dream job and earn her own money, when she is her own guardian. She is just so sure that everything will be fine when she gets older, because she believes that she can do anything. She knows that life will get better.

Though, that was a long time ago.

The little girl thought she tasted the world’s cruelty at a young age, and that everything will be better. She just had to get older.

Wrong.

That little girl grew up and became a teenager. The dreams she had when she stayed up late with her friends, those where she was someone, were all a lie. She was supposed to go to the beach with her friends, to experience the starry sky in the summer night. She was supposed to fall in love and experience the butterflies in your stomach. She was supposed to do good in school and experience the feeling you get when you are proudover yourself. She was supposed to experience the feeling when you succeed in reaching a goal. But none of that ever happened. She never made any friends. She never found her love. She never was able to feel proud of herself. She never reached her goals.

The little girl that believed in everything and everyone was now gone. The little girl became the girl who experienced betrayal and hate. She never experienced freedom or love. She was just trash in everyone's eyes, a waste of time. The girl became more introvert than when she was a small girl. In her mid teens she experienced anxiety and depression. Suicide thoughts and self harm wasn't anything new to her in that age. She often thought what she had done to deserve this life. All she wanted was just to be nice to everyone. But it seemed like no one wanted to be nice to her.

She remembers every word that people threw at her, and every time it hurt like it was said once again. She experienced the heavy pressure that lies over your chest when you're sad and hurt; she got to experience it countless times. The words that were said when she was a kid still hurts, she never thought that. She only thought that she would forget all the bad when she got older. She thought that now, she would have been the strong and popular girl who everyone's like. She thought that the past would just been a weak memory by now.

But she took more damage than she thought by her childhood memories. Instead of becoming a strong girl she became a weak one. She's broken and no one sees her. All she wants is someone to come and fix her, to rescue her from this hell hole. But all her hopes are now gone, and she lies by herself just waiting for this pain to end. She was the girl with high expectations to life.”

Leones’ story which sounds like an allegory could be used to understand and appreciate what the disciples on the road to Emmaus were going through after the death of Jesus on the cross.

During the time of Jesus, it was a huge sacrifice to become a disciple of Jesus because it entails the loss of family inheritance and loss of friends. A disciple becomes an object of caricature among his folks. No one likes to do business with them and if they are employed, they may hardly be promoted at work because they are followers of a revolutionary called Jesus.

Worst still is the fact that the disciples had a wrong expectation of the kingdom of God. They were expecting a political and material kingdom like the time of David when Israel was the super power that conquered the whole world. They thought that the crucifixion saga will bring about this earthly kingdom where they will become the lieutenants of Jesus.

Watching Jesus die on the cross and buried was to say the least, not only disappointing but also devastating. It resulted in a loss of psychological, moral and spiritual integrity. In their disappointment, the two disciples immediately decided to return to their former lifestyle among their kinsmen in Emmaus who had earlier rejected them. Imagine the shame.

Their pain and disappointment was unbearable. Now they contemplate how to accept failure and hoping to apologize to their folks, admitting that they got it wrong by following that man called Jesus of Nazareth. At the height of their worries, the risen Jesus joins them, explains the scriptures to them (liturgy of the Word) and in the breaking of bread (liturgy of the Eucharist) they recognized Jesus. Jesus practically celebrated the mass with them and for them, teaching us that it is in the celebration of the Eucharist that we encounter the risen Jesus.

Having been empowered by this new knowledge, they immediately returned to Jerusalem, thus realizing that as disciples they do not belong to Emmaus (the past) but to Jerusalem (the present) where believers sing the praises of God. The resurrection becomes a living experience.

Disappointment is no evil unless we allow it to conquer us. This is because when pain and disappointment cannot bless, heaven easily quits us in despair.

We have all experienced moments of pain, disaster, failure, rejection and disappointment in life, but with strong faith in the risen and glorified Lord, even though the pain may be difficult to bear, but with patience, day by day, even that pain will surely pass away.





From Bulletin of April 23, 2017

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year “A”

Divine Mercy Sunday: Our God is Merciful

A banker on a business trip in New York City, Fred Berretta had just checked into his hotel room. He had about 20 minutes down time before he had to meet his colleagues. For some reason he decided to clean out his briefcase, something he hadn't done in a long time. As he emptied it out, he came across a booklet he had stuffed into a pocket years ago on praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. He recalls having prayed it a few times years ago. But by Jan. 15, 2009, it was a good intention mislaid — among spreadsheets and quarterly reports and matters that seemed far more pressing.

Only two weeks prior, Fred had made a New Year's resolution to try to get into better spiritual shape. Here in this hotel room was an opportunity to fulfill it. So he followed along in the booklet and prayed the chaplet, a prayer our Lord gave to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s during a series of revelations that have sparked the modern Divine Mercy movement.

The time happened to be 3 o'clock, known as the Hour of Great Mercy, when Jesus died on the cross. Fred would consider that detail the following day — as he was preparing to die.

He would be among the 155 people to board a jet airliner at LaGuardia Airport bound for Charlotte, N.C., his home town. Three minutes after takeoff, the jet would apparently hit a flock of geese, the engines would explode, and the plane would lose power at 3,200 feet. The aircraft would be out of reach from any airfield. It would lose thrust and altitude. Everything would become eerily quiet. Fred would clinch his seatbelt. His left hand would clutch the armrest, his heart would race, his face would be flush.

He would think about his family — his wife and four young children. He would think about God, about death, about trust, about an extraordinary promise made by Jesus that he read the previous day in that booklet.

"Prepare for impact," the pil ot would say over the PA system.

What was the promise? Suddenly, it would come to him, the last passage he read before heading off to his meeting. Jesus said to St. Faustina, "This is the hour of great mercy. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion (Diary of St. Faustina, 1320).

As the ground surged into view, Fred would look at his watch. It would be 3:30pm, the Hour of Great Mercy! "I prayed with every fiber of emotion and sincerity I could muster, 'God, please be merciful to us,'" Fred would recall two weeks later.

You've probably heard about the crash landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009. No one was seriously injured. Politicians and news anchors quickly dubbed it the "Miracle on the Hudson." In the history of aviation no jet airliner had ever made an emergency landing on water without casualties (Felix Carroll, “God be Merciful to Us” Sept 9, 2016).

History was made on that day and all were happy again, thanks to the wisdom and intelligence of pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the rest of the crew.

Since then books have been written, documentaries and movies have been made based on this miraculous escape.

In this lies the beauty of human life that we celebrate both divine and human chievements. It is human actions that form and inform history. The human heart loves and desires to leave legacies that will be remembered for good. Sequel to that is the fact that human life on earth is at its best whenever it is lived to be remembered for good, for deep within the human heart is this intrinsic or in-born personal desire to be remembered as loving, caring and compassionate.

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we remember and celebrate the lives of some people whose lifestyle leave a legacy worthy of admiration. We honor Jesus, who died on the cross and rose from death; Thomas, the apostle who first doubted but later believed and professed a deep and unalloyed faith in the risen Lord; St. Faustina, who invites us to embrace God's mercy; Sts. John XXIII, who opened the window for the church to see and be seen by the modern world and John Paul II, an apostle of Divine Mercy who like St. Paul was always willing to spread the Goodnews of mercy to all the nations.

One may begin to wonder what these persons share in common: from the courageous but doubting mindset of Thomas to the obedient, crucified and risen Lord, the humble Faustina, the revolutionary but incisive leadership of John XXIII and the traditional but missionary lifestyle of John Paul II - they lived and believed in the mercy and love of God.

Yes, they were all Merciful.

Not perfect but merciful. And as Jesus said in the beatitudes "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." The mercy of God dwarfs human weakness and exalts the lowly to greatness. No wonder in spite of Thomas doubt and complains about the leadership of John Paul II, the church goes ahead to exalt their lifestyles as worthy of emulation.

It is not therefore a coincidence that we are remembering and celebrating the lives of these noble persons on Divine Mercy Sunday when the Lord invites us to drink from the fountain of God's mercy which flows in abundance for all.

From St. Faustina's Diary it is clear that this Octave of Easter is a day chosen by Christ as a day of extraordinary graces - a complete outpouring of His mercy upon all who approach God with great trust and expectant faith. In the Jubilee Year 2000, after some years of careful study of the visions of St. Faustina, Pope John Paul II declared the second Sunday of Easter as “Divine Mercy Sunday” and it was providential that Pope John Paul II died on this feast in 2005.

God revealed to St. Faustina total forgiveness of all sins and punishment for any soul that would go to confession and then receive Jesus in Holy Communion on this very special feast of Divine Mercy.

Today, we celebrate God’s mercy and recognize our vocation to become the disciples of Mercy. This mercy may be expressed in concrete actions in our relationship with others, yet, mercy should become an embodiment of who we are. Imagine how great and beautiful our world will become should we decide today to ASK for mercy, to BE merciful to others and to COMPLETELY put our trust in our merciful God who is the author and finisher of our faith.






From Bulletin of April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday, Year “A”

Jesus is Alive Forever, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Little Philip, born with Down's syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences, according to an article in Leadership magazine. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully.

The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought Leggs pantyhose containers, the kind that looks like large eggs. Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Back in the classroom, they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion.

After running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one.
After each one, whether flower, butterfly, or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh...

Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, "That's stupid. That's not fair. Somebody didn't do their assignment." Philip spoke up, "That's mine." "Philip, you don't ever do things right!" a student retorted. "There's nothing there!" I did so do it," Philip insisted. "I did do it. It's empty. The tomb was empty!"

Silence followed …. From then on Philip became a full member of the class.

An ancient tradition has it that on THIS DAY (Easter Sunday) the Apostles stand before the Christian Community to proclaim three times thus: "Jesus Christ is risen from the dead Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."
And the congregation responds "Indeed He is Risen Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."

Today is Easter Sunday. As the Easter glory fills the world, I wish to extend my gratitude and joy to all our parishioners. Your faith has made the joy of the risen Lord to come alive in our parish. Our youth and our catechumens have displayed an exceptional act of faith in their participation during the Holy Week celebrations. Thanks to your generosity and kindness, and the effort of our liturgical environment committee, our Church is beautifully decorated for Easter. I stand bold to say that there is no better place to be today than to be here with you to proclaim it loud and clear to the world that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

With strong faith in God we celebrate THIS DAY when Jesus rose triumphant from the grave. The tomb is empty. He is not there. This is the day heaven and earth unite as one. This is a DAY of divine restoration - The beauty and glory we lost through Adam and Eve is now restored to us. Today, divinity is restored to humanity. And as St. Augustine puts it, "we are the Easter people, Alleluia is our song."

Yes, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He lives to die no more. Death has no power over Him. The power of death could not hold him in bondage. Jesus is risen to live forever. All who believe in Him have come to see that their hope in God is not in vain. In Jesus we are vindicated and our sins forgiven. In the risen and glorified Lord, we have become victorious. Amen, Alleluia.

The crucifixion is just like the Superman movie. The scene is set. Injustice prevails over justice. The evil one dominates and thinks he is going to become victorious but at the nick of time, the Superman miraculously appears on the scene, restores order and all breathe a sigh of relief. All are happy again.

On Good Friday we saw human wickedness at its worst. Jesus Christ was falsely accused and crucified on the cross for a crime He did not commit. Pontius Pilate was great before men, but not before God. It was within his powers to set Jesus free, but when it mattered most Pilate could not stand the truth of his conviction. Pilate preferred to please the people rather than God.

As if what Pilate did was not bad enough, when we were presented with a choice, we preferred the criminal Barabbas to the only beloved Son of God. We did this because we thought that death is the ultimate end of the God-project. Little did we know that it is not. The words of Scripture must be fulfilled that the Christ must suffer and die for the salvation of the world.

After three days, news has it that Jesus Christ is alive. Rather than be conquered by death, He has conquered death, thus by His resurrection, becomes the bridge that re-unites God with humanity. Our election in Christ is now complete, and the glory of the world shines forth in a new way greater than it was at creation.

In the resurrection of Jesus, the greatest enemy of mankind - death is destroyed. Death is emptied of its power. Death is no longer an end in itself but a means to an end – an end that is greater than death itself.
Death, the greatest enemy of mankind becomes a stepping stone to the greatest Good of mankind – Eternal Life. Yes, one day we shall die, but physical death is no longer a process of annihilation but a transition from
temporal to eternal life.

The resurrection of Jesus confirms the fidelity of God. Child of God, you are not alone. From the experience of the Israelites in Egypt to the cry of Jesus on the Cross at Calvary, history reveals that God has always been faithful, but human beings have always been unfaithful. No one can wrestle with the Hand of God. The hand of God is not short. At the appropriate time, God will intervene to justify those who put their trust in Him.

The resurrection of Jesus renews the face of the earth. The world is once again sanctified for God. It is possible once more to become holy. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

As Easter people, we are called to look at the world with new and glorified eyes. Jesus, our brother and Lord has done it for us. The gate of heaven is open for all. We shall not die; we shall live to sing the praises of Him who has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Life is our portion, says the Lord. And because He lives, we can face tomorrow.

We are the Easter people, Alleluia is our song.






From Bulletin of April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday, Year “A”

“Jesus Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem”

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week when Christians reenact the foundational event that reconciled humanity with God. We know that these events will not happen again but by reenacting and celebrating them we keep faith alive and make these unique events our own. On Palm Sunday, we recall the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In this event, we see the paradox of human nature. It is with the same mouth that Jesus was both praised and betrayed by the people He loves - the same mouth that shouted Hosanna, Hosanna, comes back to shout “Ecce Homo” – behold the man, crucify Him.

The question that comes to mind here is - Why do we betray the people who love us? “It is bad enough when a stranger or foe betrays you, writes Krystal Kuehn, but when it is someone you believed to be a close and trusted friend, partner, or spouse, it is especially hurtful. It might feel like you were taken advantage of, deceived, humiliated, despised, cheated, or stabbed in the back. Oftentimes it comes as a surprise. That is why it is so painful. You would not expect to be hurt so badly from someone you thought you could trust. So you are left in disbelief and unbelievable pain….

No one likes to be betrayed. “Betrayal is a destructive force that leaves many ruins in its path. Betrayal changes everything. Relationships and all those affected will never be the same again. The damage done can be irreparable. Trust is lost. Wounds run deep. Anger persists. Hearts are broken. Self-protective walls are erected. Pain is long and lasting. And we wonder…. Can trust ever be restored? Do wounds ever heal? Will anger cease to exist? Can hearts be repaired? Will the self-protective walls ever come down? Does the pain ever go away?”

Betrayal brings out the worst in us. It causes pain and the pain could be quite destructive. It “has a significant impact on the lives of all those who have experienced it. It is one of those painful life experiences that have the power to change people’s hearts and lives forever. If you have ever been betrayed, you cannot change what has happened to you or make the pain go away. You need time to grieve and feel angry. You need time to be comforted and encouraged. You also need time to restore your faith in yourself and others. Betrayal hurts and there is no fast and easy way to heal from its affects. It takes more than time. It takes a heart that will not harden. It takes a commitment to believe in others again. Relationships do change as a result of betrayal; but ultimately, how it changes you is what matters most.

Come to think of it one may ask, why do people betray one another? - Sometimes people are weak, not wicked. Sometimes, betrayal is a very deliberate act intended to hurt the other person. And sometimes they are consequences of choices that are made with no intention of doing any harm to anyone. Looking out for one’s own best interests can cause some people to disregard relationships they once valued says K Kuehn.
(
http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Betrayal_When_Someone_You_Love_Betrays_You.html).

The Jews felt threatened by the presence and teachings of Jesus, hence the change in their relationship with him. Jesus was perceived as one whose lifestyle, belief and ways of doing things "are different from ours." Jesus calls God his father thus making Himself equal to God. Jesus did not keep the Sabbath and calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus sees Himself as greater than Abraham. Jesus forgives sin and promises eternal life to those who eat His body and drink His blood.

As if that is not enough, Jesus identifies Himself as the "I AM" that had an encounter with Moses in the Burning Bush. Referring to himself, Jesus says "I AM the Light of the world ..., I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life ..., I AM the living bread that came down from heaven ..., I AM the resurrection and the life ..., I AM the light of the world, etc. Jesus presented his commandment of love as better and greater than the Mosaic Law, and promised eternal life to those who believe in Him as the Lord and Savior of their lives.

Jesus raises the dead from the power of death, He walks on water, makes the blind to see, the lame to walk, lepers are cleansed, the blind see and the poor have the Goodnews preached to them. As the people began to believe in Him, the Jewish authorities and the powers that be were threatened, hence the need to get rid of Jesus.

It is like science fiction movies, a strange object appears from outer space, human beings are threatened by the presence of these extraterrestrial beings. At once human beings begin to plan on how to destroy and kill these strange beings from outer space. We mortgage our continued self-existence on getting rid of the strange beings.

We do this because we believe that it is by killing them that we could preserve our life, culture and land. No one cares to take time to understand why these STRANGE beings are in our midst. In every culture, children are taught to be wary of strangers, because strangers are "different from us." We do not know them. We do not know what they are up to. They may be here to destroy our people, take our jobs, enslave us or take over our land. When such fears that spring from the desire to preserve one's own become a dominant force in us, it could lead to hatred, violence, oppression and "man's inhumanity to man."

To preserve the commonwealth of Israel, their culture, land and belief, the Jews come to the conclusion that killing Jesus is the only way out. The Jews, lacking the knowledge and faith in the resurrection of the dead, see death as the end of whatever this STRANGER plans to do in the world. Little did they know that the death of Jesus on the Cross is not an end but the beginning of a revolution that will change the world forever.

We betray and kill those whose lifestyles are different from ours because we believe that by killing them we could preserve our life, culture and land. No one cares to take time to understand why these STRANGE beings are in our midst.

Betrayal is bad. “Not only does betrayal change relationships, it changes individuals. Something happens inside of us. The betrayed might find it difficult to ever trust again. They might be more guarded and protective of themselves for fear of being vulnerable again or taken advantage of. However, we see the greatness of Jesus in the fact that betrayal did not change Him. It rather changed the world for good. And the world will never be the same again.

The human side of the Crucifixion of Jesus is no doubt quite discouraging as we shall see on Good Friday. The fact remains that we are still the same people who shout "Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna" today and will be the same people that will shout "Ecce Homo" on Good Friday. As we celebrate these events, the church wants us to appreciate the price Jesus paid for our salvation and by holding the blessed palms in our hands, declare our willingness and readiness to live, die and resurrect with Jesus on Easter Sunday.






From Bulletin of April 2, 2017

5th Sunday of Lent, Year “A”

"I will open your graves and have you rise from them"

It was after reading the Gospel story of “The raising of Lazarus” that I remembered a June 8, 2012 “The Week” staff article on “7 Bizarre tales of People Coming Back from the Dead.” It tells the stories of
people who awoke in a coffin or a morgue after others had declared them dead. Sometimes, the resurrections last only briefly, as happened in the most recent case involving a toddler in Brazil. Some of
the resurrected, however, do get a new shot at life.

There is a famous story of the Chinese woman who rose from her coffin to fix dinner for the members of her family. Two weeks after falling and suffering a head injury, Li Xiufeng, 95, was found lying motionless in her home by a neighbor. The friend couldn't wake her up. She was declared dead and placed in a coffin. According to local custom, she was supposed to rest there for several days before the funeral. A day before the burial, her neighbor went to check on the coffin, and Li was gone.

"I slept for a long time," she reportedly told her fellow villagers. "After waking up, I felt so hungry, and wanted to cook something to eat." Apparently, a doctor said, the tradition of waiting for some days before burial saved her. However, another custom — the ritual burning of all of a de ad person's possessions — did not work in her favor since that had to be done immediately after she was declared dead.

In spite of the pain and suffering we experience in this world, nobody really likes to die. Even those who commit suicide do not die because they like to die, but given their pain and agony, they consider death the lesser of two evils. The pain and sorrow that come from the death of a loved one is something no one cherishes to experience in life.

We know and understand that no one lives on earth forever. We have seen people die and we know that one day we shall die. Yet, we wish to live forever, because death is no fun and it is like every death is
painfully different.

Death leads to despair. We feel so much pain at the death of a family member, friend, neighbor, pets, etc. because we can no longer see them and have a relationship with them. We begin to remember how
good they used to make us feel. Since a lost thing assumes a double value, we begin to remember our many plans for them - the roles they played in our lives especially during our birthdays, Christmas, thanksgiving, sick days, graduations, etc.


We begin to imagine how empty life will be without them. We miss them all the more because we tend to have a greater appreciation of the people whom we took for granted while they were alive whenever
they are no longer with us. We feel the loss because of our failure to get to know them better while they were still alive. This feeling of regret creates some emptiness, which brings out the worse in us. And
since no one is comfortable thinking of oneself as "not good," we agonize and feel so much pain in our hearts.

Mary and Martha also shared these human sentiments. They experienced the pain and agony of all who have lost their loved one. Worst still is a culture where death is looked upon as the ultimate end of life - they have taken the time to see that their brother received a decent burial. But, something in them tells them that there is more to life than death. Since they had experienced so much goodness in their friend who is called Jesus, they were happy to share their grief and their belief with Him – “Lord, if you were here, our brother would not have died ....”

We see the greatness of Mary and Martha in the fact that they did not wait on chance. God had already said it through the prophet Ezekiel “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” In their moment of pain Mary and Martha called on Jesus to intervene – who do you call upon in your moment of pain? Their openness to Jesus (who is the visible presence of the power of God to give life) is
second to none.

Let us remember that Jesus is the man from Galilee whom the Jewish authorities are planning to kill. The Jesus who was revealed to us on the first Sunday of Lent as the "I AM" who in a human form is tempted like any of us; and on the Second Sunday in the event of the Transfiguration as the beloved son of God whom we should listen to; and on the Third Sunday was revealed by the Samaritan Woman at Jacob's Well as the "Savior of the World;" on the Fourth Sunday through the healing of the Blind Man, as the "Light of the World." Today through Mary and Martha, the revelation of the identity of Jesus assumes a
new and radical dimension as the "Resurrection and the Life."

Mary and Martha were faithful Jews who believe that only God can give life. By asking Jesus to restore life to their brother Lazarus, Mary and Martha embrace a leap of faith, which catapults human nature from the temporal to the transcendental (eternal life).

This faith which has aligned itself in Jesus, finds its practical expression in the raising to life of their beloved brother Lazarus. In this single prayerful event, we see the power of intercession - Life is restored to Lazarus not because of the faith of Lazarus, but through the intercession of Mary and Martha. Yes, it is the responsibility of the living to pray for the dead.

Like the Samaritan woman and the man born blind, death becomes an opportunity for Mary and Martha to teach us the true meaning of life – Eternal life is now. Anyone who lives and believes in the power of God to give life is living at the crossroad of faith and reason. Like Lazarus, we may suffer physical death like any other human being; it is our hope in the resurrection that sets us apart, for believers are already on
the path of eternal life.

Through Mary and Martha we come to know that immortality and eternity are not exactly the same. One could experience immortality in hell, but, eternal life is a gift that only God can give. It is given to those
who believe. Convinced of the power of God to give life, we are confident to journey with Jesus to Golgotha in order to rise with Him on Easter Sunday.






From Bulletin of March 26, 2017, 2017

4th Sunday of Lent, Year “A”

“I was blind ... and now I can see.”

You’ve probably heard the story of Jacob Bolotin who holds a special place in medical history. Being the son of an impoverished Polish immigrant, the good doctor was born in 1888 in Chicago. Unfortunately, congenital blindness ran in the family, and three out of the seven Bolotin children were born blind, including Jacob. Due to his disability, he quickly developed his other senses. Before long, he could recognize people by their scents and comprehend Braille through several layers of cloth.

After graduating from a school for the blind, Bolotin worked as a salesman, peddling brushes and typewriters on Chicago streetcars. His big dream was to become a doctor, but most colleges weren’t willing to accept a blind student. After relentlessly hounding university boards, he eventually made it into the Chicago College of Medicine. When he finally graduated at 24, he became the first congenitally blind person to become a licensed physician.

Bolotin’s specialty was studying diseases of the heart and lungs. Since he couldn’t see his patients, he relied on his fingers and ears to diagnose a patient’s ailments. During his internship at Frances Willard Hospital, he diagnosed a young woman with an obstructed heart valve just by feeling her skin and listening to her heartbeat. In addition to his medical work, he traveled across the Midwest giving lectures on blindness and started the first all-blind Boy Scout troop. Sadly, Bolotin passed away at age 36, but his funeral drew 5,000 people whose lives were touched by the blind doctor (Nolan More, “10 Incredible Stories About Blind People” June 12, 2014).

The sense of sight is one of the most beautiful gifts of God to human beings. It is a gift because as the story of Bolotin shows, it is not given to everyone in the same capacity and even when it is given to us; it can still be taken away from us.

The sense of sight enables us to see, behold and admire the beauty of creation. What we see forms and informs the choices we make. On the flip side of it, not being able to see prevents us from beholding the physical beauty that surrounds us. A blind person has no sense of color and could hardly imagine a distance even after a walk or a drive....

A blind person though living in the world, could be informed about a lot of things that are going on in the world. He could reasonably and intelligently talk about world affairs, but, not able to see things as they are will make him to miss out on a lot of things that go on in the world. We may admire the talents of blind people like Bolotin or Stevie Wonder, but the truth remains that no one really wants to be born a blind person.

A blind person will approach life the same way a person who studied computer without ever seeing or touching a computer would when he comes in contact with the real computer. The real computer will be quite different from what he thinks a computer would look like.

This is not to say that the life of a blind person is always a useless and miserable one. Going by the story of Bolotin and Steve Wonder, a blind person can still contribute meaningfully towards a better society. However, the situation of the blind man in today’s Gospel passage appears bad because the religious culture of his time regarded a blind person as cursed by God due to sin, such that the weak who should deserve our love and care, are the ones who were rejected by all.

To an orthodox Jew, a blind person is cursed; hence, good people should have nothing in common with them. But Jesus thinks otherwise. He not only cured the blind man but also allowed him to go home to his people.

In this miracle, we see a reversal of values - The blind man moves from darkness to light while the Pharisees move from light to darkness due to their refusal to accept Jesus. The blind man is able to understand and interpret scripture while the privileged and educated Pharisees and Sadducees became confused as to what God is saying in the scripture.

We see a paradigm shift - Accepting or rejecting Jesus becomes the new parameter for determining who is a true son of Abraham, hence loved by God.

We see a shift in process - Like the Samaritan woman, the blind man started by recognizing Jesus as the MAN, later as the PROPHET and surprisingly before the Sanhedrin, he testifies that Jesus must come from God.

We see a shift in the foundational basis of truth - The Pharisees may have the physical, political and religious advantages in this world, but in spiritual matters, the faith of the blind man proves to be far superior, showing us that physical advantage does not necessarily translate to spiritual advantage. True faith is the faith that saves.

We see a shift in the meaning of authentic freedom - What counts before God is not whether one was born blind, tall, white, brown, but the use we make of our gifts and our openness to the truth. The healed blind man becomes a disciple of Jesus, and as a disciple he no longer belongs to the gate where beggars stay but to the temple where God's children worship the living God.

We see a shift in our understanding of salvation - The faith of the blind man trumps the institutional wisdom of the Pharisees, empowering him to teach those who claimed to know. The Pharisees thought they were up there while in the actual fact that they were down here - they may have eyes but are yet blind when it comes to matters of faith. His blindness brought him to faith while their (Pharisees) wisdom kept them in bondage.

Human knowledge is not sufficient for salvation. No matter what people may think of you, they don't really know you. It is not nature but our choices that define us. God has chosen us in Christ and the God who knows and understands us asks us today not to be afraid because the ultimate victory belongs to the children of God. We may be incapacitated in many ways, but like the blind man, recognizing Jesus as Lord is the key to salvation.






From Bulletin of March 19, 2017, 2017

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year “A”

“Believe Me Woman … The Hour Is Coming”

In his book titled “Hand Me Another Brick” 1989, p.12, Swindoll writes
the story of Thomas Edison who invented the microphone, the phonograph,
the incandescent light, the storage battery, talking movies, and
more than 1000 other things. December 1914 he had worked for 10
years on a storage battery. This had greatly strained his finances. This
particular evening spontaneous combustion had broken out in the film
room. Within minutes all the packing compounds, celluloid for records
and film, and other flammable goods were in flames. Fire companies
from eight surrounding towns arrived, but the heat was so intense and
the water pressure so low that the attempt to douse the flames was
futile. Everything was destroyed.

Edison was 67. With all his assets going up in a whoosh (although the
damage exceeded two million dollars, the buildings were only insured
for $238,000 because they were made of concrete and thought to be
fireproof), would his spirit be broken? The inventor's 24-year old son,
Charles, searched frantically for his father. He finally found him, calmly
watching the fire, his face glowing in the reflection, his white hair blowing
in the wind.

"My heart ached for him," said Charles. "He was 67--no longer a
young man--and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me,
he shouted, 'Charles, where's your mother?' When I told him I didn't
know, he said, 'Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything
like this as long as she lives.'"

The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, "There is great
value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can
start anew." Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver the
first phonograph.

Nobody likes to fail. We want to be successful in all we do. But, sometimes
we fail and our heart is broken, making human life meaningless
and forlorn. Since the human heart does not welcome failure, there is
this desire in us to do more to become successful.

In today’s Gospel, we are presented with an unnamed Samaritan
woman who has done more without becoming successful. However,
since the downfall of a person is not the end of life, her struggle with
life sets a new parameter for measuring success – whatever brings us
to a closer relationship with God, that is success. Some get to this
level of relationship through failure or sickness, while others get to it
through the achievements they record in their lives.

In the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, we are presented
with a woman who has failed many times in her effort to find happiness
in life. It is while she is at the lowest ebb of her life, that she
meets another sorrowful and restless soul - Jesus who was about to
give His life on the cross for the salvation of the world.

Since sorrow enjoys company, it happens that there is something in
the Samaritan woman that finds solace in a restless and sorrowful
Jesus. The unbearable pain of being nailed to the cross is a genuine
reason to be sorrowful.

The mystery and the uncertainty of how death on the cross could bring
about the salvation of the world is another good reason to be both
concerned and restless, coupled with the fact that Jesus is surrounded
by a group of men (apostles) who neither seem to understand nor are
willing to accept the reality of death on the cross.

In the midst of this uncertainty, Jesus meets the Samaritan woman
whose sorrow and restlessness springs not only from the disappointment
caused by the many broken promises that have come to mess
up her married life, but also for the simple fact that she has no place in
the society as a married but yet un-married woman.

Suffice it to say that the Samaritan woman has been married to 5 men
and now living with another, but yet, she is still single. Her clinging to
tradition and the institution (marriage, bucket for water, Jacob's well,
mountain, temple, Jerusalem) as the source of true happiness and
security in life made the liberation of her spirit a daunting task.

Given her story, it is clear that the Samaritan woman was in bondage
but it is not for lack of trying as she has experimented with five men
and now living with the sixth one. She is seeking for a mystery; something
which even her heart could not comprehend. Now, being at the
point of despair, the unnamed woman encounters a stranger called
Jesus. The simple request for ordinary water becomes an occasion for
Jesus to talk about another kind of water, - living water that becomes a
fountain of hope in those who drink it.

Going from the known to the unknown, Jesus takes the woman from
the institutional bondage she was in, to a life lived in the freedom of
the spirit - "the hour is coming ... when true worshippers will worship
God neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem .... God is spirit and
those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth."

The Samaritan becomes not simply a failure or a sinner but a model of
all searching for meaning in life. Let us recall the steps taken by the
Samaritan woman in her process of emancipation. She begins by
recognizing Jesus first as a Jew, then as a teacher, a master (Rabbi),
a messiah and finally as the Christ.

Knowing Jesus as the Christ is the key to authentic freedom and happiness
in the world. This is the radical and transformational knowledge
which empowers her to overcome her fears and to embrace Jesus as
the seventh (perfect) husband whom her soul desires. The radical
consequence of this realization is to become a disciple of Jesus. She
devotes her life to serving others, inviting them to come and see the
One who has made life meaningful for her – the One who knows her
better than she ever knows herself.

Like the Edison and the unnamed Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel,
we have sometimes failed in our quest for success. Sickness,
disappointment, betrayal, poverty, etc. have put us in situations when
we struggle to find purpose and meaning in life without success. We
have sometimes experienced moments of despair when we lack faith
in God and in man; during this Lenten season, Jesus invites us to
drink the water of His Word in the Scriptures, the water of His Spirit in
the Sacraments, the water of His Presence in Prayer, the water of His
Grace in our service to others and we shall never be thirsty again.






From Bulletin of March 12, 2017, 2017

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year “A”

The Transfiguration of Jesus - Transformed and Renewed

Speaking about the power of human transformation in the world of
traveling, David Roher says that “the motor home has allowed us
to put all the conveniences of home on wheels. A camper no
longer needs to contend with sleeping in a sleeping bag, cooking
over a fire, or hauling water from a stream. Now he can
park a fully equipped home in the midst of a few pine trees and
hook up to a water line, a sewer line and electricity.

One motor home I saw recently had a satellite dish attached on top.
No more bother with dirt, smoke from the fire, nor drudgery of walking
to the stream. Now one can go camping and never have to go outside.
We buy a motor home with the hope of seeing new places, of getting
out into the world. Yet we deck it out with the same furnishings as in
our living room. Thus nothing really changes. We may drive to a new
place, set ourselves in new surrounding, but the newness goes unnoticed,
for we've only carried along our old setting.”

The realization of a new life in Christ begins when the comfortable
patterns of the old life are left behind, giving birth to the new and radical
life of the transfiguration, aimed at the higher and eternal good.
To be transfigured is to be transformed from the known to the unknown.
In the transfiguration event, an earthly body is transformed into
a heavenly glory and by so doing Jesus reveals God's glory as the
supreme purpose of life on earth.

The revelation of God's glory and goodness started in creation. Before
creation everything was in chaos. It is by the word of His mouth that
God put order in the world. With order, there is purpose and with purpose
the world becomes meaningful.

The divine order finds its highest expression in the creation of human
beings in the image and likeness of God. It is this divine image (Imago
Dei) that makes the world beautiful. We have the breath of God in us,
or put in another way, there is a spark of God's beauty and goodness
in each and every one of us. This is the glory for which Jesus came
into the world to reveal with His life and death on the cross.

It is no coincidence that the transfiguration of Jesus took place on the
Mountain in continuation of the same revelation of the Torah to Moses
(the Law-Giver) and Elijah in the gentle wind. Jesus shares some similarities
with Moses and Elijah – (Jesus gives us the new commandment
which is love and Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy in Israel).

However, the transfiguration event goes further to teach us that important
though the Law and the Prophets may be, the ultimate revelation
of the Glory of God is found in Jesus. “This is my beloved Son,
with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

Peter, James and John would like to remain on the mountain that provides
security, serenity and peace, but Jesus insists on taking them
back to the real world of suffering where He will sacrifice His life for the
salvation of the world.

To those who doubted the true identity of Jesus – who is Jesus? - In
the transfiguration, God sets the record straight. Jesus is neither Moses
nor Elijah but the “beloved Son” in whom God is well pleased. The
transfiguration event becomes not a cause for fear but a tool of empowerment,
enabling Jesus and the apostles to face the scandal of the
cross.

Like Jesus, the world may confuse us to be who we are not. And we
spend most of our life trying to show the world who we are. All these
we do in vain (because the world cannot know Jesus), hence the feeling
of dissatisfaction and failure that always accompany even the
greatest and the best of human achievement.

The world did not know Jesus because it did not have what it takes to
know God. It takes faith to know God and to believe that Jesus is the
chosen One of God. Unlike the transformation wrought by the creation
of the mobile motor home which makes us to carry our baggage with
us wherever we go, the transfiguration of Jesus is a process of renewal
and empowerment, which catapults humanity into the divine presence
and glory of God.

It is the same faith that empowered Moses to go onto Mount Sinai,
Jesus to be transfigured, which will empower us to live for God.
Though we live in the world with mountains of problems that surround
us here and there, self-realization often demands that we make out
time to go out of this world in order to be alone with God. This is what
we call prayer.

Lent is a time of prayer. We do not pray to change the mind of God,
for God's mind cannot change. What God is today, God was yesterday
and will be tomorrow. God is an ever present God. Eternally divine.
We pray, not to change the mind of God but to know the mind of God,
for when we know and accept God's plan for us, our life assumes a
new dimension - life becomes purposeful and meaningful. And in this
lies our own transfiguration.

When we pray, we become not only happy with God, we become happy
with ourselves and with others. Past events assume a new and
radical dimension. Everything that happens in our lives becomes
meaningful. We have reason to smile again as we begin to see that
there is no accident in God. Things happen for a reason - to prepare
our lives to give glory to God. We begin to please not people but the
God in people. This is living for God. This is our personal transfiguration
and a sharing in the divine election.

Transfiguration, therefore, is not a thing of the past. Transfiguration is
an on-going event. It is while praying that Jesus was transfigured. You
and I still have what it takes to be transfigured if and only if we anchor
ourselves to Jesus through prayer. It is by so doing that we are ennobled
to make our life on earth purpose and meaningful. It is through
prayer that we shall be transfigured to share in the glory of the resurrection
of Jesus on Easter Sunday.






From Bulletin of March 5, 2017, 2017

1st Sunday of Lent, Year “A”

The Temptation of Jesus

You probably noticed that I was on vacation in the month of February. I
enjoyed my vacation at home with family and friends. During my vacation,
I rested, helped some people in need, cried with some family members
that lost their loved ones, enjoyed birthday party with family and friends,
attended the traditional wedding ceremony of my niece, enjoyed the traditional
dishes, had a family meeting with my brothers who want to divide
the family land, danced the cultural dance with folks, and visited the sick.
At the end of my 3 week vacation I was tempted to extend it for one more
week. However, after the struggle, I am happy to be back to All Souls
parish to resume my responsibilities.

I have come to realize that at a point in the life of a priest the joy that
comes from being part of the parish family is strong and empowering. I’m
still feeling the love. I am most grateful for your generosity and prayers
especially during my vacation and I wish to extend special greetings from
Africa to all the members of All Souls parish family.

It is said that the Great Wall of China was a gigantic structure which cost
an immense amount of money and labor to build. When it was finished, it
appeared impregnable. But the enemy breached it. Not by breaking it
down or going around it. They did it by bribing the gatekeepers.

“Some people fall into temptation, but a great many make plans
for disaster ahead of time. "Son," ordered a father, "Don't swim
in that canal."
"OK, Dad," he answered. But he came home carrying a wet
bathing suit that evening.
"Where have you been?" demanded the father.
"Swimming in the canal," answered the boy. "Didn't I tell you
not to swim there?" asked the father.
"Yes, Sir," answered the boy.
"Why did you?" he asked.
"Well, Dad," he explained, "I had my bathing suit with me and
I couldn't resist the temptation."
"Why did you take your bathing suit with you?" he questioned.
"So I'd be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted," he replied”
(C. Swindoll, “One Step Forward,” p.850).

It is to say the least, naïve to underestimate the power of personal responsibility.
Personal will power is so strong that a lack of it could transform a
blessing into a curse, a rich and fertile garden into a barren desert, a happy
and prosperous life into a sad and poor life.

It is for lack of personal responsibility that Adam and Eve failed in the
Garden of Eden. When Adam sinned, he could not own up his mistake.
Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the Devil. None of them was humble
and courageous enough to admit his or her fault; beg for pardon to regain
the privileged glory of living in the presence of God.
Lack of personal responsibility could manifest in bad habits or lack of good
habits, poor choices or lack of firm decisions.

Lack of personal responsibility is like having a flat tire; you cannot get to
your destination unless you change it.

It is for lack of personal responsibility that a land once the most beautiful
and fertile Garden became a sterile desert. A land of hope became a land
of hopelessness and the chosen people became an abandoned people.

We are prone to think that the good life is possible only in glorious moments.
However, the story of Adam and Eve proves otherwise. The Garden
of Eden is the most glorious and beautiful place on earth. Adam and
Eve did behold the glory of God in this Garden, yet, it was in this moment
of abundance that Adam and Eve failed and inflicted on the entire humanity
a burden which human effort alone could not overcome, leaving humanity
hopeless and forlorn.

In the face of apparent hopelessness and failure, God intervenes in
and through Jesus to restore fallen humanity to the glory of God. In
the land where Adam and Eve failed, Jesus triumphs and shows us
the way to the renewal of divine excellence in human life.

As in the Garden of Eden, the Devil using the power of the present,
invites Jesus to choose the glory of the now as against the glory of the
future - To choose bread over stone, instant success over hard work,
worldly glory over the divine glory that will be realized by Jesus suffering
and death on the cross.

In essence, what the Devil is saying to Jesus is, we do know that as the
begotten Son, you are entitled to the glory of God but you don’t have to
suffer on the cross to achieve it. There are other easy ways of realizing
this glory. Honor me and the glory is yours, says the Devil. Jesus in response
teaches us that the easy way is not always the good way. Doing
the will of God is not only the greatest desire of the human heart but also
the key to genuine glory, peace, freedom and happiness in the world.

From the temptation of Jesus, we come to know that temptation is not
always a challenge between good and bad, truth and falsehood, real
and unreal. Temptation could come by way of a subtle a challenge to
merely love and appreciate the higher good while choosing and settling
for the lesser good.

The ways of the world present the easy route as the best way, hence the
enticement to choose the lesser over the higher good remains a problem
for anyone who wishes to live a holy life. Immediate glory has a powerful
and dominant presence on us. It takes a strong will-power, which manifests
itself in the choices we make – choices that go beyond the dominant
effect of the present to reflect the value of mediate and future glory.

It is through prayers, fasting and alms-giving within these 40 days of Lent
that we are empowered to live for God. When it comes to a confrontation
with the Devil, a compromised solution is equal to choosing the lesser evil.
Politicians could emerge victorious through compromised solutions to the
problems in the world, but in matter of faith, nothing but standing for
the truth is good enough for God. Standing for the truth may make one
unpopular, but ultimately what matters is not what people think of you
but what God thinks of you. It is those who stand for love, truth, justice
and peace that have what it takes to rise with Jesus on Easter Sunday.






From Bulletin of JANUARY 29, 2017

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year “A”

The Beatitudes … The New Road Map to Blessedness

I read on Facebook, the beautiful story of “a seminary professor who
was vacationing with his wife in Tennessee. One morning, they were
eating breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet, family
meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished
man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests.

The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, “I hope he
doesn't come over here.” But sure enough, the man did come over to
their table. “Where are you folks from?” he asked in a friendly voice.
“Oklahoma,” they answered.

“Great to have you here in Tennessee,” the stranger said... “What do
you do for a living?”
“I teach at a seminary,” he replied.
“Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I've got a
really great story for you.”

And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the
table with the couple. The professor groaned and thought to himself,
“Great... Just what we need... Another preacher story!”

The man started, “See that mountain over there? (Pointing out the
restaurant window). Not far from the base of that mountain, there was
a boy born to an unwed mother. He had a hard time growing up, because
every place he went, he was always asked the same question,
'Hey boy, who's your daddy?' He would hide at recess from other students.
He would avoid going in to stores because that question hurt
him so bad.

When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church.
He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the
question, 'Who's your daddy?'

But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast that he got
caught and had to walk out with the crowd. Just about the time he got
to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him,
put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, 'Son, who's your daddy?'

The whole church got deadly quiet.

He could feel every eye in the church was looking at him. Now everyone
would finally know the answer to the question, 'Who's your daddy?'
This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and
using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following
to that scared little boy….

'Wait a minute! I know who you are! I see the family resemblance now.
You are a child of God.

He patted the boy on his shoulder and said, 'Boy, you've got a great
inheritance. Go and claim it.' The boy smiled for the first time in a long
time and walked out the door a changed person. When asked, 'Who's
your Daddy?' he'd just tell them, 'I'm a Child of God…’''

The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, “Isn't that
a great story?” The professor agreed. As the man turned to leave, he
said, “You know, if that new preacher hadn't told me that I was one of
God's children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!”

The seminary professor and his wife were stunned. He called the waitress
over and asked her, “Do you know who that man is -- the one
who just left that was sitting at our table?” The waitress grinned and
said, “Of course. Everybody here knows him. That's Ben Hooper. He's
governor of Tennessee!”

The contemporaries of Jesus looked upon Him as a rebel and a revolutionary.
But, because Jesus was admired by the masses, there is not
much the Jewish and Roman authorities could do against Him. They
feared that the wrath of the people might fall on them should they
attempt to harm Jesus. However, the followers of His teachings became
the objects of mockery and scorn especially by those who considered
themselves patriotic and law abiding Jews.

The disciples of Jesus were disowned by their family and loved ones.
They suffered the loss of family inheritance, unemployment, lack of
promotion, etc. Since Jesus was an itinerant preacher, most of His
followers were also homeless and with no family to call their own. No
one wanted to do business with anyone who became a disciple of
Jesus. Early Christians were poor and rejected.

Jesus, being aware of the sacrifices people had to make and how
impoverished their lives have become as a consequence of becoming
His disciples, gathers them on the Mount of Beatitudes near the Sea
of Galilee to teach them about the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

Looking into the eyes of His disciples, Jesus says to them “Blessed
are you who are now poor, …who mourn, …who thirst for righteousness,
who are merciful, meek, peacemakers, persecuted, etc. for your
reward will be great in heaven – No sacrifice goes unrewarded.

The law abiding Jew believes that God’s blessing is an inheritance
bestowed on the true children of Abraham. But to Jesus, God’s blessing
is for all. Faith is what guarantees God’s blessing and it is available
to all who profess Jesus as the Lord and the Savior of their lives.

In the Beatitudes therefore, Jesus creates a new world order that
transcends race, culture and time. It is important to note that the beatitude
is not a reversal of values that promises anyone who is poor due
to laziness that he will become rich in heaven. It is not an opium that
justifies silence in the face of oppression, corruption, abuse, etc. Rather,
in the beatitudes, Jesus empowers His disciples to be bold and
courageous enough to embrace the sacrifices that bring about a new
world order founded on love, peace, justice and the integrity.

In Jesus the new world order begins. Earthly world order is exclusive
while the new world order is inclusive. The old world order was founded
on the law but the new world order is founded on love. Faith is the
key that opens the door. In Jesus world order, there is neither male
nor female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor freeborn, etc. This is a new
world order that is founded not on blood, color or race but on love. All
become one in Christ and are the children of God.






From Bulletin of JANUARY 22, 2017

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year “A”

“Come ... I will make you fishers of men”

One of the most interesting existential philosophers, Soren
Kierkagaard in "And I looked around and nobody was laughing" says
this, "I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the
sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister
dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a
silk bookmark and said, "If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him
deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor,
and follow me."

In every generation God has always invited people to participate in the
work of evangelization. Today Jesus, the master of the vineyard calls
on Peter, Andrew, James and John to join in the work of the building of
the kingdom of God on earth. It is interesting that in choosing his apostles,
Jesus did not go to the temple where the learned scholars and
the rich aristocrats sit at table to interpret the laws that determine the
fate of others. Jesus rather went to where the simple, gentle, humble,
hardworking and obedient ones are found – at the Sea of Galilee.

On the special three, G.C. Morgan writes: "There can be no doubt that
these men, Peter, James, and John, were the most remarkable in the
apostolate. Peter loved Him; John He loved; James was the first to
seal his testimony with his blood. Even their blunders proved their
strength. They were the men of enterprise; men who wanted thrones
and places of power...Mistaken ideas, all of them, and yet proving
capacity for holding the keys and occupying the throne. What men
from among that first group reign today as these men? J.O. Sanders,
“Enjoying Intimacy with God,” Moody, p. 19.

These fishermen are not pious people in the religious sense of the
term. Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Scribes who dedicate
themselves to observe, practice and interpret the Laws, the fishermen
have no time to observe the intricate details of the law. However,
these fishermen are people who are deeply rooted in love, goodness
and service.

In an age where modern means of fishing was not available, working
as a fisherman demands an element of fearlessness and courage and
the willingness to risk one’s life in order to make a living. The fishermen
called by Jesus today were men who are close to nature but
whose lives were neither dominated nor determined by the forces of
nature. These fishermen were not easily discouraged. In human eyes,
they may not be law abiding, but they certainly have the spirit of the
law written in their hearts. They were patient and persevering. They
were not self-indulgent but hardworking and wise.

By going to meet them at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was able to meet
them at their natural milieu where they work to make a living. Jesus
did not wait to meet them in temple where it is believed that holy men
were found but at the sea where mundane activities usually take
place. Jesus called them to become what God wants them to become
- fishers of men.

In this simple act, we see the true nature of God’s love. God’s goodness
has no boundary and there is no exclusive place where good
people are found. God’s love is not exclusive.

Since Jesus does not write anyone off but is always willing to meet
people where they are, in order to take them to where they ought to
be, Jesus called them and made them His apostles. These apostles
are going to be present at the foundational events in the life of Jesus.
“On four special occasions, Jesus admitted them to experiences from
which they learned precious lessons. On the occasion of the raising of
Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:51), they were granted a preview of their
Lord's mastery over death ... On the mount of transfiguration (Matt
17:1), they gained clearer insight into the importance of His impending
death ... On the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:3), they marveled at His
prophetic discernment ... In the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:37),
they glimpsed in the sufferings of the Savior something of the cost of
their salvation..." ibidem.

Looking at their outstanding contribution to the civilization of love on
earth, we have a lot to learn from them. Ours is a world full of people
who reject others even before they hear them speak; people who
judge by appearances; societies marked by political, religious, social
and economic boundaries, some visible and others invisible; Jesus
sets a new model for us.

Human boundaries aim at defining us. They tell you who you are and
want you to remain what they think you are. Like walls, boundaries
divide us, break communication and diminish our humanity. In Jesus,
all boundaries are broken hence the way is open for us to realize our
full potentials.

Becoming a disciple of Jesus thus makes us universal characters that
are no longer limited by the boundaries that the world creates around
us. We belong neither to Paul nor to Apollos. We belong to Christ and
by virtue of our baptism; we are in every culture but not limited by its
boundaries. Christians are called to shine the light of Christ on those
who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death.

We must also be aware of those who do not want us to grow, those
who label and call us names. Laws and boundaries may be essential
for governance; however, human boundaries, institutions or structures,
like anything human, are neither perfect nor eternal. They are only
temporal and imperfect. In the world human laws and boundaries may
be used as parameters for determining goodness, truth and beauty,
however, children of God should never lose sight of the fact that their
destiny is divine. It transcends space and time. It is eternal.

As Jesus called the first disciples to follow Him, Jesus continues to call
us to become today's fishers of men who work fearlessly to make our
world a better place for all. In Jesus we see what it means to become
a disciple. It is to go about doing good - in good times and in bad, in
sickness and in health till the end of our earthly journey. It is to abide
in God's goodness, which is an unconditional goodness. To identify
with such depth of goodness would necessarily demand that we go
beyond human boundaries, structures and labels, and begin to follow
the footsteps of the master in whom the fullness of God is revealed.






From Bulletin of JANUARY 15, 2017

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year “A”

“Behold the Lamb of God”

When Jan Paderewski was to leave his native Poland to play his
first recital in London, he asked an influential compatriot to
give him a letter of introduction to a leading figure in Britain's
musical world, who might be of assistance, should anything go
amiss. The letter was handed to him in a sealed envelope. He
hoped that he would not have to use it.

He did not; his debut was a success and no snags developed.
Some years later, while going through his papers, he came upon
the letter and opened it. It read: "This will introduce Jan Paderewski,
who plays the piano, for which he demonstrates no conspicuous
talent" (Bits & Pieces, January 9, 1992, pp. 1- 2).

John the Baptist presents to us today, Jesus the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world. The person and identity of
Jesus as the son of a carpenter from Nazareth makes him an
ordinary person who demonstrates no conspicuous talent that
could be visible or easily noticed by mere mortals.

However, presenting Jesus as a Lamb of God is problematic in
itself. The notion of a lamb does not fit the image of a Messiah
because the lamb is an animal with a low intelligent quotient.

Conquerors like Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Hitler, etc. or
warriors like Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Miyamoto Musashi,
Shaka Zulu, Yue Fei, etc. would rather prefer to be represented
by the image of a lion, tiger, elephant, missile, atomic weapon,
etc. To be presented as the lamb to a world that longs for a conquering
messiah becomes as challenging as it is exciting for us
to explore what John the Baptist is telling us about Jesus.

As I was struggling to understand Jesus as the Lamb of God,
my childhood experiences of the sacrifices my mother made to
save my life comes to me as a good example of how I could
better appreciate the message of John the Baptist.

Going back to my childhood days I remember the many times
when there isn’t enough food for her eight children, my mother
would let us have whatever is available while she goes to bed
with an empty stomach. I remember one of the Advent seasons
when my mother gave up one of her new wrappers so that the
tailor could make new Christmas costumes for us. She did this
to redeem us from the shame of having nothing new to wear on
Christmas Day and by sacrificing herself, she brings the Christmas
joy into the lives of my siblings and me.

Back home in Africa (precisely in the Easter part of Nigeria),
during the rainy season it could rain non-stop for two weeks. I
remember the night of a torrential rainfall, when a whirl wind
took off some of the mats that covered the roof of our traditional
thatched house and as water begins to drizzle on us; my
mother would shift me to the dry side of the bed while she slept
on the wet area of the mattress. She did all these that I may live
to see the light of this day. Had she not done that for me, I
would probably have died of cold or pneumonia.

By doing all these, my mother becomes to me a visible lamb of
God who was able in her own little way, to take away my suffering,
carried it on herself so that I may live.

The significance of the lamb in the Holy Scripture goes deeper
than what my mother was able to do for me. It was the blood of
the lamb sprinkled on the lintels of the doors of the Israelites in
Egypt that protected them from the wrath of the angel of death
(Ex 12:21-31). Set free from bondage in Egypt, the Israelites
were able to march on to the Promised Land where they lived
and worship God in freedom.

Jesus as the Lamb of God, taken from Isaiah 53means that Jesus
is the chosen One of God who, like the innocent lamb in
Egypt, will be led to the slaughter and be crushed for our sins.

It is because of what Jesus, the suffering servant endures that
He will take away the sins of many and win pardon for the
world. Jesus is the lamb who does not destroy others in order to
reign over them. Jesus is the lamb who gives away His life in
ransom for many. It is because of the death and resurrection of
Jesus that you and I have been given a second chance to behold
the goodness of God in the world again.

However, in-spite of all that Jesus suffered for us, the reality of
violence, hatred, discrimination, natural disaster, diseases, injustice,
slavery, etc. still abound in the world today, making
some people to question the reality of Jesus death on the cross.

If you happen to share similar childhood sentiment with me,
there is no doubt in my mind that my mother’s suffering saved
me from sickness and death. Her sacrifice nevertheless did not
make me immune to the reality of life and suffering in the
world. I still have to face the challenges of life in the world
today.

Jesus death on cross sets us free from eternal damnation. It does
not make us immune to the reality of pain and suffering in the
world. Christians still have to struggle to overcome and in our
struggle for victory, John the Baptist asks us to focus our attention
on Jesus as the Lamb of God who has what it takes to
make us victorious.

And this is what Christian life is all about - walking daily with
Christ both in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health
till death do us part. In a sense we are all incarnated to Jesus in
baptism and have been given the mandate to sacrifice our lives
for the good of others. It is by imitating the footsteps of Jesus -
the courage and strength of the LAMB of God that you and I
will restore the reign of peace, justice and love in the world.
We are all called to follow the LAMB and to become a lamb of
sacrifice to others in need of our love. We can do this because
we have come to realize that although sins abound, grace and
goodness abound in plenty. And because the LAMB lives, we
the children of the Lamb can face tomorrow with courage and
hope.






From Bulletin of JANUARY 8, 2017

Epiphany of the Lord

“We have seen His star ....”

I like the Christmas greeting card that reads "Wise men still
seek Him." Yes, in every generation God uses simple people
and ordinary things of nature to reveal His truth, beauty and
goodness in the world and it takes the sincerity, courage and
determination of humble women and men to see the hand of
God at work in their lives, in the life of others and in the
world.

It is much easier and convenient for humans to keep God in
the sky, but the essential truth of the incarnation is that God
is with us. God has become a necessary part of history;
hence our vision of the world can never be complete without
recognizing God's divine presence in the world; a mystical
presence because God is in the world and yet above the
world.

In the feast of Epiphany, we celebrate not only the event of
the three shepherds' journey to Jerusalem to present gifts of
gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus who is the visible
presence of God in the world but also our call to discover the
presence of God in our lives, in our family and in the world
here and now.

Seeking for Justice, Truth, Beauty and Goodness has always
been the basic preoccupation of the human mind in every
generation. The truth which the human heart seeks is not
hidden in the outer planet. Truth, beauty and goodness is
here with us in the person of Jesus, the incarnate word. The
hidden truth which the Epiphany reveals to us is that the
basis of all human desires lies in God, hence seeking to find
God becomes an essential truth that holds the key to true
happiness in the world.

Many have made sincere effort to find God and yet could
not find Him. Some have made the ultimate sacrifices without
gaining an insight into the divine truth. Many factors
could contribute to our inability to find God in the world
today. It is neither for lack of trying nor for lack of the presence
of God in the world but due to our lack of openness to
the divine plan of God.

The Maggi started their quest for God by following the star.
The star was all they knew and all they could use in finding
the Truth. Being guided by the star, they could only go as far
as the house of Herod. The star alone could not lead them to
where Jesus was born. It was only when Herod, though troubled
by the Good News, consulted the chief priests who in
turn consulted the Sacred Scripture and reading from the
prophets, they realized that scripture had foretold that "In
Bethlehem of Judea ... shall come a ruler who will shepherd
my people Israel."

It is ultimately the word of God that revealed the Truth and
not simply the stars. Stars are not God. It is a creature of
God. Even the stars obey God. Following the star as we often
do through horoscope, consulting fortune tellers, soothsayers,
palm readers, visioners, tarot cards, etc. to know
what the future holds for us is following the path that leads
only to Herod's house. Herod and his household, as we know
it, stand against the values of the Gospel, hence are in contradistinction
with God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

An unchristianized world is a world of Herod, which is governed
by the principle of survival of the fittest. Might is
right, hence the ways of the wealthy and powerful people of
the earth are always justified. New rules are made to favor
those in power and authority. Maps are drawn and re-drawn
to grant them political favors. Our courts of law judge the
dead while the oppressor walks free and is empowered to do
more evil. Evil and corruption has become a fast road to
stardom. Doing good does not make the news while a reckless
lifestyle guarantees an instant celebrity status.

The unchristianized world of Herod is the type of world that
the Maggi left in search of the Truth and having found the
truth, did not return to it. People who encounter Jesus do not
return to their former ways of life. They follow a new path
to their new home, which is built and governed by love.
Their ways are guided not by the lust for wealth and power
but by the love of God as it was revealed to the shepherds in
a dream by an angel.

There is no doubt that we are still in search of truth and
meaning in life. Our fundamental challenge is to determine
what should be the foundational basis of our search for
meaning and direction in life. What is it that forms and informs
the decisions and choices we make in life?

The truth of the Epiphany, therefore, is this revelation that it
is being guided by the word of God that we shall come to
know the Truth. This is the Truth that shall set us free from
the bondage of sin and ignorance. If the stars obey and serve
God, how much more is the clarion call of nature and reason
for human beings - the beauty of creation to serve God by
becoming part of God's plan for the salvation of the world?

The one basic assumption that we all have come to agree on
is that there is no shortage of goodness in the world. As it
was in time of Herod, so is it in our own day. In spite of the
evils that abound, God's presence, goodness and power is
always there for us. It is only those who make sincere effort
to find God that will find Him. No wonder the wise still seek
Him.






From Bulletin of JANUARY 1, 2017

Year “A”

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Today we begin a New Year. Every New Year comes with new blessings, new opportunities and new responsibilities. Today we are called to rejoice and be glad for to be alive is a blessing. It is not everyone that saw the beginning of the 2016 that is here today to witness the beginning of the year 2017. For you and I to be alive today means that we are blessed. To be alive also means that we have work to do – we have not accom-plished the task for which God created us. Come to think of it, we are not alive today because we are better than those who have died. We are alive because we are still on a mission of self-realization to the glory of God.

It is customary for us to make New Year resolutions on the first day of the year. On this day, we decide on certain things we need to do with the aim of improving the quality of our lives and our relationships.

I have always struggled with making New Year resolutions because I have always broken all my resolutions or better still have failed to keep them as I had earlier promised. Hence, eve-ry new year I struggle with the question of whether to make or not to make a New Year resolution?

In life, no one plans to fail but many fail to plan. And if you do not know where you are going, every road becomes a good road. So, it becomes a noble idea to make resolutions aimed at fine tuning my life from what it was last year. This is with the aim of giving my life a richer sense of meaning, direction and purpose.

Again with regard to New Year resolutions, it is important to note that we often fail because rather than make a resolution, we end up making a wish. The most common “resolution” we make is to lose weight, but to lose weight is a wish, not a reso-lution. A resolution will be to decide to walk or run round the block on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. To decide to have a better relationship with God is only a wish but to decide to pray daily at 8pm and to read the Bible on Thursdays and Sundays is a resolution.
That said, now do you want to hear my resolutions? … I have resolved this year to do three simple things – to do a daily ex-amination of conscience, to renew my use of Duolingo to prac-tice Spanish daily and to visit the school children in their class-room on the first week of every month.

Today we celebrate the solemnity of Mater Dei – Mother of God. Mary is the holy mother of Jesus who is both Lord and God. As the mother of God, Mary is our model of faith. She is the only one who perfectly did the will of God in a way that no other has or will ever do. She is the ark of our salvation and the Theotokos - bearer of God. By saying Yes to God, Mary was privileged to carry in her womb the only begotten Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, heaven and earth unite together as one in the person of Jesus Christ who is the incarnation of God. In Mary, God begins a new creation, not based on flesh and blood but on faith in God.

Mary becomes a model of the new life in Christ that all of us wish for ourselves in the New Year. To be able to do this, Mary prepared herself in a very unique way. What did she do? We read in the Gospel that the shepherds, when they went to adore the Child Jesus in the manger, told all that the angels had said to them - "But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

Again after the boy Jesus was found in the Temple, we are told that "His mother treasured all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51). Mary was a woman who valued the word of God, who treasured it and made time to meditate and ponder it. It is true that the holiness of Mary is attributed to the grace of God, but this should not make us forget that she needed to make an effort in order to cooperate with the grace of God. She pondered the word of God in order to discern what God was saying to her at every stage in her life as the handmaid of God.

Mary saying Yes to archangel Gabriel at the annunciation and the two examples above of Mary pondering the word of God, namely, after the visit of the shepherds and after the finding of Jesus in the temple, show that Mary found the word of God both in divine revelation (the angels' words to her and to the shepherds) and in her own experiences (her encounter with her son in the temple).

Like Mary, God continues to speak to us today through divine revelation (e.g. the Bible, the teaching and preaching of the Church), through the beauty of the nature that surrounds us and as well as through our personal experiences in life, if only we could make out time to reflect on them as Mary did.

Whatever the situation in which we find ourselves - a hardship, a disappointment, a decision to make - God has a solution, an answer that is right for us. Like Mary, we have now the privi-lege of telling it to God in prayer but we also like Mary need to listen to what God has to tell us about our unique situations in life.

Life centered on prayer in this New Year will certainly become a successful life. Like Mary our prayer should become a con-versation with God during which we not only talk to God but also listen to what God says to us. Let us avoid the practice of picking up the phone, reading out the list of our problems to God and dropping the phone without listening to hear what God has to say to us. Let us today resolve to listen more to the voice of God, to treasure God's word and ponder it in our hearts. It is by so doing that we shall we be able to realize our New Year resolution of a new life in union with God.






From Bulletin of DECEMBER 25, 2016

Christmas Day, Year “A”

“The WORD Became Flesh and Lived Among Us”

This is how my cousin taught me the true meaning of Christ-mas. It was my first Christmas in California. It was a cold win-ter night and I was alone in my room reminiscing how Christ-mas was celebrated back home with all family members present and ready to celebrate. My phone began to ring. Lo and behold it was my cousin inviting me to celebrate Christmas with her family in Los Angeles. Since she has four children, I decided to go to Wal-Mart on December 24th to see what kind of gift I could buy for them with my $20 budget. Having no gift in mind as I entered the Wal-Mart store in Van Nuys, I became very confused given the number of the many last minute shoppers like me and the many Christmas gift items in the store.

As I was glancing through the isles in the store looking for what to buy, my phone started to ring again. I answered the call and heard the voice of my cousin asking where I am because of the background noise of Christmas music. I told her that I was at Wal-Mart trying to get some gifts for her children. Upon hear-ing this she raised her voice and said “gift?” Our house is full of unopened gifts … forget about the gifts. You come here on Christmas Day, let us celebrate as a family. That is what Christ-mas is all about.… Wow … after all these years, it is only now that I have come to know what Christmas means – celebrate together as a family.

Today is Christmas Day. The weather outside may be cold but our hearts are warm because Mary has said YES to the archan-gel Gabriel – “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according your word.”

Now we see the mystery of God revealed in the FIAT of the woman who is “FULL OF GRACE.” The God who rejected the offering of the mighty king David, is now humble enough to assume flesh in the womb of the humble virgin of Nazareth. Mary’s womb becomes the smallest tabernacle through which God makes an endangered entrance into our humanity.

In the incarnation, we see the meeting point between God and humanity. God assumes flesh in order to lift humanity back to God. Human salvation becomes real. It is no longer a mere idea. In Jesus we encounter God in a way that is tangible, spe-cific and personal. “For unto us a child is born, for unto us a child is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder and He shall be called wonderful counselor, eternal father and the prince of peace.

Because of Christmas, you and I are blessed and gifted in many ways. However, it is only the Blessed Mother who is “full of grace.” No mortal being could be full of grace unless made so by God. The Blessed Virgin Mary becomes the image of the new people of God. She is the new Ark of the Covenant through which the Son of God is given to us. Mary is able to do this because she is full of grace and the Lord is with her.

Not by any human standard would Mary be considered a suc-cess in the eyes of the world. She was a virgin who became pregnant in a way no human mind can comprehend. She was about to be rejected by Joseph. Only by a stroke of a chance was she accepted. Going back to Jerusalem to register her name, she rode on a Carmel’s back. Even after the tedious jour-ney she had no room to spend the night such that when her time to give birth came, she had only the manger to go to.

After having given birth to her child, news came that Herod was after the child to kill it. Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus set out immediately for Egypt. Mary did all these to protect the life of the child God gave to her. There is no amount of human strength that could have aided Mary to do all these. Her God was her strength, hence she says “the Almighty has done great things for me, Holy is His name.”

Like Mary and Joseph, Christian success is not measured by human standards. Some achieve success through suffering while others achieve success through victory. Whatever brings us closer to God, that is success.

All that we hope for may not be realized during this Christmas season. It is not what happens to us that matters but how we respond to the things that happen to us. In spite of all odds, the Blessed Mother did not lose her focus on God. She remained the handmaid of God in good times and in bad. This is what true faith is all about – a confident trust in God.

Let us share the Christmas joy. I truly rejoice with a young man who told me that he will go home this year to celebrate the Christmas with his parents whom he had not had communica-tion in the last seven years. I share the joys of a parishioner who after five years of marriage has been blessed with the gift of a new born baby whom she calls her Christmas gift. I rejoice with another parishioner whose best Christmas gift is the news from his doctor that he is now cancer free.

Christmas blessing is meant to be shared - In this lies the great-ness of the Blessed Virgin Mary - having realized that she was blessed by God, she worked hard to cooperate with God so that God's plan of redemption may be fulfilled in her and through her. By virtue of our baptism, we have been called and chosen to live and work for God, and in every situation manifest the glory and goodness of God in the world.

No matter where you are and in whatever condition you may be during this holiday season. Christmas is a season of joy. We rejoice for the gift of life, family and friends. To be alive is a blessing. We are not better than those who have died. Not all those who celebrated Christmas last year are here this year to celebrate it again with us. Count your blessings, be joyful and celebrate.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.







From Bulletin of DECEMBER 18, 2016

4th Sunday of Advent, Year “A”

“A Virgin Shall Conceive … Immanuel”

As the air around me smells Christmas, I remember Brennan Manning, who “in The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, tells of an experience he had at an airport. It was just before Christmas and he was in the Chi-cago airport waiting to get a flight to Texas for a week-end retreat. Due to severe storm, he and thousands of others were not going anywhere. The flights were all delayed. Public address systems were blaring, people were at the ticket counter demanding a projected departure time, children were crying, some people were just sitting and staring.
Then he noticed a middle-aged woman cradling a child in her arms and laughing. Manning asked her, “Would you mind telling me why you’re so happy?”

“Sho,” she said. “Christmas is coming and that baby Jesus---He makes me laugh.”

According to Psalm 16:8-9, focusing on Jesus at all times is the key to a happy and joyful heart. How about you? During the Christmas sea-son, our already busy life becomes more busy. Are you ‘setting the Lord before you’ today? Do you want to have a merry Christmas? Bring Jesus into all your activities. Talk to Him all day long. He will make you laugh! (writes Katherine Keller).

Christmas is near. I can't help feeling nostalgic especially being many miles away from home. No matter how long I have been away from home, at this time I begin to reminisce the joy I used to feel being re-ceived by family members upon arrival home or receiving other family member who are returning home for Christmas celebration.

Imagine the joy of being received and hugged by relatives upon arrival home reminding me how much they miss me and how much they val-ue me. All faces are full of smiles. Both the young and the old run from one house to another house, rejoicing and sharing the loaf of bread and the cabin biscuit that "abroadians" bring home with them.

We get to see our new-born relatives, nieces, nephews, cousins, new families, etc. whom we have not met in a long time. Behold grandpa or grandma rubbing your hair and saying "Hey, my son you have grown very fat." And we all enjoyed it as a compliment.

The roads are given a face-lift after the heavy rainy season, houses are repainted and trees are trimmed to give the compound a new look. All is merry and bright. Yes, this is the best time of the year and if not the best time of life. Next I go to my tailor to make sure that my Christ-mas jompa is ready. Since we were not materially well off, we could not afford the best tailors hence we have to accept delay as part of the bargain by going to tailors who will not commit to any particular day for you to claim your Christmas attire. Imagine the joy that fills my heart whenever my Christmas best is complete and ironed.

Yes, a lot have changed. One may not have much need for a tailor these days given the availability of ready-made clothes from China. Our families are no longer as united as they used to be. In fact, some people are no longer excited about going home for Christmas. Some are even afraid of going back home for Christmas because there have been stories of those who did not return happily to their base after spending Christmas with their ‘loved’ ones.

However, as we say in latin “abusus non tollit usum” – “abuse does not take away use” – that something is abused does not take away the value or the good use that could be made of it. Even though some people have been poisoned, involved in motor accidents, charged with drunk-driving, quarreled with family members, made mockery of by other family members or yours is a family that do not like to get togeth-er.

Yours may be the prayer of Judy Douglass “Lord, please, for Christ-mas could my child come home. Would you set him free from his ad-dictions. Cause her to choose not to live with her boyfriend. May they see the emptiness and destructiveness of their choices. And, Lord, may we have peace in our family for Christmas.”

God knows and understands the yearnings of our hearts and still wants us to embrace the pure joy that fills the world during this holy season. This pure joy is heightened today because Mary has said YES to the Angel of God.

Yes, a virgin has conceived. Unlike Adam and Eve who did not listen to the command of God, or Ahaz the king who did not want God to intervene in his life and in his kingdom, Mary’s response to the myste-rious encounter with the Angel of the Lord, is “I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.”

In Mary, God begins a new generation that listens to the voice of God. Joseph being a just man that listens to the voice of God, is willing to let love triumph over law. The woman who was considered the proper-ty of a man – (when at home the woman is the property of her father, when married she becomes the property of her husband, and even when widowed she becomes the property of her own son), is now exalted at a level higher than what the law stipulates.

The law mandates that any woman who becomes pregnant if not by her husband, should be disgraced publicly and be returned to her father's house. Joseph knows the law but did not fully understand God's plan. The least a good man like Joseph would do was to divorce Mary in secret. However, we see the greatness of Joseph is his will-ingness to allow the will of God to trump the Mosaic Law.

In this single act of Joseph, we see the power of true love. Love is at its best whenever it heals the broken hearted and sets the downtrod-den free.

The true spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love. Although many of us may not travel to visit their extended families during this Christmas season, yet, we could still identify with that initial love - Jesus who became flesh to dwell among us by making sure that we extend a helping hand to someone in need.

God has shared His divine love with us, and if we truly believe that God is with us (Immanuel), then, we ought to become the channels of so great a love by reaching out in love to all whom we meet especially during this graceful season of joy. You and your loved ones will be specially remembered at the mass I will celebrate on Christmas Day. Best wishes for a joyful and fruitful Christmas celebration.






From Bulletin of DECEMBER 11, 2016

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year “A”

“Rejoice - Jesus is coming soon”

As our annual celebration of the incarnation of God draws near, I remember the beautiful story in “The legend of the Christmas Tree” by Lucy Wheelock. It tells the story of two little children who were sitting by the fire one cold winter's night. All at once they heard a timid knock at the door, and one ran to open it. There, outside in the cold and the darkness, stood a child with no shoes upon his feet and clad in thin, ragged garments. He was shivering with cold, and he asked to come in and warm himself.

"Yes, come," cried both the children; "you shall have our place by the fire. Come in!" They drew the little stranger to their warm seat and shared their supper with him, and gave him their bed, while they slept on a hard bench.

In the night they were awakened by strains of sweet music and, looking out, they saw a band of children in shining garments approaching the house. They were playing on golden harps, and the air was full of melody.

Suddenly the Stranger Child stood before them; no longer cold and ragged, but clad in silvery light. His soft voice said: "I was cold and you took Me in. I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was tired, and you gave Me your bed. I am the Christ Child, wandering through the world to bring peace and happiness to all good children. As you have given to Me, so may this tree every year give rich fruit to you."

So saying, He broke a branch from the fir tree that grew near the door, and He planted it in the ground and disappeared. But the branch grew into a great tree, and every year it bore wonderful golden fruit for the kind children (From "For the Children's Hour," by Bailey and Lewis).

Today is Gaudete - rejoice Sunday. Having taken on works of penance, prayer and fasting since the beginning of Advent, the church asks her children to relax their abstinence and to put on a joyful look for our salvation is near at hand. The priest is wearing the pink or rose colored chasuble as a reminder that we are called to rejoice and to reach out in joy to all especially the stranger in our midst.

However, living in a world full of broken promises and many unrealized dreams, we have good reasons to despair and to live in fear. But here comes the Advent message with many promises to assure us that God is still faithful to His divine plan for the salvation of the world. Hence, we have a good a reason to open our doors to reach out in love to all.

An unchristianized human history is characterized by confusion and disorder. As God puts order into chaos in the creation of the world, our annual celebration of the birth of Jesus renews our hope in the ultimate fulfillment of God's plan for the world.

The incarnation of God thus becomes the central point of human renewal. As a Christmas people, we have a mandate to “strengthen the hands that are feeble, to make firm the knees that are weak, and to say to those whose hearts are frightened: be strong, fear not. Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.”

In the incarnation of God in Jesus, history assumes a new dimension and a deeper meaning that is greater than itself making it possible for the created being to become co-creators with God. Ours is a mandate to work so that “the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared and then will the lame leap like a stag and the tongue of the mute sings.”

In the incarnation, the mundane becomes divinized hence a new parameter is needed to measure and understand it. Mystery becomes an integral part of the human nomenclature, making it impossible for the human mind to comprehend itself without recognizing the presence of the divine in the world.

"Are you the One who is to come or should we look for another?" with this question John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus takes us to the next level of our understanding of the person of Jesus as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Since the prophecy of Isaiah finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, it is only an answer vindicated by praxis that could be
given to John. Go tell John that "the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them." In this answer, opposites complement to give us a new vision of a new creation, which consists in a new way of seeing, believing and doing things. Blessed is the one who does not take offense at this.

In the incarnation, we celebrate not the past but the present because there is still in our world today, the stranger that needs to be welcomed, the blind that needs to see, the deaf that needs to hear, the lame that needs to walk, the dead (sin) that needs to be raised from death and the poor that needs the good news to be preached to them. By celebrating the incarnation of Jesus, we commit ourselves once again to continue the works of Jesus who came that we may have life and have it in abundance.

Human promises may fail to achieve their aim, not so with divine promise. And while the promise is being fulfilled, we ought to be patient and to commit ourselves to "strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak and say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you."

As a Christmas people, we are called today to Rejoice. There should neither be room for despair nor for regret because our hope is founded on Rock. Yes, the Rock of Ages. And His name is Immanuel - God is with us. All who nurture this hope are called to REJOICE.






From Bulletin of DECEMBER 04, 2016

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year “A”

“Prepare the Way of the Lord”

There was once a man who didn't believe in the incarnation or the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and was skeptical about God. He and his family lived in a farm community. His wife was a devout believer and diligently raised her children in her faith. He sometimes gave her a hard time about her faith and mocked her religious observance of Christmas. One snowy Christmas eve she was taking the kids to the Christmas eve service at church. She pleaded with him to come, but he firmly refused. He ridiculed the idea of the incarnation of Christ and dismissed it as nonsense. "Why would God lower himself and become a human like us?! It's such a ridiculous story!" he said. So she and the children left for church while he stayed home.

After they left, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As he looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump, something hitting against the window. He looked outside but couldn't see. So he ventured outside to see. In the field near his house he saw, of all the strangest things, a flock of geese! They were apparently flying to look for a warmer area down south, but got caught in the snow storm. The snow had became too blinding and violent for the geese to fly or see their way. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just fluttered their wings and flew in circles around the field blindly and aimlessly.

He had compassion for them and wanted to help them. He thought to himself, "The barn would be a great place for them to stay! It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm." So he walked over to the barn and opened the barn doors for them. He waited, watching them, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. But they just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. So he started whistling and calling to them. Nothing. He shouted, jumped up and down, waved his arms. They didn't pay attention. He moved closer toward them to get their attention, but they just moved away from him out of fear….

Feeling totally frustrated, he exclaimed, "Why don't they listen to me! Why don't they follow me! What's wrong with them! Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm! How can I possibly get them into the one place to save them!" He thought for a moment and realized that they just won't follow a human. He said to himself, "How can I possibly save them? The only way would be for me to become like those geese. If only I could become like one of them! Then I could show them the way! Then I could save them! They would follow me, not fear me. They would trust me, and I would lead them to safety."

He stood silently for a moment as the words that he just said reverberated back to himself in his mind: "If only I could become like one of them--then I could show them the way--then I could save them." He thought about his words, and remembered what he said to his wife: "Why would God want to be like us? That's so ridiculous!" Something clicked in his mind as he put these two together. It was like a revelation, and he began to understand the incarnation. We were like the geese--blind, gone astray, perishing. God became like us so He could show us the way and make a way available to save us. That is the meaning of Christmas, he realized in his heart.

As the winds and blinding snow abated, his heart became quiet and pondered this epiphany. He understood what Christmas was all about. He knew why Christ had come. Suddenly years of doubt and disbelief were shattered, as he humbly and tearfully bowed down in the snow, and embraced the true meaning of Christmas (Author Unknown).

How nice and how beautiful it is to hear the roaring voice of John the Baptist on a cold Sunday morning like this. Our bodies may be cold but our hearts are warm because the radical message of John is as joyful as it is challenging.

Whenever John the Baptist appears on the scene, serious minds understand that it is no longer business as usual. Something big is about to happen. To prepare for this great event, John, in a clear and distinct voice, tells us to "repent for the kingdom of God is at hand."

Being almost half way into the Advent season, we see a note of urgency in today's message challenging us to embrace the responsibilities that go with the grace of the season.

Yes, God comes to live among His people but what does this mean to those who wait for his coming? John asks us to
"prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His path."

The Jewish people believing that they were the first chosen people of God, took it for granted that God is for them. John reminds them that God can even raise up children for Abraham from stones. Presumption is the precursor of failure. The radical nature of Jesus coming is such that the children of God should embrace it as an opportunity of a lifetime. Experience shows that there are things that do not come back like spoken words, the past, the speeding arrow, lost opportunity, etc. The mindset with which we should prepare for the nativity of the Lord should be as urgent as it is radical.

The incarnation of God has revolutionized the universe. There is no need to wait. The kingdom of God is right here, right now. Wherever peace, love and goodness reign, there is the kingdom. And in the kingdom, good intention is not good enough. The incarnation is love in action. The incarnation is faith made visible.

The incarnation is a visible action of an inward grace. Human nature if unaccompanied by grace will always fall short of the kingdom ideal. It is the person who makes one face to smile
during this holy season that is indeed an advent person and a
chosen child of the kingdom in whom God is well pleased.






From Bulletin of NOVEMBER 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent “A”

Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus

Three days after her arrival, a missionary nun from Africa was told that time would change and fall back by an hour. Back home, in Africa, the concept of time savings was unfamiliar. She began to wonder how time could possibly change. She kept awake the whole night, waiting to witness time’s unheard-of transformation, but nothing changed. Early in the morning she one in the chapel (since she arrived an hour early). After waiting for 15 minutes, she said her prayers and went back to her room. An hour later, other members of her religious community gathered to recite their prayer and morning rituals.

To the African nun who stayed awake the whole night, nothing changed, yet something wasn’t the same.

Imagine her frustrating experience. Indeed, she was not adequately oriented about the time shift, yet, it is also true that the human psyche struggles adjusting to change. The good news is that every change makes for a fresh beginning and provides new opportunities for excellence.

Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical season. Last Sunday with the celebration of the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the church marked the end of the Year “C” liturgical season. Today—the First Sunday of Advent— we begin the Year “A”. The principal Gospel we shall read on most of the Sundays will come from the gospel of St. Matthew.

According to the tradition of the church, which dates back to the early Christian communities, the season of Advent should be observed like a mini-Lenten season. This is because Advent is a time of expectation, and not a time of celebration.

Christians prepare for two comings – the coming of the Lord on Christmas Day, and the final coming of Lord at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. Both comings call for vigilance and preparation through prayer, fasting and good works.

The season of Advent, therefore, is a sacred time given by the church for her members to embark on a spiritual journey in preparation for the celebration of the greatest event in human history – the incarnation of God when the WORD became FLESH to live among us and in obedience to God’s command.

In this spirit of expectation, we hold TIME in our hands - the past, the present and the future unite as ONE in the person of Jesus Christ. During Advent, we prepare to celebrate the PAST, when Jesus was born in Jerusalem, the PRESENT, when Jesus is born on Christmas Day and the FUTURE, when Jesus will return at the End of Time.
It is a no brainer that human life is characterized by waiting - we wait for the traffic light to turn green, we wait to eat, to write exams, work, receive our salary, grow up, marry, recover from sickness, etc. Our waiting will be disappointing, if not frustrating like that of the missionary nun if we fail to do it the right way through prayer, fasting and good works.

Waiting in its very essence is a sign of incompleteness. We wait for Jesus because He is the only one who can complete our incompleteness. But, our waiting will become empty and meaningless unless we wait in joyful hope, carrying out our daily tasks with patience, optimism and hope.

Like women and men of goodwill, we wait for the reign of peace, justice and love – “when one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” The chosen people of God are called to “walk in the light of the Lord!” We are called to build a new culture that is not defined by its political or military might. The Advent mandate becomes a one to build a culture that is founded on love, and where the great and the small shall coexist in peace and justice shall rain down from heaven to manifest the beauty and glory of God.

The incarnation of Jesus – when the WORD becomes FLESH thus becomes the central meeting point between God and humanity when Heaven and Earth unite together as one. In the Baby Jesus, we see, we touch and feel God. In Jesus who is God made human, we see the beauty of God and the natural goodness that we had lost due to disobedience. Celebrating the incarnation of God thus becomes an expression of our determination to live for God.

To be a Christian, therefore, is to live in joyful hope for there is no dull moment in the history of our salvation. As Christians, we are a people who live in the "mean-time" which means those who live within the time of Jesus first coming (Christmas) and His second coming (Day of Judgment) - between Christ's coming in past history to share our humanity in the incarnation and His coming in the future in the fullness of time. Everything we do here and now matter to God for it is through our actions that we show the world who we believe in.

The Advent spirit invites us to wait in joyful hope because the coming of Jesus will bring about the fulfillment of the greatest desire of the human heart - peace, goodness and joy. This waiting is joyful because God does not disappoint and all who put their hope in God shall renew their strength in Jesus.

Since Jesus coming will be unexpected, the children of God are called to be always alert and ready. To be alert and ready is not for us to live in fear but to persevere in doing good deeds for Jesus could come when we are in a traffic hold-up, at the shopping mall, at the bus station, or standing at the street corner or when a beggar or a homeless in our street is asking for our help.

Our preparation in this holy season becomes creative and meaningful if it disciplines us to see Christ in everyone and in every situation. Maranatha - Come Lord Jesus.







From Bulletin of NOVEMBER 20, 2016

34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

The word “King” is a borrowed political concept used to denote
one invested with power and the authority to govern. Earthly
kings were believed to be the representatives of the gods. And
as the visible presence of an invisible god, they were in essence
believed to be endowed with spiritual powers. They were men
of upright and noble character. Their lifestyles were not only
fascinating and often exaggerated but also well documented in
the psyche of their subjects.


However, since we no longer live in the era of kings and
queens, we may not appreciate the aura that beclouds the notion
of a king. Suffice it to say that Kings are authority figures, endowed
with power and might. They are seen as above mere
mortals because of their ability to communicate with the gods.
Hence, to be identified as a king, means to be endowed with
nobility, courage and supernatural powers.

In his study of 10 African kings whose stories must be told on
film, ABS staff tells the story of “Shaka, king of the Zulus, who
was born in 1787. He was the son of Zulu Chief Senzangakhona
and his wife Nandi. When Shaka was 26, his father died and
left the throne to a son, Sijuana. Shaka ambushed and killed
Sijuana, taking leadership of the Zulus. He came to power
around 1818.

Shaka was a strong leader and military innovator. He is noted
for revolutionizing 19th century Bantu warfare by first grouping
regiments by age, and training his men to use standardized
weapons and special tactics. He invented the “assegai,” a short
stabbing spear, and marched his regiments in tight formation,
using large shields to fend off the enemies throwing spears.
Over the years, Shaka’s troops earned such a reputation that
many enemies would flee at the sight of them.

With cunning and confidence as his tools, Shaka built a small
Zulu tribe into a powerful nation of more than a million people,
and united all tribes in South Africa against European colonial
rule. The Zulu nation continued to use Shaka’s innovations in
wars after his death (ABS staff Dec 7, 2013).”

Like the Zulu people who annually celebrate the life of Shaka,
it is always a joyful day whenever Christians gather to celebrate
the feast of Christ, the King of kings. This solemnity of Our
Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the universe has been celebrated
yearly since 1970 to mark the end of the liturgical season.

On this day, churches are beautifully decorated with flowers
and lights and likewise many homes. In some parts of the
world, long processions are made by believers who with songs
and dance, show to the whole world that Jesus reigns as King
forever. Here in our parish, I see a lot of smiling faces around
me. Most of our parishioners are already in the Thanksgiving
mood and children dress like it is already Christmas, but it is
not yet Christmas.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy which began on December 8, 2015
(The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) ends today
along with the Year “C” liturgical season. Next Sunday, we
begin the Advent season, Year “A” in preparation for Christmas.
Having walked with Christ, and having been filled with
the Holy Spirit to preach the Word, we are proud to say it loud
and clear to the world that Jesus Christ is our merciful and
compassionate King.

Unlike Shaka who killed his brother Sijuana to become king of
the Zulus, ours is a king who gave away His life in ransom for
the world. Ours is a merciful King who by dying has destroyed
our death, by rising restored our life and by ascending to the
Father has given us the reason to live in hope of eternal life. As
children of God, Jesus did not come to us like the kings of this
world who lord over their subjects. Christ gave His life for our
salvation. And by His suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus
has become the Pantocrator and Cosmocrator of the universe.

As Christ the king of the universe, Jesus has the whole world in
His hands. Our future is not in the hands of politicians or emperors
but in the hands of God and this is why we have every
reason to be happy. The Christian story becomes a success story
because Jesus is our Victor. Jesus is my Ebenezar - Savior.

Not only that everything was created through Him and for Him,
yet as Christ the king of the universe, Jesus becomes the supreme
ruler of heaven and earth and everything in it. In Jesus as
the Christ, life in the world and especially for all who live under
His supreme authority becomes purposeful and assumes a
new and deeper meaning.

Unlike the kings of this earth whose authority is based on law,
the authority of Christ is based on love. Jesus rules with love,
hence all who live in love live in God and God lives in them.
Knowing Christ the King may not make us immune to sufferings
and failures of life but it does set us a trillion miles away
from the ordinary. We may still have to experience moments of
joy and sadness in the world. We may still have to shop, eat,
drive, dress, take medication, work, etc. like others in the
world, but, knowing Christ and having a relationship with Him
puts a new and unique dimension to our being in the world.

Christians live in the world but are not of the world. Our life
becomes a hopeful life since we worship a King who experienced
the vicissitudes of life and is now seated at the right hand
of God in heaven.

Since Christ’s greatness is founded on mercy, Christians who
are the true recipients of Christ’s love are called to serve and to
give their lives as a ransom for others. We are called to live in
hope because through Him, we have become victorious. In
Christ the King of the universe, God prepares for those who
love Him, eternal values which neither the human eyes can see
nor could the mind comprehend. In our Lord Jesus, Christian
life on earth is submerged into an eternity that encompasses the
past, present and future. Let us, therefore, remain in the merciful
love of Jesus and it shall be well with us. Amen.






From Bulletin of NOVEMBER 13, 2016

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

The End of the World

At the point of death, a man, Tom Smith, called his children
and he advised them to follow his footsteps so that they can
have peace of mind in all that they do.
His daughter, Sara, said, “Daddy, its unfortunate you are dying
without a penny in your bank. Other fathers’ that you tag as
being corrupt, thieves of public funds left houses and properties
for their children; even this house we live in is a rented apartment.
Sorry, I can’t emulate you, just go, let’s chart our own
course.
Few moments later, their father gave up the spirit. Three years
later, Sara went for an interview in a multinational company. At
interview the Chairman of the committee asked, “Which Smith
are you..?” Sara replied, “I am Sara Smith. My Dad Tom Smith
is now late.” Chairman cuts in, “O my God, you are Tom
Smith’s daughter?”
He turned to the other members and said, “This Smith man was
the one that signed my membership form into the Institute of
Administrators and his recommendation earned me where I am
today. He did all these free. I didn’t even know his address, he
never knew me. He just did it for me.” He turned to Sara, “I
have no questions for you, consider yourself as having gotten
this job, come tomorrow, your letter will be waiting for you.”
Sara Smith became the Corporate Affairs Manager of the company
with two Cars with Drivers, A duplex attached to the office,
and a salary of £ 100,000 per month excluding allowances
and other costs.
After two years of working in the company, the MD of the
company came from America to announce his intention to resign
and needed a replacement. A personality with high integrity
was sought after, again the company’s Consultant nominated
Sara Smith.
In an interview, she was asked the secret of her success, with
tears, she replied, “My Daddy paved these ways for me. It was
after he died that I knew that he was financially poor but stinkingly
rich in integrity, discipline and honesty”.
She was asked again, why she is weeping since she is no longer
a kid as to miss her dad still after a long time. She replied, “At
the point of death, I insulted my dad for being an honest man of
integrity. I hope he will forgive me in his grave now. I didn’t
work for all these, he did it for me to just walk in”.
So, finally she was asked, “Will you follow your father’s footsteps
as he requested?” And her simple answer was, “l now
adore the man, I have a big picture of him in my living room
and at the entrance of my house. He deserves whatever I have
after God”.
Are you like Tom Smith? It pays to build a name, the reward
doesn’t come quickly but it will come.
Integrity, discipline, self control and fear of God makes a man
wealthy, not the fat bank account (writes Vayalicmf). By realizing
this Sarah was able to gain a “wisdom in speaking that all
her adversaries were powerless to resist. This is the kind of
knowledge that Jesus expects from all who believe in God.
Stories about the end of the world may instill some fear in us
and awaken our mind to the realization that we are not going to
live forever in this world, but that is not how Jesus wants the
children of God to live their lives.
Primarily, the end of the world message refers to the Temple in
Jerusalem, which was believed to be a microcosm of the known
world. The fulfillment of this prophecy was realized in 70 AD
when the Romans destroyed the temple and it subsequently
marked the end of the Old Covenant, which was founded on the
Mosaic Law, and thus gave rise to the evolution of Christianity
- the New Covenant, which is founded on Love. Thanks to God
the Jewish people decided not to rebuild the temple since they
no longer see animal sacrifice as salvific or redemptive.
Secondarily, the end of the world message should be seen as an
invitation to live for higher values (love). The word "end" is
understood as an anthropomorphic way of expressing a deeper
reality. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ. In God there is
no "end" and strictly speaking for Christians, every end marks a
new beginning.
By His death on the cross, death which used to be the ultimate
end for man is transformed and put in the process of becoming,
and by virtue of our baptism, we become citizens of heaven,
hence eternal life becomes out lot. Physical death thus becomes
for believers, a point of transition from temporal to eternal life.
No wonder the "end-time message" is not meant to evoke fear,
but love, praise and adoration in the life of the children of God.
What matters is not knowledge of the time and place of the Day
of Judgment. Like Sarah, we come to realize that what matters
in life is not the amount of money we have in the bank but the
integrity, discipline and self control we have in our hearts. Our
willingness to do the will of God now is the best preparation
anyone can make to prepare adequately for the end of world.
Our joy comes not from the knowing the date of the day of
judgment but in the liberation from sin and the realization that
there is a reward for every honest effort that one makes even
though others did not notice, praise or reward us for them.
Although we still have to live through pain, suffering and death
like every other sentient being, yet is our hope in eternal life
fully assured for in Him we live, move and have our being.
Without Him we are nothing, but with Him we are everything
because eternal life is the gift that only God can give. Let all
who live for eternal life then rejoice for Jesus will come again
as He promised. This I believe and for this I live.






From Bulletin of NOVEMBER 6, 2016

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

Belief in the Resurrection

As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the
funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was
deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev's widow.
She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it
was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev's
wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture
that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of
civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and
made the sign of the cross on her husband's chest. There in the
citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had
run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that
there was another life, and that that life was best represented by
Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet
have mercy on her husband (Gary Thomas, Christian Times,
October 3, 1994, p. 26).

As the liturgical season winds up, the church invites her faithful
to reflect on death, resurrection and judgment. The Sadducees
do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, yet, in their attempt
to disgrace Jesus and His teachings, help us to understand
one of the core teachings of our faith i.e. the resurrection. A
good understanding of the Christian notion of the resurrection
is very important because such knowledge could affect the
quality of life we live now and hereafter.

Any belief that conceives of resurrection as the only time to
enjoy a good life after suffering on earth could be likened to
Karl Marx's “opium of the masses.” Resurrection becomes the
only time God will reward the faithful and punish the wicked.

The Sadducees would reject such notion because to them God
rewards people in this life. Most friends of God like Abraham,
Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, Solomon,
Job, etc. experienced blessedness in this life and it could reasonably
be argued that they received the reward of their good
works here on earth. If there is resurrection why would God
reward and restore all of Job's wealth while he was still alive?

For those who understand belief in the resurrection to mean that
there is more to life than human eyes can see; the resurrection
becomes an invitation and a challenge to excel. Here we begin
to realize that although the human being may be the greatest of
all of God's creation and occupies an indispensable place in the
divine plan of God, yet, humans are called to live for a cause
greater than them.

Belief in the resurrection shapes the Christian history. It is a
force for self-realization and self-actualization in the world.
Since there is life beyond death, what we do here and now matters.
The living and the dead are intrinsically interconnected
hence whether we live or die, we belong to God. The resurrection
thus reinforces the Christian belief that death is not annihilation and should not be a cause for despair.

The human being is specially made by God for God. This is a
truth, which the human mind cannot comprehend without faith
in an omnipresent and omnipotent God. This world is not really
our home, but while we are here, we ought to work hard to
make it a better place for all and by so doing we become cocreators
with the God who makes His sun to shine for all.

Belief in the resurrection becomes a reminder that there is a
reward for every good deed even if no one notices. There is a
God in heaven who sees all and rewards all. Being a God of the
living, all who do God’s will are alive in Him. Hence, the process
of human divinization does not begin after death but here
and now because it is based on how we live, love, believe and
act responsibly towards all sentient beings in the world.

Everything we do in this life matters. Resurrection does not
begin after death. It begins now, and every choice we make
defines us as a resurrection people or as a people for whom
bodily death is their ultimate end.

Seven brothers getting married to the same woman shows how
we could become slaves of our own culture and the laws that
govern it. However, the reason why seven brothers got married
to the same woman was to generate offspring in their family.
This is how world population increases but not so with God.
God is pure spirit and in the resurrection we shall share in the
being of God. In the God-world (heaven), numbers do not
count. All is one in Christ; hence in heaven there will be no
need for an increase and multiplication of offspring for God.

In Jesus the dividing line between life and death disappears. By
virtue of the resurrection, all who believe, live to die and die to
live forever in heaven. Either way life is our portion; hence we
have nothing to fear but to go on living for God every day.
Christian life becomes a celebration of love – a love that finds
its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus who died on the cross for the
salvation of the world. Living for Christ then implies dying
daily to selfishness and rising daily in grace.

Living for Jesus in the world demands that our quest for peace
and progress should reflect Christian optimism not pessimism
and our efforts to build God's kingdom should demonstrate an
appreciation of the temporal order, not its abandonment. As a
resurrection people, therefore, doing good deeds in the world is
no longer optional. It is the mandate of a resurrection culture.

Christians live in the world but are not of the world. The good
deeds Christians do in this world become the sign of our love
for the world and the consequence of our belief that ultimately
we shall reap the fruit of every good deed in heaven.

For Christians, the resurrection is not another life but a transformation
and divinization of the life we are living here and
now. And as a perfection of goodness, authentic Christian life
should be lived neither in the past nor in the future but in the
present. And as a perfection of love, our belief in the resurrection
calls us to be good and holy here and now.






From Bulletin of October 30, 2016

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“Zacchaeus, Come down Quickly”

In common parlance it is often said that “If at first you don’t
succeed, try again.” Sometimes you may feel like that’s just a
saying, but it is absolutely not. It is a truth that comes from the
authority of human experience. Renee Jacques in her “16 incredible
stories of how horrible tragedies and setbacks can help
fuel a drive for success recounts that from Oprah Winfrey’s
scarred childhood to Bill Gates’ failed business ventures, people
often go through the grinder, and come out even better than
before. Their stories stress one of the most important lessons of
all: Never ever give up.”

“Bill Gates, one of the richest persons in the whole world
couldn’t make any money at first. Gates’ first company, Traf-O
-Data (a device which was designed to read traffic tapes and
process the data) failed miserably. When Gates and his partner,
Paul Allen, tried to sell it, the product wouldn’t even work.
Gates and Allen didn’t let that stop them from trying again
though. Here’s how Allen explained how the failure helped
them: “Even though Traf-O-Data wasn’t a roaring success, it
was seminal in preparing us to make Microsoft’s first product a
couple of years later.”

“Albert Einstein didn’t have the best childhood. In fact, many
people thought he was just a dud. He never spoke for the first
three years of his life, and throughout elementary school, many
of his teachers thought he was lazy and wouldn’t make anything
of himself. He always received good marks, but his head
was in the clouds, conjuring up abstract questions people couldn’t
understand. But he kept thinking and, well, he eventually
developed the theory of relativity, which many of us still can’t
wrap our heads around.”

“Jim Carrey revealed to James Lipton on “Inside the Actor’s
Studio” that when he was 15, he had to drop out of school to
support his family. His father was an unemployed musician and
as the family went from “lower middle class to poor,” they
eventually had to start living in a van. Carrey didn’t let this stop
him from achieving his dream of becoming a comedian: He
went from having his dad drive him to comedy clubs in Toronto
to starring in mega-blockbusters and being known as one of the
best comedic actors of an era.”

Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful and richest people
in the world today, but Winfrey didn’t always have it so easy.
She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was repeatedly molested
by her cousin, uncle and a family friend. She eventually
ran away from home, and at age 14 gave birth to a baby boy
who died shortly after.

But, Winfrey’s tragic past didn’t stop her from becoming the
force she is today. She excelled as an honors student in high
school, and won an oratory contest which secured her a full
scholarship to college. Now the entrepreneur and television
mogul enjoys the admiration of millions and a net worth of $2.9
billion, writes Renee Jacques.

Life was not different for Zacchaeus, a short man who had to
climb the Sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. Seeing the prototype
of the Sycamore tree in Jericho during my pilgrimage to
Israel in 2013, made me to appreciate more what Zacchaeus did
to overcome a deficiency in his life. The Sycamore is a huge
tree, which is difficult to climb especially by a man of short
stature like Zacchaeus. Being a wealthy man, Zacchaeus could
have used other means to see Jesus, yet, he humbled himself to
climb a tree so that he could get a glimpse of Jesus.

The greatness of Zacchaeus lies neither in his wealth nor in his
ability to climb a big tree but in the depth of his conviction/
faith which empowered him to recognize his weakness (short in
stature) and earnestly seek for a way to overcome it.

Zacchaeus knows that being a short man in a crowd makes it
impossible for him to see Jesus. He neither blames the crowd
nor did he blame God for creating him a short man. All he did
was to make good of his situation by separating himself from
the crowd, moved ahead of the crowd and with the assistance
of the Sycamore tree he was able to see Jesus.

Interesting though is that before he could get to the top of the
tree, Jesus reached out to him, invited him to dine at his house.
Jesus goes on to restore peace in the life of Zacchaeus and his
household. Zacchaeus gained this transformational experience
because he was able to separate himself from the crowd.

Like Zacchaeus, we cannot see Jesus if we are part of the
crowd. Crowd mentality retards growth. It kills. It leads to
nothing but self pity. Growth comes from living beyond crowd
mentality and putting to positive use our infinite potentialities.
Like Zacchaeus, we all have talents and deficiencies that could
help or hinder us from seeing Jesus. All we need to do to succeed
in life is to make an honest and sincere effort to use what
we have to get what we need (to see Jesus), and Jesus will supply
the missing graces, necessary to make us whole again.

It is easier for Zacchaeus, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Jim Carrey,
Oprah Winfrey, etc. to blame God or others for the difficulties
and challenges they encountered in life, but they did not
do that. Tapping their inner will power, they were able to transform
their challenges into opportunities. Zacchaeus realized
that being tall or short wasn’t in his power, but to know, accept
and follow Jesus is a personal decision one must make every
day. No one can make it for you. Neither your parents nor your
siblings can make it for you. You must make it for yourself.
And by taking that leap of faith, Zacchaeus life was blessed.

Whenever we run alone, it is called a RACE but when we run
with God it is called GRACE. It is therefore understandable
why the critics could not accept the new Zacchaeus which has
been transformed by GRACE. However, they did come to realize
that the world is not changed by critics but rather by those
who were criticized. No wonder Zacchaeus ended up a happy
man - Today salvation has come to this man/house and no one
can take it away from him.





From Bulletin of October 23, 2016

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

The Pharisee and the Publican

Self knowledge, they say, is the best form of knowledge. It
helps us to experience, understand and judge rightly who we
are, in order that we may live reasonably in the world. Self
knowledge does not make us good or bad persons. It is a form
of knowledge that keeps us in a state of constant awareness –
eternal vigilance. Today, we are presented with two persons
(the Pharisee and the Publican) who evidently have a reasonable
knowledge of who they are.

The Pharisees were not bad people as such. They were a highly
disciplined group who observed the law to the letter but their
intense practice of the law separated them not only from the
material world (business) but also from their fellow human beings.
Their “perfect” observance of the law made them to see
themselves as the good ones and others as bad. Rabbi Simeon
once said “if there are two righteous men in the world, I and my
son are these two; if there is only one, I am he.”

However, the Pharisee’s claim to be a friend of God is not necessarily
because of their personal achievement but because they
are part of the commonwealth of Israel. The Publican, on the
other hand, was branded a sinner, not because of the sin he
committed but because he was not part of the chosen ones (the
commonwealth).

We cannot underestimate the privileges one could gain by being
a member of a privileged group. The Pharisee being a member
of the commonwealth of Israel, is satisfied with where he is
as a law abiding person, thus equating holiness to mere observance
of the law. Prayer, which basically should be an attitude
of thanksgiving to God, in the case of the Pharisee becomes
an essay in self-congratulation. He was not really grateful
to God but was rather exceptionally well pleased with himself.
He thanked God that he was not a robber, neither greedy
nor unjust as if God does not know.

On the other hand, the Publican in the parable was a tax collector.
Every man paid 3 taxes namely, - the Poll tax for the privilege
of existing, the land tax which consists of one tenth of the
produce of his ground either in cash or in kind, and income tax
which was one percent of his income. Others include tax for
entering a walled city, crossing a bridge, using the main road,
wheeled cart, import, export, etc. Those who could not pay
would receive an advance from the tax collector at an exorbitant
rate. The worst part of it is that these tax collectors were
Jews who had sold themselves into the hands of the Roman
government in order to make profit out of their fellow countrymen.
However, this tax collector though hated by all still had a
spark of grace in him. He identified himself as a sinner, and by
seeing himself as a sinner, he had the zeal to do more to become
a better person, hence his willingness to approach God
with a humble and contrite heart.

Using the story of these two unique human beings, Jesus teaches
us an important lesson about human salvation, which is often
taken for granted.

Negative goodness does not count before God - the Pharisee’s
goodness was all negative. He thanked God for not being like
the tax collector or Publican. People who like to compare themselves
with others often emphasize on the weakness of the other
person. His joy comes from the things he did not do. His
fasting and tithe consists in things that were given up. The
Golden rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto
you” but the Pharisee version has it in the negative form. It is
easier to observe in its negative form. At the end of the day
God will not ask us what we did not do, but what we did. A
negative religion is only half a religion and leads to a negative
life. The mandate to avoid evil is also a mandate to do good.
True Humility - the central message of this parable is on the
necessity of humility. Humility is of the essence of greatness.
The Publican who knows his sins and asks for mercy is justified
unlike the Pharisee who was conscious of nothing but his
virtue. Humility does not consist in thinking less of yourself but
in thinking of yourself less.

The Humility that leads to Knowledge - the one who thinks s/
he knows it all will never learn. Plato once said “He is the wisest
who knows himself to be very ill qualified for the attainment
of wisdom.” It is only when we are humble enough to
know our own ignorance that we begin to learn and the more
we know, the more we realize how much we do not know.
The Humility that leads to God - if we ever desire/hunger to
know God, we would see the need to be humble. Humble
yourself and God will exalt you.

True sense of our inadequacy - when people complained that
Abraham Lincoln wasted time in prayer, his reply was “I would
be the greatest fool on earth if I thought that I could carry the
burdens which are laid upon me for one day without the help of
the One who is greater and wiser than I.”

Sense of sin - a true sense of sin is not a weakness but strength.
It is the best of human beings who are conscious of their own
sin. St. Paul wrote of himself that he is the foremost of sinners
(1Tm 1:15)(1Cor 15:9; Gal 1:1; Eph 3:8). St. Francis of Assisi
wrote of himself “nowhere is there a more wretched, a more
miserable, a poorer creature than I.”

We see the right attitude before God truly reflected in the humble
attitude of the publican - Kneeling or Standing was a normal
Jewish attitude for prayer but in the case of the Pharisee in
the parable, he stood up in order that he may be seen as a righteous
person while the Publican knelt down in prayer to God.

The Pharisee, no doubt was born into a privileged tribe as a Jew
but in Jesus a new standard is set for humanity. This is a standard,
which is neither based on race nor social status but on one's
relationship with God. Institutional holiness or group salvation
may guarantee earthly privileges, but not so in the eyes of God.
The new dispensation which Jesus brings emphasizes on divine
mercy, universal salvation and the failure of the law to sanctify.
Self-knowledge thus becomes empowering only when it makes
us to live honestly and to approach God with a humble and
contrite heart.






From Bulletin of October 16, 2016

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“The Healing Power of Perseverance”

While at Disneyland last week with my nieces, I read that Walt
Disney was turned down 302 times before he got financing for
his dream of creating the "Happiest Place on Earth". Today, due
to his perseverance, millions of people from all race, tribe and
tongue are sharing 'the joy of Disney'.

Colonel Sanders spent two years driving across the country
looking for restaurants to buy his chicken recipe. He was turned
down 1,009 times! How successful is KFC today?

In 1952 Sir Edmund Hilary attempted to climb Mount Everest,
but failed. A few weeks later a group in England invited him to
address its members. Hillary walked on stage to a thunderous
applause. The audience was recognizing an attempt at greatness,
but Edmund Hillary saw himself as a failure. He moved
away from the microphone and walked to the edge of the platform.
He made a fist and pointed at a picture of the mountain.
He said in a loud voice, "Mount Everest, you beat me the first
time, but I'll beat you the next time because you've grown all
you are going to grow... but I'm still growing!"

And on May 29, 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary became the first to
scale the highest mountain then known to man-29,000 feet
straight up. He was knighted for his efforts. He even made
American Express card commercials because of this great
achievement. It was not until we read his book, “High Adventure,”
that we are able to understand what Hillary had to go
through to grow into success.

Sir Winston Churchill took three years getting through eighth
grade because he had trouble learning English. It seems ironic
that years later Oxford University asked him to address its commencement
exercises.

He arrived with his usual props. A cigar, a cane and a top hat
which accompanied Churchill wherever he went. As Churchill
approached the podium, the crowd rose in appreciative applause.
With unmatched dignity, he settled the crowd and stood
confident before his admirers. Removing the cigar and carefully
placing the top hat on the podium, Churchill gazed at his waiting
audience. Authority rang in Churchill's voice as he shouted,
"Never give up!"

Several seconds passed before he rose to his toes and repeated:
"Never give up!" His words thundered in their ears. There was
a deafening silence as Churchill reached for his hat and cigar,
steadied himself with his cane and left the platform. His commencement
address was finished (unknown author).

The baseball slogan “three times and out” has often been
wrongly used to discourage people from trying. However, the
stories of Walt Disney, Sir Edmund Hilary, Winston Churchhill,
etc. have taught us that perseverance and persistence is the
key to success. What counts in life is not how many times one
is 'throwed,' but whether you are willing to stay 'throwed'."

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us the necessity to pray always
without becoming weary. Using the example of widows who
lived at the mercy of the society and whose only right within
the Jewish culture of the time was the right to be seen and to
remain silent. Jesus says, if a widow, through her persistence
and perseverance could achieve success in a culture where they
were neither valued nor respected, then, there is no limit to
what a child of God could achieve from the hands of a merciful
and loving father.

We live in an unjustly structured world. We have to eat the
same food that others eat, go to the same school and hospital,
use the same car, go to the same shopping center, and the children
of God may face setbacks like every other person living in
the world, but armed with prayer as their secret weapon and
being courageous enough to go forward is an act of faith which
is not given to all. We are able to do this because of our belief
that Jesus has won the victory and “the battle is the Lord's,”
hence, there is no excuse for us to give up.

Perseverance through prayer empowers a person of faith to
realize that:

- There aren't any hard-and-fast rules for getting ahead in the
world -- just hard ones.
- You don't have to lie awake nights to succeed. Just stay awake
days.
- There is no poverty that can overtake diligence. -Japanese
proverb
- By perseverance the snail reached the Ark. -Spurgeon
- Triumph is just "umph" added to try.


Further empowered by the anointing of the Holy Spirit we become
victorious over sin and the world. Having said this, the
children of God have to keep in mind that they must constantly
reevaluate their circumstances and the approach they are using
to reach their goal. There is no sense in being persistent at
something that we are doing incorrectly! Sometimes we have to
modify our approach along the way. Every time we do something
we learn from it, and therefore find a better way to do it
the next time.

By calling for perseverance, Jesus teaches all people of faith to
avoid the danger of going into reckoning with God, for a calculated
religion is a disservice to God. We need to abhor creating
a timetable for when we expect God to answer our prayers.
Since our prayers do not add anything to God’s greatness, it
makes us to grow in grace through Jesus Christ whose ultimate
sacrifice on the cross has paid the price of our sins.

As people who live in the “mean time” until the second coming
of Jesus, we are called to put on the armor of Christ, walking
diligently with the Lord in good times and in bad. We are
called to become a prayerful people who live by grace and walk
in the spirit knowing fully well that God is with us all the way.
If Walt Disney, Colonel Sanders, Sir Edmund Hilary, Winston
Churchill, etc. could be successful because they persevered in
what they believed, then, there is no limit to what anyone who
has put his faith and trust in God will realize both in this life
and in the life to come. Prayer is the way to go.




From Bulletin of October 9, 2016

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“The Healing Power of Gratitude”

An Unknown author wrote a poem titled “Forgive Me When I
Whine” and it goes like this:
“Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely maid with golden hair; I envied
her -- she seemed so gay, and how, I wished I were so fair;
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the
aisle; she had one foot and wore a crutch, but as she passed, a
smile. Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I have two feet -- the
world is mine.

And when I stopped to buy some sweets, the lad who served me
had such charm; he seemed to radiate good cheer, his manner
was so kind and warm; I said, "It's nice to deal with you, such
courtesy I seldom find"; he turned and said, "Oh, thank you
sir." And then I saw that he was blind. Oh, God, forgive me
when I whine, I have two eyes, the world is mine.

Then, when walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of
blue; he stood and watched the others play, it seemed he knew
not what to do; I stopped a moment, then I said, "Why don't you
join the others, dear?" He looked ahead without a word, and
then I knew he could not hear. Oh God, forgive me when I
whine, I have two ears, the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I'd go; with eyes to see the sunsets
glow, with ears to hear what I would know. I am blessed indeed.
The world is mine; oh, God, forgive me when I whine.”

Using the story of the ten lepers who were cured by Jesus but
only one of them came back to thank Him, the church invites us
to abhor whining and cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Leprosy was a highly dreaded disease during the time of Jesus.
Lepers were the most despised outcasts in the society. Leviticus
13:45-56 states that “the leper who has the disease shall wear
torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall
cover his upper lip and cry, `Unclean, unclean.' He shall remain
unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall
dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp….”

Persons with leprosy cannot hide their disease. Its lesions are
visible on their faces and hands. Lepers and those with signs of
leprosy on their skin were driven from their homes to prevent
them from contaminating others. They were constrained to live
in a leper colony from where they go out to beg for food to eat.
They wear a sign on their front and back to show that they are
unclean and as they walk along, they shout “unclean” whenever
they see normal people.

Since leprosy was considered incurable and Lepers were expected
to keep their mouth shut to avoid contaminating others.
Such a miserable lifestyle destroys one’s ego and leads to a low
self esteem since they were neither loved nor appreciated by
others.

Given this miserable condition of lepers during the time of Jesus,
one would expect anyone cured of leprosy to be very grateful
for being cured of a deadly disease. But, that was not the
case with the ten lepers who were cured by Jesus. Out of the
ten who were cured, only one came back to thank Jesus.

Charles L. Brown suggested some reasons why the other 9 lepers
did not come back to thank Jesus:
- One waited to see if the cure was real.
- One waited to see if it would last.
- One said he would see Jesus later.
- One decided that he had never had leprosy.
- One said he would have gotten well anyway.
- One gave the glory to the priests.
- One said, "O, well, Jesus didn't really do anything."
- One said, "Any rabbi could have done it."
- One said, "I was already much improved."

Gratitude, they say, is the least virtue, but ingratitude is the
worst vice. Saying “Thank You” for favor received is the least
that is expected of anyone but refusing to say “Thank You” for
favors received is the worst that could be expected.

Human beings are born with a natural instinct for selfpreservation.
An attitude of gratitude does not come naturally
to us. Children rejoice for the gifts they receive from their parents
or elders but for them to say “Thank You” for favors received
have to be taught and have to be learned.

Gratitude is a thing of the heart and not of the head. Even when
we know how beautiful it is to be grateful, it is much easier to
be grateful when things are going well for us . Being grateful at
unpleasant moments is a sign of inner greatness and strong
moral character.

During a sermon at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles,
Gary Wilburn said: "In 1636, amid the darkness of the
Thirty Years' War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to
have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year . His
parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster.

In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his
window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his children:
“Now thank we all our God / With heart and hands and
voices;/ Who wondrous things had done,/ In whom His world
rejoices. /Who, from our mother's arms,/Hath led us on our
way/ With countless gifts of love/ And still is ours today." (Don
Maddox). The depth and beauty of this song shows Rinkart as a
man who knows that thanksgiving comes from love of God, not
from outward circumstances.

Each person may be the center of the universe, but to appreciate
or thank others for favors received demands a strong moral
character. It is a conscious decision one must make for oneself
and it becomes part of our being when we can be grateful without
thinking about it. The good news is that unlike the 9 ungrateful
lepers, there is no shortage of grateful people in the
world, but if you cannot find one, then, become one.




From Bulletin of October 2, 2016

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“Lord, increase our Faith”

I knew next to nothing about Stephen Hawking, an astrophysicist
at Cambridge University until about two years ago when a
friend encouraged me to see a movie titled “The Theory of Everything.”
James Dobson in “The New Man” describes Hawking
as “the most intelligent man on earth, who has advanced the
general theory of relativity farther than any person since Albert
Einstein. Unfortunately, Hawking is afflicted with ALS Syndrome
(Lou Gehrig's disease). It will eventually take his life.

He has been confined to a wheelchair for years, where he can
do little more than sit and think. Hawking has lost the ability to
speak, and now he communicates by means of a computer that
is operated from the tiniest movement of his fingertips.
Quoting from an Omni magazine article: "He is too weak to
write, feed himself, comb his hair, fix his glasses--all this must
be done for him. Yet this most dependent of all men has escaped
invalid status. His personality shines through the messy
details of his existence."

Hawking said that before he became ill, he had very little interest
in life. He called it a "pointless existence" resulting from
sheer boredom. He drank too much and did very little work.
Then he learned he had ALS Syndrome and was not expected
to live more than two years. The ultimate effect of that diagnosis,
beyond its initial shock, was extremely positive. He claimed
to have been happier after he was afflicted than before. How
can that be understood? Hawking provided the answer.

"When one's expectations are reduced to zero," he said, "one
really appreciates everything that one does have." Stated another
way, contentment in life is determined in part by what a person
anticipates from it. To a man like Hawking who thought he
would soon die quickly, everything takes on meaning--a sunrise
or a walk in a park or the laughter of children. Suddenly, each
small pleasure becomes precious. By contrast, those who believe
life owes them a free ride are often discontent with its
finest gifts (October 1994, p.36).”

Human suffering is the most perplexing of all human experiences.
If only bad people suffer and good people enjoy good
health and bliss, then, justice will be served. But, in the world,
good people suffer while the bad ones enjoy a good life.

Yes, life can be unfair.

In their effort to make sense of human suffering, some people
have proposed that the world is kept in motion by the struggle
between good and evil.

The many instances when we have been overwhelmed by the
forces of evil, challenge us to think that the power of evil may
be stronger than the power of God. At such moments of apparent
victory of evil over good, people of faith who desire that the
good may prevail on earth, cry out to their God to intervene to
restore sanity and to render justice.

This is precisely what Habakkuk and the apostles did when
overwhelmed by the forces of evil. Habakkuk said “How long,
O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen. I cry out to you,
“Violence!” but you do not intervene … Destruction and violence
are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.”

In the Gospel, the apostles overwhelmed by the presence of evil
in the world said "Lord increase our faith." Increase our faith so
that we can still believe in the supremacy of the good over evil.
Increase our faith that we may see the power of God at work in
the life of a suffering Jesus who is condemned to die. Increase
our faith that we may not lose sight of everlasting life at this
moment when cancer, despair, lies, corruption, political wrangling
is eating away our lives.

From His heavenly throne, God responds and promises to right
these wrongs but in God's own time. In the meantime, children
of God must live by faith. “Write down the vision clearly … so
that one can read it readily - “the rash one has no integrity; but
the just one, because of his faith, shall live.”
This makes one to ask, what does it mean to live by faith in an
imperfect world?

It is a no-brainer that anyone who is baptized and confirmed,
reads the bible, goes to church, takes communion, prays, supports
the church, etc. could legitimately lay claim to be a woman
or man of faith. Why would such a faithful person have to
suffer in spite of his/her faith in a living, immortal and omnipotent
(all powerful) God?

This thought pattern is based on the presumption that faith in
God should guarantee immunity from pain and suffering. To
Jesus, faith is the Cross and the cross is Faith. Faith does not
eliminate human suffering but rather gives us the strength like
Jesus to stand strong for God even in difficult moments.

By comparing faith to a tiny mustard seed - a living thing
whose value does not depend on its size but on the life principle
that lies within it, Jesus teaches us that authentic faith is not
quantitative but qualitative in character. Faith is the common
thread that runs through all successful people, be it the case of
the cancer patient, the penitent thief or Jesus the son of God
who was crucified on the cross.

Since people could use religion as a means to build a career and
their reputation, being an active member of a church and doing
good works may not always imply being a person of faith.
Faith is an unconditional trust that the power of God is at work
in my life and in the life of others. Faith is doing the will of
God and not my own will.

Authentic faith encompasses individual ways of thinking, seeing,
judging and doing things. It is an intrinsic energy that
makes human character to become deep, rich and fruitful. Faith
consists not only in future expectations but also in one's desire
to do the will of God here and now. And to crown it all, like
Stephen Hawking, authentic faith demands that we approach
the kingdom of God with the attitude of a servant who expects
nothing in return.






From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Our gospel story today tells the story of a rich man who did not
care to reach out to poor Lazarus. However, it is admirable that
there are some rich people out there who have excelled in generosity.
Marc V. tells the story of Zell Kravinsky who knew he
wasn’t cut out for the wealthy way of living. Sure, he had made
millions investing in real estate in his native Pennsylvania, but
Kravinsky decided his dollars had a grander purpose than just
fattening his bank account. In 2001, he began donating money
and land to various charities until his contributions reached $45
million dollars. By then, his family and friends thought that he
was being too impulsive, but Kravinsky brushed their reservations
aside and said that he could always earn more money—
though he’d likely give it away as well.

However, Kravinsky still felt that donating money and land
wasn’t enough. He decided to up the ante and gave his kidney
to a total stranger. His move was met with mixed views, ranging
from praise to disbelief. Even his wife threatened to leave
him, although that was later defused thanks to famous singer
Pat Boone, who knew what Kravinsky did and urged her to
forgive him for being too generous. As for Kravinsky, he said
that he would readily give any of his body parts again for any
who needed it.

This parable of the rich man and Lazarus which is found only in
the gospel of Luke was originally addressed to the disciples of
Jesus to correct their erroneous notion of wealth. The orthodox
Jew believed that wealth was a sign of blessing from God. All
the friends of God were rich - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses,
Saul, David, Solomon, etc. To be rich was to be blessed by God
(Eccles 5:8-20, Prov 19:14, 1Chr 29:14) while to be poor was
to be cursed, sinful and rejected by God (Deut 28:15, 38-39;
hence a Jew could not imagine a poor Lazarus as a friend of
God.

What baffles the human mind is that this parable did not say
that the rich man exploited Lazarus. He neither abused Lazarus
nor tried to kick him out of the entrance to his house, which is
what an average person will do at the sight of a homeless person
residing near his house. Then, why was the rich man in hell
and Lazarus in heaven?

Sin of Omission – the sin of the rich man consists not in the
evil he did but in the good he did not do. The rich man was
heartless and even dogs cared more than he did. It is inhuman
to be Indifferent to the suffering of others. All that we have
and are in this life is a gift from God and we are morally
obliged to share it with others.

Another important point made in this parable lies in the meaning
of Lazarus, a name derived from the Hebrew
“Eliezer” (Gen 15:2) - “God is my help.” This is not the Lazarus
of Bethany who was at a banquet and whose resurrection
from the dead failed to convince the Jewish leaders that Jesus is
the messiah (Jn 11: 1-44; 12: 1-11).

From this parable we learn that Heaven and Hell are real.
Heaven is a place of bliss. It is God’s gift and reward for our
faithfulness. We reap what we sow ….. It is while on earth that
we make the choice for heaven or for hell. This does not mean
that heaven or after-life is a reversal of values but to remind us
that earthly value standards do not count in the next life. Since
the lives of the rich man and Lazarus were different in this
world, so is their fate different in the afterlife and for Lazarus
to sit beside Abraham means that Lazarus enjoyed the highest
bliss in heaven. (It was a common early Christian belief that
heaven and hell were within sight of each other so that the sight
of bliss might intensify the suffering of the wicked).

Personal Identity – unlike the Buddhist concept of nirvana,
Christians believe that after death our identity still remains: The
rich man recognized Lazarus and Abraham. Unlike Plato and
the Stoics view that embodied existence is not a punishment,
after death our personality still survives – you will still be you
and I will still be I though in a transformed manner. It means
that the only thing we take with us when we leave this earth is
ourselves and our good works.

Bad habit – We could still see the arrogance of the rich man
who kept on asking Abraham to command Lazarus to do stuff
for him. He was able to look back and see the life that he had
lived. In the afterlife, we shall see purely how we lived our
lives. Looking back to see the people we hurt and the shameful
things we did on earth is probably the most difficult part of
afterlife.

Memory – In afterlife we shall recognize both our loved and
unloved ones. Let us do good now that we may not be ashamed
to see or meet anyone after death.

The plea of ignorance – “… send Lazarus to my brothers ….”
Although ignorance of the law is not an excuse, yet in some
cases ignorance counts. But, neglect of knowledge kills. We
may forgive an illiterate for some mistakes since he had no
chance of knowing any better; but a civilized adult may not be
forgiven for refusing to know – God has given us His book
(Bible). His spirit is in our hearts, the voice of conscience
speaks within us, the exemplary life of good people around us,
etc. to refuse to learn from all these is to make a choice for hell.

Reversal of values? – Heaven is not a reversal of values. The
rich man is not punished because he was rich but because he
did not care. Wealth is a gift from God but refusal to use one’s
wealth to serve God is certainly a sin. Abraham said to the rich
man “You chose to set your heart on worldly things, now you
must pay the price.” Lazarus is not rewarded because he was
poor but because he was a poor man who had put his trust/hope
in God (Lazarus – Eliezer – God is my help). From where shall
come my help? My help shall come from the Lord who made
heaven and earth (Ps 121: 1-2).







From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 18, 2016

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

Become a Good and Faithful Steward

An unknown author wrote a story of how Wilbur Chapman
tried to convince a distinguished minister, Dr. Howard, from
Australia who preaches very strongly on the subject of sin to
tone down his message to accommodate the youth of their
church. "Dr. Howard," he said, "we don't want you to talk as
openly as you do about man's guilt and corruption, because if
our boys and girls hear you discussing that subject they will
more easily become sinners. Call it a mistake if you will, but do
not speak so plainly about sin.

The minister took down a small bottle and showing it to the
visitor said, "You see that label? It says strychnine -- and underneath
in bold, red letters the word 'Poison!' Do you know,
man, what you are asking me to do? You are suggesting that I
change the label.

Suppose I do, and paste over it the words, 'Essence of Peppermint';
don't you see what might happen? Someone would use it,
not knowing the danger involved, and would certainly die. So it
is, too, with the matter of sin. The milder you make your label;
the more dangerous you make your poison!"

In common parlance, the meaning of sin and the knowledge of
who a sinner is, appears to be quite distinct and clear. Several
biblical passages make it clear that God hates sin, for God is
holy and without holiness no eye can see the Lord. Jesus was
human in all things but sin, and to crown it all, it is to set us
free from the bondage of ignorance and sin that Jesus died on
the cross.

Presenting Jesus as a friend of sinners then appears to be a contradiction
in terms. It not only elevates the status of sin but
makes it quite attractive. "Sin and become the friend of Jesus"
could become a logical argument derived from it. Since this
understanding contradicts the core values of our faith, it then
means that we need to contextualize the uses of the notion of
sin and the sinner in the Bible.

It is important to note that the notion of sin and the sinner have
undergone and continue to undergo a radical metamorphosis.
During the time of Jesus, the Jews used the concept of “sin and
sinner” to include not only thieves and adulterers, but also the
poor, the sick, the blind, widows, the disabled whose conditions
were seen as a punishment from God. These underprivileged
ones who are supposed to be cared for, were rather excluded,
abhorred and ignored by those who are strong, good and holy
enough to protect them and by regarding others as sinners, they
were able to justify their contempt for them.

It is no wonder then that Jesus, seeing the inhuman treatment
meted out to “sinners” made it distinct and clear that He has
come to seek out the lost sheep of the house of Israel and in
reaching out to them, Jesus teaches us that it is the moral and
religious obligation of those who are strong to care for those
who are weak.

In today’s Gospel story of the bad and unfaithful steward who
squandered his master’s wealth, Jesus does not in any way exalt
deceit or praise the servant’s bad behavior. However, Jesus did
recognize the astuteness of the bad steward. Bad though the
steward may be in the eyes of his master, yet, he was able to
use what he has to get what he needs – friends who will be
willing to take good care of him whenever he finds himself
unemployed.

Using the steward’s ingenuity, Jesus asks that if a bad steward
is able to make friends with what he has, why is it that the children
of God, given all the many graces that abound in their
lives, do not cease the opportunities of these graces to secure
the eternal salvation of their souls?

Yes, Jesus is the friend of sinners but Jesus does not befriend a
sinner to encourage him to remain in sin. By befriending a sinner,
Jesus empowers him to become emancipated into the community
of the faithful. Jesus does not in any way make light of
the consequences of sin because no matter how one sees it, sin
has the power to enslave us and disable us from achieving our
mission in life.

Paraphrasing a Facebook posting I once read "Sin (bad habit) is
like a flat tire, you can never get to your destination unless you
change it."

We are all sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy. However,
we are still endowed with enough graces to be of help to others.
Whatever we can do to help a sinner to change from his evil
ways or to improve their lots, becomes praiseworthy and acceptable
in the eyes of God. If worldly people like the bad
steward could be smart enough to gain favors with money, the
children of God ought to even do better.

Jesus reminds us today that the obligation to abhor sin also
binds us to love the sinner because human beings are not always
wicked but weak. The weak do not need further rejection
or contempt from others since the weight of sin is heavy
enough a burden for them to carry. The weak and the wounded
need help, not rejection.

We may have what it takes to help, but only Jesus knows what
it takes to set us free from the bondage of sin and ignorance.
Hence, by helping the sinner in our midst, we identify with
Jesus who is the friend of sinners. It becomes a genuine form of
strength to care for the weak in our midst and by so doing become
the friends of Jesus.

Finally, the demand for good stewardship obligates us to invest
our time, talent and energy towards the promotion of the common
good. The unjustly structured society in which we live
continues to divide and label the children of God as good and
bad, black and white, saints and sinners, democrats and republicans,
rich and poor, but we should never lose sight of the fact
that first and foremost we are the children of God called to use
the blessings that abound in the world to promote peace, justice
and the integrity of all sentient beings.






From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 11, 2016

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

The Prodigal Son and the Merciful Father

When I was in South Africa, a fine Dutchman came into my
service, and God laid His hand on him and convicted him of
sin. The next morning he went to the beautiful home of another
Dutchman and said to him, "Do you recognize that old watch?"

"Why, yes," answered the other. "Those are my initials; that
is my watch. I lost it eight years ago. How did you get it, and
how long have you had it?"
"I stole it," was the reply.
"What made you bring it back now?"
"I was converted last night," was the answer, "and I have
brought it back first thing this morning" (The Bible Friend).

The story of the prodigal son is the paradigm of authentic repentance.
It could be divided into three parts:

The first part takes place when the boy lives with his father . He
enjoys all the protection and peace of mind that comes from the
family, but it does not satisfy him. He wants more. Now, there
is nothing wrong in wanting more, but going about it the right
way is important: “… Give me the share of the property that
should come to me” – According to Jewish tradition, it is customary
for a father to abdicate his wealth before his death
(1Kgs 1 – 2; Sir 33: 19-23). The elder son gets two-thirds of his
wealth while the younger gets 0ne-third (Deut 21: 17)

The second part happens when the boy leaves, enjoying the
unrestrained freedom that comes from being away, but also
facing the cost and moral responsibility of independence.
Unrestrained freedom goes with a frivolous lifestyle – the
Greek word used here speaks of unrestrained sensuality and
spendthrift extravagance. It was his elder brother who recaptured
this more precisely in verse 30.

The consequence of unrestrained freedom brought him so low
that he longed to eat the food of the pigs, though no one gave
him any. Considering the Jewish disgust of pigs, we see how
lack of moral responsibility could bring one to a new low level
and how sin destroys human dignity (Lev 11:7).

The third part is when the boy returns home. The prodigal son
shows there is still an element of his father’s blood running in
his veins. He says “I will return to my father...” He wishes his
father employs him as a hired servant – the lowest rank of all.

The Jewish people had three kinds of servants: The bondmen
who in theory were slaves but who, in fact, had certain rights
and were almost part of the family (Exodus 21: 2-6; Lev 25: 39-
47); The Servants – these were subordinates of the bondmen.
Their life was harder but they were also regarded, as it were, to
be some part of the family. Finally, the hired servants were the
lowest of all. They were hired by the day. Yet, they could be
dismissed at any moment and without prior warning. They often
lived on the verge of complete destitution.

The most significant part of the son’s experience is that he never
gets the chance to make his request. Before he could say it,
his father saw him from afar and gave his orders (Lk 15:21)
Each of the things mentioned by the father in Lk 15:22 has its
significance – Robe is a symbol of honor. It is to honor him
that he could return home. Ring – Mastery of the household; no
longer a slave. Shoes – stand for the status of a son because
slaves walk barefoot.

From the story of the prodigal son, we get a clearer picture of
God, His attitude, and who we are called to become.
God seeks for & loves the sinner. God wants him to come
home – this is very difficult for a Jew to accept because to them
God loves the righteous and detests sinners. On the other hand,
Jesus talks about the joys that abound when a sinner repents—
Shepherd searches for sheep, woman looks for lost coin, God
seeks/searches for the sinner, etc.

The prodigal father presents a new image of God as king. Any
other king would destroy the disobedient, while this father cannot
reject even his most stubborn child. This is probably why
Jesus called God “Father” and not just a first cause, absolute
force, or divine energy. The essence of a father is that he needs
another. He finds fellowship in the love of the family. God
loves each one of us as if we were the only beings to be loved.
As M. Cocoris puts it: the sure test of the quality of any supposed
change of heart will be found in its permanent effects.

'By their fruits you shall know them' is as applicable to the right
method of judging ourselves as of judging others. Whatever,
therefore, may have been our inward experience, whatever joy
or sorrow we may have felt, unless we bring forth fruits that
meet for repentance, our experience will profit us nothing.

Repentance is incomplete unless it leads to confession and restitution
in cases of injury; unless it causes us to forsake not
merely outward sins, which others notice, but those which lie
concealed in the heart; unless it makes us choose the service of
God and live not for ourselves but for Him. There is no duty
which is either more obvious in itself, or more frequently asserted
in the Word of God, than that of repentance.

Oswald Chambers once said, “The danger is to put the emphasis
on the effect instead of on the cause. Is it my obedience that
puts me right with God? Never! I am put right with God because
prior to all else, Christ died.

When we turn to God and by belief accept what God reveals,
instantly the stupendous atonement of Jesus Christ rushes us
into a right relationship with God. By the miracle of God's
grace we stand justified, not because of anything we have done,
but because of what Jesus has done. The salvation of God does
not stand on human logic; it stands on the sacrificial death of
Jesus. Sinful men and women can be changed into new creatures
by the marvelous work of God in Christ Jesus, which is
prior to all experience.”






From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 4, 2016

23th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

The Radical Nature of Discipleship

Once upon a time there was a good little boy named Jason. He
always obeyed his parents, no matter how absurd and unreasonable
their demands were. He listened to his teachers in school
and he always did his homework. He was nice to his friends
and never was late at family prayers. Jason would not lie, even
when his sober judgment told him it was the most profitable
thing to do. Because of the simplicity of his life, none of the
other boys could ever make Jason out; he acted so strangely.

He wouldn't steal, no matter how convenient it was. He just
said it was wrong to take anything without permission. Jason
was good, handsome and intelligent. He always said the right
thing and he was so honest that he was simply ridiculous. The
simple but curious ways that Jason had, surpassed everything
and makes him a joy to behold and be proud of.

But somehow, nothing ever went right with Jason; nothing ever
turned out well with him the way it turned out with the other
boys in school. The bad boys always had a good time, had more
friends and were more popular. This made Jason to cling to his
father as his best friend and confidant.

It happened that one day as Jason was playing with his father at
a nearby public park; he decided to jump down from the branch
of a tree, hoping that his father would reach out to catch him.
His father did not catch him. Jason fell and dislocated his ankle
and while in pain and feeling betrayed by his own father,
looked up to his father and asked "daddy, why did you do this
to me?" His father's response was "do not trust anyone."

You may begin to imagine how a four year old could grow up
to become a responsible person without trusting even his own
parents. Yes, Jason’s father knows and understands the need for
trust, yet, he said what he said to make Jason see the true nature
of the world in which we live.

Be it in the case of M. L. King's "dream," Obama's "yes we
can," Trump’s “make America great again,” Hilary’s “stronger
together” or Jesus call for us to "hate father and mother, brothers
and sisters ...," revolutionaries often use words whose meanings
go beyond space and time in order to bring out “the radical
urgency of the now” in their message or the movement.

Jesus preached to a Jewish audience whose major claim to salvation
is because they are the descendants of Abraham, thus
making blood relationships the fundamental ground for salvation.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus disagrees with that belief.

Since the Jews strongly regard love for family and fellow Jews
as the foundation of the Jewish commonwealth, by saying “if
anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife
and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he
cannot be my disciple” Jesus destroys the basic foundation upon
which the Jewish claim to being a “chosen people” is built.

It is a no-brainer that the Jesus obeyed the 4th commandment to
honor father and mother. Jesus asks us to "love our enemies
and pray for those who hate us" or the Jesus who said that
"everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer and you
know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" and
again "anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen
cannot love God whom he has not seen" cannot make "hate"
the sufficient ground of discipleship.

The point Jesus is making is that the fundamental ground for
salvation consists, not in birth or blood relationship but in one's
acceptance of the word of God preached by Jesus, who is the
way, the truth and the life. In the Jesus Movement, faith in God
and the practice of love in all its dimensions is the only parameter
for measuring one's position in the presence of God.

To “hate” in the context used by Jesus does not mean to dislike
or treat with disdain but to “love less.” Hate evokes a negative
energy which has no place in the life of a disciple of Christ. By
using the word "Hate" Jesus tries to bring out the radical and
sacrificial nature of discipleship.

Discipleship is not business as usual. In the old dispensation,
the Jews complained about the demands of the Torah, but Jesus
in His message to us today makes it clear that in this new dispensation
the demands of the kingdom of God is even greater
than that of the mosaic law.

Not even an attachment to our parents or family member or life
itself should prevent us from seeking the kingdom of God and
its righteousness. For what shall it profit a person to gain the
whole world and suffer the loss of one’s soul?

In Jesus, a common playing ground is established for all. And
that common ground is love and faith in God, made visible in
the person of Jesus – the God made Human. There are no longer
excuses for being excluded from the kingdom of God since
all have an equal access to faith and love. It goes to mean that
while in this world, we may still be obligated to take good care
of our parents, brothers, sisters and even our own life itself.
However, there is a new shift of focus. Although we are obligated
to care for our parents, yet, such a care should be an extension
of God love for them and not an excuse to neglect our
responsibilities for the salvation of our souls.

To follow Jesus is a life of sacrifice and nothing, not even our
most treasured possessions like family, pleasure and even one's
own life should be allowed to become an obstacle in our relationship
with Jesus. We may not go through life hating and
distrusting others, but, we need to know that only God is trustworthy.
Faith or good relationship with God should come first
before our relationship with others. This is to say that our love
for others should become an extension of our love for Jesus and
the kingdom of God.





From Bulletin of AUGUST 28, 2016

22th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

How many will be saved?

Lola the Whale was big - very big - , and lonely - very lonely.
For years she had wanted nothing to do with anyone, and she
had become sadder and sadder. Whenever anyone tried to get
close to her and cheer her up, Lola would move off. Many
thought that she was the most unpleasant whale in the world,
and they started ignoring her. They did so, despite the fact that
old Turga, a hundred year-old sea turtle, told them that Lola
had always been a good, kind whale.

One day, Dido, a young dolphin, heard the whole story, and
decided to secretly follow the whale. She found that Lola behaved
strangely. The whale would beat her mouth against the
rocks, endanger herself by swimming between the biggest
waves and the coast, and go to the seafloor and eat sand. No
one knew it, but Lola had terribly bad breath because a little
fish had got trapped in a corner of her mouth.

This problem embarrassed Lola so much that she didn't dare to
speak to anyone. When Dido realized this, she offered to help,
but Lola didn't want to bother her with her bad breath. Nor did
she want anyone to find out. "I don't want them to think I have
bad breath," said Lola. "Is that why you've spent so much time
away from everyone?" answered Dido, unable to believe it.
"They don't think you've got bad breath, they think you're unpleasant,
boring, and ungrateful, and that you hate everyone.
Do you think that's better?"

Lola realized that her pride - her exaggerated shyness, and not
letting anyone help - had created an even greater problem. Full
of regret, she asked Dido to remove the remains of the fish in
her mouth. When this was done, Lola began speaking to everyone
again. However, she had to make a big effort to be accepted
again by her friends. Lola decided that never again would she
fail to ask for help when she really needed it
(
http://freestoriesforkids.com/children/stories-and-tales/lola-whale).

This children’s story has a lot to teach us about humility. Humility
does not consist in thinking less of yourself but rather in
thinking of yourself less. It was not until Lola begins to humble
himself that he was open to accept the offer from Dido to help
him overcome his weakness.

Like Lola, we are all weak in many ways and need to be rescued
from sin, bondage and ignorance by the grace of God.
Hence, the wise and humble man Ben Sirach asks us to humble
ourselves before the Lord our God and we will find favor with
God.

Humility is not an innate (in-born) quality of human beings. In
the world some people may be born rich, poor, privileged,
beautiful, ugly, healthy, sick, etc, but never has it been heard
that someone was born humble. To say the least, we are born
with aggressive, competitive and dominant, if not selfish traits,
which help us to survive in the face of the challenges we encounter
in life.

Survival of the fittest and winner takes it all, which was once
thought to be the operational principles of the animal kingdom
and the primitive society is today being seen as the standard of
operation in contemporary society. Ours is a world where it is
much easier for a proud, aggressive and dominant person to
secure a good and high paying job, and hence occupy a place of
honor in the society.

It is the aggressive politicians who win their party nominations.
Their apparent success makes aggressive behaviors to look
attractive, but Jesus warns that such should not be the case in
the community of the faithful. To highlight the importance of
humility, Jesus describes Himself as One who is gentle and
humble of heart.

Using a simple etiquette lesson Jesus teaches us that humility
needs to be earned. Just like an artist wishes to achieve some
perfection in his artwork even when others do not see it, the
child of God must be conscientious of his actions in the world.

We must be careful how we conduct our affairs in the world
because our lives may be the only bible that others may be opportune
to read. It is the humble and contrite of heart who know
and have what it takes to bring souls to God and to build a
kingdom of love, justice and peace.

Humility is an attitude of the mind and heart that must be conscientiously
acquired and kept alive. Like love, humility is not
one out of many virtues. It is the heart of Christian life. Hence,
Jesus says that He is in our midst as the one who serves and
who gives His life as a ransom for many. The humble person is
the one who is always willing to use his talents for the glory of
others.

Like obedience, it is not easy to be humble in a highly competitive
world. A humble person may be misunderstood as lazy,
fearful, ignorant and lukewarm. Yet, in a truly humble heart
dwells wisdom, love, beauty, courage, character and integrity.
Humility is the foundation of Christian life and a genuine fruit
of love, because love is incompatible with pride/arrogance.

Hence, Jesus says "For everyone who exalts himself will be
humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
A humble person is a joy to behold. He is loved by God and
gracious people see in him the reflection of the beauty and
goodness of God. A humble person makes others feel loved.

His dignity and self confidence does not come from other people’s
approval. He is motivated by an inner energy which does
not diminish when shared with others. He is not threatened by
the good qualities of others.

A humble person gets things done and done well. He knows
and understands pain and would never intentionally inflict pain
on others. Instead of sitting at a corner to complain about the
proud and the arrogant, he works hard to see realized in his life
that which he expects to see in others. It becomes reasonable
then that Jesus makes humility the sine qua non condition for
entry into the kingdom of God.




From Bulletin of AUGUST 21, 2016

21th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

How many will be saved?

One beautiful spring day a red rose blossomed in a forest. The
rose turned its head and remarked, “It seems that I am the most
beautiful plant in this forest.” Then the rose looked at a cactus
and said, “Look at that ugly plant full of thorns!”

The pine tree said, “Red rose, what kind of talk is this? Who
can say what beauty is? You have thorns too.”

The proud red rose looked angrily at the pine and said, “I
thought you had good taste! You do not know what beauty is at
all. You cannot compare my thorns to that of the cactus.”
“What a proud flower”, said the trees. The rose tried to move its
roots away from the cactus, but it could not move. As the days
passed by, the red rose would look at the cactus and say insulting
things, like: This plant is useless? How sorry I am to be his
neighbor.

The cactus never got upset and it even tried to advise the rose,
saying, “God did not create any form of life without a purpose.”
Spring passed, and the weather became very warm. Life became
difficult in the forest, as the plants and animals needed
water and no rain fell. The red rose began to wilt. The pine tree
explained that the birds got water from the cactus.

“Does it not hurt when they make holes?” asked the rose. “Yes,
but the cactus does not like to see any bird suffer,” replied the
pine. The red rose felt too ashamed of its past words
and behavior to ask for water from the cactus, but then it finally
did ask the cactus for help.

During the time of Jesus, the Jews were like the rose flower
while the Gentiles were like the cactus. In and through Abraham,
the Jews were called and chosen to become a people who
are precious in the eyes of God. Like the rose flower, life was
made beautiful for the Jews. Unfortunately the special status the
Jews enjoyed over others got into their head and like the rose
they began to look down on the cactus – the Gentiles.

Little did they know that their election was based on their obedience
to the word of God. Their refusal to remain faithful to
the terms of the covenant made them to lose the beauty and
flavor of being called God’s chosen people. Even after losing
their election as God’s elect due to their disobedience and refusal
to accept Jesus as Lord and savior, the Jews continued to
cling to their election as a birthright that can never be taken
away from them.

The Jews were not fully satisfied knowing that they are special
in God's eyes. Their election will be more valuable in their own
eyes if it comes at the expense of the gentiles. Hence, the Jews
derive more joy in looking down on the gentiles whom they
consider as outsiders in the history of salvation.

By asking if “only a few people will be saved” the Jews want to
know if there is the possibility that they Gentiles too will be
admitted into the kingdom of God. Ordinarily the Jews wouldn’t
like that. However, by saying that “some who are last will
be first and the first will be last” Jesus tells us that being admitted
into the kingdom is not guaranteed by birthright. It is the
sole priority of God and only the grace of God can take us to
heaven.

Like the Jews, it is good and noble to feel special knowing that
we are loved by God. We are found valuable enough for Jesus
to die on the cross for our salvation. However, whenever our
desire for approval and the awareness of our special status
makes us to look down on others, then it becomes unwholesome,
dishonorable and a disservice to God. And this is the
problem of the Jewish people in today’s Gospel.

Jesus seizes the opportunity of today’s Gospel question “only a
few people will be saved?” to remind us that we are blessed to
become a blessing to others, but our blessing becomes a burden
whenever it leads to division and abuse of others.

Both the rose and the cactus are beautiful in different ways and
for different reasons. Like the rose and the cactus, there is a
purpose for which each of us is created in this world. The rose
cannot replace the cactus and the cactus cannot replace the
rose. You are who you are and I am who I am.

Being first or last are mere human categories of classification.
Numbers do not count before God. What matters is not 'how
many that will be saved' but 'if you are making effort' to enter
the kingdom of God. No one has a birthright to enter the kingdom
of God. The only thing that could guarantee us entry into
the kingdom of God is faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and
Savior.

God is a pure being. His 'categories' are different from human
categories. All it takes to please God is to faithfully "strive to
enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you will attempt
to enter but will not be strong enough." What matters, then, is
not whether we are born with a golden spoon in our mouth, but
the quality of the effort we are making in order to live for God.

It goes to mean that no human effort will go unnoticed and unrewarded
by the God who sees what is done in secret. Being
“special” in the eyes of God does not imply that others are not
special. All it means is that God has chosen you for a special
purpose and it is by remaining faithful to your calling that you
will be glorified by the God from whom every good thing
comes.

We are all blessed and are special in the eyes of God. As spiritual
beings we are immortal, but one could be immortal and
still go to hell. Eternal life is a gift that only God can give. And
the criterion for receiving this precious gift of eternal life
comes from the use we make of our blessings, which is reflected
in the quality of our faith in God and our service to our fellow
human beings.




From Bulletin of AUGUST 14, 2016

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“The Transformational Power of God’s Love”

Today’s most heartwarming story is brought to you from a
beach in Brazil. It’s the story of a penguin who swims 5000
miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.

Retired bricklayer and part time fisherman Joao Perei de Souza,
seventy-one, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de
Janeiro, found the tiny penguin, covered in oil and close to
death in 2011. Joao cleaned the penguin’s feathers and fed him
a daily diet of fish to build his strength. He named him Dindim.

After a week, he tried to release the penguin back into the sea,
but the bird wouldn’t leave. ‘He stayed with me for eleven
months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers,
he disappeared,’ Joao recalls. A few months later, Dindim
was back. He spotted the fisherman and followed him home.

For the past five years, Dindim has spent eight months of the
year with Joao and is believed to spend the rest of the time
breeding off the coast of Chile. It’s thought he swims up to five
thousand miles each year to see the man who saved his life.

“I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin
loves me,” Joao said. “No one else is allowed to touch
him. He pecks them if they do. He lies on my lap, lets me give
him showers, allows me to feed him sardines and pick him up.
Everyone said he wouldn’t return but he has been coming back
to visit me for the past four years. He arrives in June and leaves
to go home in February and every year he becomes more affectionate
as he appears even happier to see me.”

Dindim believes the fisherman is also a penguin.

Biologist Prof. Krajewski told The Independent ‘I have never
seen anything like this before. I think the penguin believes Joao
is part of his family and probably a penguin as well. ‘When he
sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.
And, just like that, the world seems a kinder place again.

What we see play out here is the transformational power of
love. Love is so strong and radical that it could transform a penguin
to live beyond its ordinary powers. This is the type of love
that the world has never seen and can never give.

Jesus said “I have come to set the earth on fire.” Violent though
this message may sound, it is a message of love and commitment
to God. Fire is the symbol of purification and transformation.
On Pentecost day the Holy Spirit landed in tongues of
fire on the disciples of Jesus empowering them to do great
things for God. It is the experience of the same fire of love that
transformed the Penguin into a member of a human household.

St. Anthony Claret, in his own charismatic way captures the
true meaning of “setting the earth on fire” in his definition of a
son of the Heart of Mary as one “on fire with God’s love, nothing
daunts him, he delights in privation …” Impelled by the fire
of God’s love, Claret was able to confront and destroy the unjust
structures which dehumanized humanity in his days.

Robert F. Kennedy once said "each time a man stands up for an
ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against
injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing
each other from a million different centers of energy and daring,
those ripples build a current that can sweep down the
mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

The word of God is a word of peace, yet, it brings division because
its primary aim is the purification of the human heart.
Aflame with the fire of God’s love, we become agents of
change in the world. Hence, St. Augustine says “if you want
peace, prepare for war.”

Being on fire with God’s love sets one against all the unjust
structures that support and promote unjust interests. Even family
members, loved ones and the so called “good people” will
stand so strong in defense of injustice such that you may begin
to wonder if you ever knew them in the first place.

The one whose heart is on fire with God’s love prefers suffering
to the glory that comes from eating at the table of the oppressor.
Through perseverance, s/he begins to see how the word
of God could, like fire, transform the face of the earth into a
community of love. It goes to mean then, that, although the
civilization of love, which Jesus stands for, may neither come
about through destruction nor by way of war and violence, yet,
a pacifist attitude cannot bring it about. We need always to pray
for the wisdom to hold in a healthy balance the divine mandate
for peace and our social response through action.

We need to contribute positively in the world, and guided by
the word of God, exercise the divine authority to challenge injustice
wherever it exists. Working for justice and truth in an
unjust world surely brings about division, but remaining silent
in the face of injustice makes us partners in crime.

Darkness is nothing but the absence of light. Evil deeds triumph
when good people do nothing. There is a divine spark of
light in each of us, which longs to shine out through good
deeds. Good intention is not always good enough. Not even the
most honest human desire can bring about the renewal of the
face of the earth, which we long for. Like fire, Christians must
be the agent of purification and transformation in the world.

Violent and dramatic though today’s message of Jesus may
sound, violence is not the way to go. Christians are reminded of
the need to fight through prayer and self-sacrifice to bring
about peace on earth. It is not enough to be peace-lovers; we
need to become peace-makers. Refusal to fight the battle of
faith not only promotes injustice in the world but also puts us
on the wrong side of history.

The fight of faith, which Jesus asks us to fight today is the
courage to stand up for truth, justice and peace in the world. It
is a battle that begins right from the individual human heart,
extends to one's household and finds its fullest expression in
the positive actions that contribute to the civilization of love on
earth.






From Bulletin of AUGUST 7, 2016

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

Be Ready At All Times

Polly Day once wrote “I'm still getting round to putting the optic-
fibre Christmas tree away from last December and it's now
nearly September. As it got past the halfway mark of this year
(June) I decided I might as well leave it because (a) it's nearly
Christmas again anyway (b) I quite like the effect of the lights
(c) what's wrong with having a Christmas tree throughout the
year anyway? (d) I really can't be bothered to fiddle around
putting it in and out of the loft every year.”

For procrastinators like me, the idea of tomorrow brings a lot of
relief because why rush since there is enough time to get things
done. Hence, I see myself doing most of my assignments at the
last minute. And right after getting an assignment done, I begin
to ask myself why I could not do it earlier than now. Even after
asking the question, I still see myself a victim of the last minute
principle again and again. Although I don't like it, but why do I
have to wait for the last minute to get things done?

Procrastinators assume that projects will not take as much time
to finish as they actually will. In this frame of mind, procrastinators
cling to a false sense of security since they believe that
there is still plenty of time to complete the tasks at hand. One of
the biggest factors that contributes to procrastination is the notion
that we have to be motivated or feel inspired to work on a
task, but the reality is that if you wait until you are in a perfect
frame of mind to do certain tasks (especially undesirable ones),
you will probably find that the right time simply never comes
and the task never gets done.

However, tough though projects and homework may appear,
yet, it is possible to get it done even in the last minute. But,
when it comes to doing what it takes to enter the kingdom of
God, Jesus tells us that last minute preparation does not work.
Heaven demands the highest level of commitment, and for that
Jesus expects Christians to live with greater awareness, intensity
and vigor.

The work of the kingdom cannot afford to wait. Not only can
procrastination have a negative impact on our relationship with
God, it can also have an adverse effect on our health. Delaying
or postponing the good things we are supposed to do can harm
our social relationships. When we put things off, we place untold
burden on the people around us. We become unpredictable
and if we habitually turn in projects late or at the last minute,
people who depend on us such as our friends, family, coworkers,
and fellow students may become resentful.

Procrastination is not unconnected with self-doubt. Whenever
we are unsure of how to tackle a project or insecure in our abilities,
we might find ourselves putting it off in favor of working
on other tasks. But, the spirit we have received is not a spirit of
timidity. It is a spirit of courage which empowers us to do great
things for God.

Jesus wants God’s children to be ready at all times. Jesus says
"stand ready ... have your belts fastened and your lamps burning
ready ... like servants awaiting their master's return." The
master may be delayed in coming as to arrive at an unexpected
day and at an unknown hour. Those who are not ready shall be
assigned a place with the unfaithful where there will be weeping
and grinding of teeth.

Jesus wants God’s children to become more sensitive to the
needs of the people around them. "Non-procrastinators focus on
the task that needs to be done. They have a stronger personal
identity and are less concerned about what psychologists call
"social esteem" - how others like us - as opposed to self-esteem
which is how we feel about ourselves," says Dr. Ferrari of the
American Psychological Association.

People who are dedicated and duty conscious also tend to excel
in other areas of life including relationship, career, selfdiscipline,
persistence, and personal responsibility. They are
more attuned to the opportunities that surround them and they
arouse in themselves and in others the desire to make positive
use of their energies while it is within their limit of control.

How often have we regretted for not getting the task done on
time? A procrastinator never wins a race, receive a promotion
or change the outcome of any situation.

Christian life demands some urgency. Even if it is not because
of the uncertainty of death or the desire for heaven, our preoccupation
in life should not be to glory in what lies dimly at a
distance, but to accomplish the task at hand – “I was hungry,
you fed me.”

We all have a chance in life to be good and to do good, but
only a few have a second chance. While it is within our limit
we ought to do what is right and as soon as we can rather than
wait for the last minute. There may not always be a last minute.
By calling us to be ready at all times, Jesus neither intends to
frighten nor make us live in fear all the days of our lives. Jesus
wishes to remind us that Christian life should be lived with
some sense of urgency.

Christian life and the mandate to build the kingdom of God is
an on-going project. In the world, we can make some legitimate
claims to payments and vacations for work well done, but, not
so in Christian life. There is no point when we can say we have
done enough good to deserve the kingdom of heaven.

The civilization of love which we call “building the kingdom of
God” is a lifetime project. We should not depend on a second
chance in order to bring it about. We should rather take every
opportunity as the last chance to do the will of God and to become
the best possible in life. By so doing neither death nor the
Day of Judgment will meet us by surprise. We shall be found
ready like servants who await the coming of their Master and
we shall be blessed with the reward that is due to the faithful
servants of God.






From Bulletin of JULY 31, 2016

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

Without God, All is Vanity.

A father left 17 Camels as an asset for his three Sons. When the
Father passed away, his sons read his will. It stated that the
eldest son should get half of the 17 camels, the middle son
should be given 1/3rd of 17 camels, and the youngest son
should receive 1/9th of the 17 camels. As it is not possible to
divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9, the sons started to
fight with each other.

Soon after, they decided to go to a wise man. The wise man
listens patiently to all they have to say about the will. After
thinking through it, the wise man brings one of his camels and
adds it to the 17. That increases the total to 18 camels. Then, he
starts to read the deceased man’s will.

Half of 18 = 9. So he gives 9 camels to the eldest son.
1/3rd of 18 = 6. So he gives 6 camels to the middle son.
1/9th of 18 = 2. So he gives 2 camels to the youngest son.
Now add up: 9 + 6 + 2 = 17. This leaves one camel, which the
wise man takes back. All are happy to go back home in peace.

There is no shortage of stories regarding family feuds over the
management or distribution of wealth. In 1994, 86 year old J.
Howard Marshall II, a billionaire oilman, married former 26
year old Playboy star Anna Nicole Smith at a drive-in wedding
chapel. Marshall died the next year, setting up a showdown
between his widow and E. Pierce Marshall, who was technically
her stepson although nearly 30 years older. In the New York
socialite Brook Astor case, in 2006 Marshall’s son, Philip, filed
a lawsuit demanding his father be removed as guardian of his
104 year old Grandma Astor’s wealth. There is also the case of
Ernest and Julio Gallo wine vs Joseph Gallo cheese, etc. Sharing
family wealth among siblings is a difficult task.

I often think that I will be happy to receive a family inheritance.
My siblings are cool headed and will have no problem sharing
the wealth with me. But, wait until that happens then you will
understand who your siblings really are. Some stories about
sibling rivalry are so heartbreaking that you would be glad that
you have no fortune to share with your siblings.

It is often said that “blood is thicker than water” but life experiences
seem to suggest that “money is thicker than blood.” The
sad truth is that most wealthy families could best be described
as famous, rich and feuding. The span of disagreement could go
beyond sibling rivalry to hatred for parents and grandparents.
But, whether it is siblings cutting off grandpa or grandma from
handling family wealth, or parents and grandparents cutting off
their children as heirs, we have come to realize that money can
make a family famous but cannot buy them a happy life.

As we learn from the story above, a healthy attitude of negotiation
and problem solving is to find the 18th camel i.e. the common
ground. This 18th camel is nothing but God. It is God who
gives purpose and meaning to every situation. In God all problems
are resolved.

Jesus, in today’s Gospel parables (of the brothers who were
feuding over family inheritance and the man who built a larger
barn to store his wealth) rejects both greed and any attitude that
exalts wealth over and above God.

It is not a sin to be wealthy. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Saul, David,
Solomon, etc. were wealthy. However, their greatness did
not flow from their WEALTH but from their FAITH and their
willingness to serve God.

The bone of contention in today’s Gospel is not wealth but
greed. Greed makes the heart to exalt wealth over service.
Greed empties the heart of sacrificial love. Greed puts self
above others. One's sole desire is to accumulate more and
more. Greed makes the heart incapable of a confident trust in
God who is the source of all blessings.

Greed leads to pride which is one of the capital sins. A proud
person is neither loved by God nor by his fellow human beings.
And whenever greed mixes with pride, there is a time bomb
waiting to explode, hence the unhappiness that comes from
attachment to material things.

Jesus neither condemns wealth nor the wealthy. Wealth in itself
is good; failure to use one's wealth to serve others is certainly
bad. By making material possessions, pleasure and power our
top priority over spiritual riches, we die to the joy of giving, the
satisfaction of self-discipline and the undefiled happiness that
comes from sharing.

In his old age, the wise man Qoholeth having seen it all, was
convinced that “all is vanity.” Whenever we devote our time
and energy towards the pursuit of our selfish desires and inclinations,
death merely discloses the opportunities we have wasted
and the poverty of our hearts.

Justice demands that one gets what is one's due but, it is the
intention that motivates us, which justifies our actions. If at this
moment you are fighting with your siblings for your share of
family wealth, Jesus invites you to look up to God to give you
the 18th camel, which only God can give.

Our God is a God of justice. Any justice that is not rooted in
God is emptied of its strength, and will ultimately lead to violence.
No wonder even after going to the law court to secure
our portion of family inheritance, peace and happiness continues
to elude us.

It is good to be wealthy, and of course we are all wealthy in
different ways. We may not work hard for some of the wealth
we enjoy, but we are responsible for all we have. It is by seeing
all we have as a blessing from God that we come to experience
the peace and joy which the world cannot give. So, while it is
within your limit, be good; for a good person is the truly
wealthy person. Material wealth may diminish but goodness
grows whenever it is shared. And all who put their hope in God
shall renew their strength in Him and all they do shall prosper
here and for all eternity, Amen.







From Bulletin of JULY 21, 2016

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

The Power of Prayer

Paul Wallace wrote a story titled “Mountain-Moving Faith”
about a small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokies
who built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by
a church member. Ten days before the new church was to open,
the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking
lot was inadequate for the size of the building. Until the church
doubled the size of the parking lot, they would not be able to
use the new sanctuary. Unfortunately, the church had used every
inch of their land except for the mountain against which it
had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they
would have to move the mountain out of the back yard.

Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that
he would meet that evening with all members who had
"mountain moving faith." They would hold a prayer session
asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to
somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted
before the scheduled opening dedication service the following
week.

At the appointed time, 24 of the congregation's 300 members
assembled for prayer. They prayed for nearly three hours. At
ten o'clock the pastor said the final "Amen." "We'll open next
Sunday as scheduled," he assured everyone. "God has never let
us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time too."
The next morning, as he was working in his study room, there
came a loud knock at the pastor's door. When he said, "Come
in," a rough looking construction foreman appeared, removing
his hard hat as he entered.

"Excuse me, Reverend. I'm from Acme Construction Company
over in the next county. We're building a huge new shopping
mall over there and we need some fill dirt. Would you be willing
to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We'll
pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area
free of charge, if we can have it right away. We can't do anything
else until we get the dirt in and allow it to settle properly."
The little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally
planned and there were far more members with "mountain
moving faith" on opening Sunday than there had been the previous
week!

That’s awesome indeed … and you can say that again.

I have struggled with prayer all my life but today Jesus makes
prayer look so simple. Jesus said, when you want to pray, say:
“Our Father who art in heaven ….”

Easy though it may appear, I have sometimes started my daily
chores without making out time to say the one-minute prayer
that Jesus gives us as the pattern of all prayers. I have sometimes
gone to bed without making out time to give thanks to
God for seeing me through my daily endeavors.

In spite of my laziness, I truly believe that there is power in
prayer. On those days that I did not say the rosary or the divine
office, there was a feeling of emptiness - an incomplete happiness
which shows that something was missing in my life.

Yes, there is power in prayer ... and a tremendous power for
that matter. In the Lord's Prayer today, Jesus gives us the tool
of trade that empowers us to enter into a love-relationship with
God as did Abraham, our father in faith.

Coming to think of father, in spite of our poverty, I grew up
believing that my father was the most intelligent, powerful and
richest man on earth because he answered all my questions,
provided for my needs and protected my life from danger.

By calling God "Our Father" Jesus tells us that God is not
simply an idea. God is a person. Our God is a father whose sole
desire is for us to enter into a relationship of love and service
with Him. We are the product of a family of persons.

By calling God “Our Father,” Jesus makes of prayer an indispensable
aspect of human life. As no one can come into being
without a “father” so no one can live a meaningful life on earth
without having a prayerful relationship with God. Yes, prayer
is the key that moves mountains.

By calling God “Our Father,” Jesus is saying that prayer is not
simply one of life’s activities. Life is all about prayer – living
for God and being in a loving relationship with God. Life without
prayer is an incomplete life – a miserable life for that matter,
for there is always a vacuum that needs to be filled which
no earthly good but prayer alone can fill.

By calling God “Our Father,” Jesus implies that we are created
for eternal life. We live for and worship divine truth which no
eye can see and no mind can comprehend. It is by anchoring
our life to its true source that we come to know the purpose of
life on earth – a purpose that is not imaginary but real, personal
and concrete.

Even though a father is given, it is still within our will to love
or not to love our father. You are free to chose a relationship
with your father. It is alarming to see the number of youth who
do not have any reasonable form of relationship with their fathers.
But, those who do, come to realize that no matter how
imperfect their fathers may be, having a good relationship with
our fathers increases our joy and diminishes our sorrow.

God is God – perfect and complete. Our prayer does not add
anything to God’s being. Prayer makes us to grow in our
knowledge of ourselves because the more we come to know
God, the more we come to know the true self that gives purpose
and meaning to life.

Therefore, by calling God "Father" Jesus invites us to develop
in ourselves and to inculcate in our children the deep sense of
identity and approval, which is necessary for overcoming the
feeling of weakness that prevents us from having a healthy relationship
with God and others. Yes, prayer can move mountains
… if and only if we believe that God is “Our Father.”







From Bulletin of JULY 17, 2016

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“Mary has chosen the better part …”

Until last summer I thought being successful meant having a
prestigious job, money, and great fame. During a 10 day period
my grandpa taught me a new definition, the one God has in
mind for us. Strangely enough, he did so without saying a word.

"Now, son,” Grandpa said (he always begins a serious talk that
way), “this country is not going to collapse if something goes
wrong with this oil field. It doesn’t produce thousand barrels a
week, but, son, they hired me to be dam sure that it produces all
the oil it can. As long as the good Lord sustains my health,
that’s what I’m going to do. I expect you to do the same.”

For five days, Grandpa drilled me on every detail of what I was
to do around the oil field while he was gone on his first vacation
in 10 years. Once, near the end of my five-day learning
session, I tried to teach Grandpa a new way to figure out the oil
charts that he maintained, by using algebraic principles. He was
very impressed, but the concept totally confused him.

“Son,” he said, “your grandpa isn’t Alfred Einstein when it
comes to math. You must be pretty smart though, boy, to know
how to mix them letters and numbers to get the right answer.
They teach you that in school?”

“Yes, sir,” I answered. “But it’s Albert Einstein, Grandpa, not
Alfred.” “Well, I am not him neither.” We both laughed.

I was glad when the day came for Grandpa to leave. For the
next 10 days, I would have his house and oil field all to myself.
I figured it would be easy to fill Grandpa’s shoes; I was wrong.

The first morning after I gauged the amount of oil in the tanks, I
drove home to call in the information. Promptly at 8 am, as
instructed, I made my morning call to the main office.
“Good morning,” I said. “I am calling in Charlie Leonard’s
daily reports.” “Oh,” the female voice shot back excitedly, “you
must be Mike.” “Yes, Ma’am,” I said. “How did you know?”

“Your grandfather always talks about you, Mike. He really
loves you. To tell you the truth, I don’t know anyone your
grandfather doesn’t love. Whenever I’m feeling down, he’ll
say, “Now, Bea, God’s word says, “All things work together for
the good of them that love the Lord.” He always encourages me
to place my faith in God. I don’t know what I’d do without
him.” Grandpa never told me about that part of his job. Slowly I
was beginning to understand what he really did for a living.

That same evening, while watching television, I heard a feeble
knock on the door. Opening the door, I saw a gray haired, withered
old woman. “Who are you?” the lady’s voice cracked.
“I’m Charlie Leonard’s grandson,” I said. “I’m tending to his
job while he’s away.” “Well,” she mumbled, “I sure hope the
doctors can find out what’s wrong.”

“I am sure he’ll be fine,” I said. Her eyes started to water. “I
hope so,” she said, “he’s about all I got left.” I realized then
that my grandpa did not just spend his days fiddling around
some forgotten oil patch. He invested his time in more precious
product – people. I had already met three who had been blessed
by his investment, and as the days passed I met others.

The day Grandpa returned, I rushed to meet him. I hugged him
before he could get out of the car. “Grandpa,” I exclaimed,
“you’re the greatest man I know!” “Thank you, son,” he said,
“but I just produce oil.”

“No, Grandpa,” I answered, “you produce love, a thousand
barrels a week.” As I carried in his luggage, I dreamed of being
as successful as my grandpa. Success to me now is having a job
helping others, making friends, and having a great faith in God.

In the world, the poor serve the rich, the slave serves the master,
the weak serve the strong, but in Jesus we see a transvaluation
of values. It is the strong that serves the weak. Serving
others becomes a sign of strength, not weakness. Hence, Jesus
is in our midst as the one who serves and gives His life as a
ransom for many.

Service becomes the best expression of an inner greatness. Service
is a formal expression of a sincere faith in God. But service
loses its taste whenever those who serve begin to complain. Martha
was kind to attend to Jesus, but it was not until Martha complained
about her sister Mary that her service lost its import.

By complaining, Martha sees her role as superior to that of
Mary who was listening to the word of God. While Martha
considered food and drink as more important, Mary sees greatness
in the word of God. Ultimately, food and drink did not
bring inner peace to Martha, but the word of God did.

Why do we judge people by the work they do? God does not
judge us by the work we do. God looks at the beauty of the
human heart. We, like Martha, fail if the work we do does not
make us more loving, caring and compassionate.

Service devoid of inner peace and joy becomes nothing but
slavery. Producing oil did not bring grandpa the inner peace he
enjoyed. It was grandpa’s love for God and his fellow human
beings that transformed his work from labor to a ministry.

True service is selfless. It brings peace and joy to the one who
serves and generates the desire to do more rather than less. By
seeking for Mary's assistance, Martha expressed an inner desire to
do less. Her service becomes nothing but a mere routine, which
is a prototype of the attitude of the Pharisees.

True service ought to be founded on the word of God. Mary
chose the best by listening to His word so that her service may
be truly enriched and informed by the grace of God. Service is
honorable, but service that is solely informed by human ego
ultimately becomes a disservice. This is the trap that Jesus
wanted Martha to avoid. As we serve, let us be conscious of
whose interest we serve.







From Bulletin of JULY 10, 2016

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“What good must I do to become happy?”

I have decided to tweak this story of a man who worked in a
post office to fit my message for this Sunday. His job was to
process all mail that had illegible addresses. One day a letter
came to his desk, addressed in shaky handwriting to God. He
thought, “I better open this one and see what it’s all about.” So
he opened it and it read: “Dear God, I am an 83 year old widow
living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my
purse. It had a hundred dollars in it which was all the money I
had until my next pension check.”

“Next Sunday is my birthday, and I had invited my last two
friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to
buy food with.” “I have no family to turn to, and you are my
only hope. Can you please help me?” The postal worker was
touched, and went around showing the letter to all the others.
Each postal worker dug into his or her wallet and came up with
a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected
100 dollars, which he puts into an envelope and sent over to
her.

You’ve probably felt the joy that comes from doing a good
deed to others. Yes, the rest of the day, all the workers felt a
warm glow thinking of the nice thing they had done. The birthday
came and went, and a few days later came another letter
from the old lady to God. All the workers gathered around
while the letter was opened. It read, “Dear God, How can I ever
thank you enough for what you did for me?” “Because of your
generosity, I was able to fix a lovely dinner for my friends. We
had a very nice day, and I told my friends of your wonderful
gift.”

What good must I do to inherit eternal life?” is a fundamental
question every child of God must ask at one time or the other
in life. In the action of the postal workers, we see how a
simple act of charity could bring us and others closer to the
kingdom of God. Yes, heaven is as near as it is far from us.
Heaven could be as near as the nose is to the eyes and it
could be as far as the galaxies are from the earth.

The scholar of the law had to question Jesus because of the
confusion that emanates from the observance of too many laws.
God gave 10 commandments but in their zeal to protect the 10
commandments, the Jews legislated another 613 more laws,
thus making it difficult for anyone to keep all the laws. Since
the Jewish belief was that salvation or prosperity comes from a
perfect observance of the law, knowing what one should do to
keep all the commandments then makes a lot sense.

In every generation, people continue to ask the same question
in different ways - as in today's gospel "what good must I do to
inherit eternal life?" or “What can I do to become happy?”
Jesus in his answer to the question reveals to us that though we
owe it to God and our self to be law abiding and successful in
life, yet, the good we do by keeping the law is incapable of
satisfying the deepest desire of the human spirit.

Jesus, in His reply takes the un-named scholar of the law from
where he was to where God wants him to be. Jesus affirms that
true happiness comes from doing the will of God. It is by doing
good to others that we do good to ourselves.

Jesus message is certainly a revolutionary message to the Jews
who did not see anything good in the gentiles (others). The
good-news is that God has put deep within us enough goodness
to create and re-create heaven in the lives of others. Instinctively
we know what we want in life and we do know what God
wants from us. We do all we do to be happy and the desire to
love and be loved is built deep within the core of our being.

The fulfillment of our desire for happiness is what motivates all
our actions and impels our quests for excellence in life. But, in
spite of all our noble efforts, history reveals that we have always
fallen short of our goal. Hence, both the rich and the poor
are still students in the school of happiness.

Jesus reveals to us today that keeping the commandments is
praiseworthy, but, it is by satisfying the genuine needs of the
poor that we come to satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts.
This is the good that liberates, emancipates and saves.

In Jesus message we see the truth of the incarnation. Jesus
brings heaven to earth and makes our relationship with others
to count. This transition from God to others is a novel idea that
cannot come ordinarily to a Jew who thinks highly of his responsibilities
to God and pays no attention to his neglect of
sinners (gentiles) whom he sees as unworthy of God’s goodness
and mercy.

The truth revealed by Jesus here further points to the interconnectedness
of life on earth. Since God is One and God is in
all, we can never realize genuine happiness on earth if there is
one human being who is suffering because of human negligence.
It is Jesus who suffers in the one who suffers for
“whatever you do to the least of my sisters and brothers, you
did it to me”(Mtt 25:40).

The fundamental question to ask today is whether genuine love
for others is still possible in the world today? It is a no brainer
that there is no shortage of goodness in the world. People may
claim to know what they want from God and what God wants
from them. The message from the story of the Good Samaritan
teaches that true happiness does not come from doing what we
ought to do but from doing what God wants us to do.







From Bulletin of JULY 03, 2016

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“Happy And Blessed Are They Who Serve Others”

Once a group of 500 people were attending a seminar on the
benefits of service; suddenly the speaker stopped and decided
to do a group activity. He started by giving each person a balloon.
Each person was then asked to write their names on it
using a marker pen. Then all the balloons were collected and
put in another room.

The 500 people were then let into the room and asked to find
the balloon which had their name written on it within 5
minutes. Everyone was frantically searching for their name,
colliding with each other, pushing around others and there was
utter chaos.

At the end of the 5 minutes no one could find their own balloon.
Then, the speaker asked each person to randomly collect a
balloon and give it to the person whose name is written on it.
Within minutes everyone had their own balloon.
The speaker then said, “This is happening in our lives. Everyone
is frantically looking for happiness all around, not knowing
where it is.”

It was Aristotle who once said that happiness is that which all
human beings seek. We do all we do in life to be happy, because
happy moments bring out the best in us and make life
healthy, wealthy and worth living.

Naturally, human beings are not wired to live and rejoice in
moments of sorrow, rejection and disappointment. This is not
something that comes easy and natural to us. Even a sadist
dreads unpleasant moments. To say the least, unpleasant moments
evoke feelings of anger, regret and vengeance in our
lives. No sane person wants to live like that because we all
want to be happy.

In our desire for happiness, it may sound paradoxical to say that
human life on earth is lived within three opposite but complimentary
stages. There is the infancy stage when things are done
for us. We totally depend on our parents and others for survival.
There is also the childhood stage when we begin to do things
for ourselves. Here we depend on ourselves for survival and
happiness. The last stage is the adult or mature stage when we
begin to do things for others.

The adult/mature stage is the time of service when we begin to
realize that our happiness and survival depends to a greater
extent on the survival and happiness of others. This is a stage of
gratitude when we begin to realize that we are who and what
we are today thanks to the sacrifice of others. But, unfortunately
most human growth stops at the childhood stage and never
gets to the adult or mature stage of service.

By heeding to the mandate of Jesus, the 72 disciples got a foretaste
of the joy that comes from serving others. The 72 disciples
rejoice because they were successful in their mission. Jesus
seizes the opportunity of that moment of temporal success
to teach them/us a fundamental truth of life. Yes, pleasant and
successful moments have the power of evoking peace and joy
in our lives, yet, true joy should not be based on passing moments
of victory but on eternal values. Children of God do not
serve for personal aggrandizement but for the greater glory of
God. Hence, God’s children should rejoice and be glad because
"your names are written in heaven."

Call it heaven, love, peace, justice, happiness, joy, etc. the tranquility
of mind and heart which Jesus promises the faithful is a
timeless, transcendental, permanent and eternal reality. Its
strength lies in the fact that it is rooted in God. It is a source of
pure, timeless and immutable joy. We can realize this state of
blessedness in our lives only when we have grown up to know
that our happiness lies in the happiness of other people. It is by
giving others their balloon that you will get your own balloon.
And in this (service) lies the purpose of human life … the pursuit
and realization of happiness.

The state of happiness or blessedness is the hope and the joy
preserved for the children of God. The truth is that our destiny
does not lie in human hands but in the immortal, unchangeable
and predestined plan of God. The joy of God’s children is predestined,
not in the sense of being unchangeable, but, in the
sense that God has set it and knows about it from time immemorial.
It does not depend on the ever-changing circumstance
of time and place. It is immortal, invisible and eternal. This is
the truth we believe in and this is the truth that shapes our life
on earth.

Service to others – giving another person her balloon becomes
the practical and public face of our belief in eternal and transcendental
values. We may experience temporal peace for serving
others, yet, the reward that comes from God is greater. People
who serve become a blessing to others. Blessings follow
them, money follows them. They rejoice in adversity since
nothing can separate them from the love of God – neither adversity
nor peril (Rom 8:38-39).

The hope of heaven is the hope that empowers those who serve
to rejoice even in the face of adversity, knowing that there is
more to the life of the children of God than human mind can
perceive (1 Cor 2:9). Focusing our energy on building our joy
on eternal values helps us to go beyond the present moment in
all its ramifications of joy and sorrow.

Heaven, thus, becomes for the children of God a force to do
good here and now. To those who serve, heaven is now. Eternal
life is now. The choices we make matter. Every choice to love
or to hate brings us closer to heaven or to hell. “I give eternal
life to those you have given me. No one can snatch them away
from me” (Jn 10:28). Belief in heaven is no longer a naiveté,
utopic or illusory idea as Karl Marx would want us to believe.
Heaven becomes a powerful force of transcendence for the
blessed who worship eternal and transcendental values.







From Bulletin of JUNE 26, 2016

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

Determination is key to success

There were two warring tribes in the Andes, one that lived
in the lowlands and the other high in the mountains. The
mountain people invaded the lowlanders one day, and as
part of their plundering of the people, they kidnapped a
baby of one of the lowlander families and took the infant
with them back up into the mountains.

The lowlanders didn’t know how to climb the mountain.
They didn’t know any of the trails that the mountain people
used, and they didn’t know where to find the mountain
people or how to track them in the steep terrain. Even so,
they sent out their best party of fighting men to climb the
mountain and bring the baby home.

The men tried first one method of climbing and then another.
They tried one trail and then another. After several
days’ effort, however, they had climbed only several hundred
feet. Feeling hopeless and helpless, the lowlander men
decided that the cause was lost, and they prepared to return
to their village below.

As they were packing their gear for the descent, they saw
the baby’s mother walking toward them. They realized
that she was coming down the mountain that they hadn’t
figured out how to climb. And then they saw that she had
the baby strapped to her back. How could that be?

One man greeted her and said, “We couldn’t climb this
mountain. How did you do this when we, the strongest and
most able men in the village, couldn’t do it?”

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “It wasn’t your baby.”
In this woman we see the depth of determination and single
mindedness of purpose which Jesus wishes to see in
those who want to become His disciples – put in another
way, those who wish to be saved.

The focus should be on the baby (salvation) and not on the
mountain (problems in life). When the focus was on the
height of the mountain and the narrow trail, even the best
mountain climbers gave up but for the woman whose focus
was on the baby, neither the height of the mountain
nor the many narrow trails could stop her from achieving
her goal.

It is easier to change from bad to good than to move from
good to better and best. This is probably because we consider
good and bad as absolutes in themselves. Naturally,
we love what is good and detest what is bad. The pressure
to move from bad to good is more forceful than the pressure
to move from the good to become the best possible in
life. Whenever the good life is the goal, people settle with
the desirable but when heaven and the salvation of our
souls becomes the ultimate goal, nothing but the best is
good enough for us.

Using three different episodes which we can all relate to,
Jesus spells out the single mindedness of purpose that is demanded
of the children of God in their desire to be saved.
Jesus says "once the hand is laid on the plough, he who
looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God."

Episode 1 – The Samaritans know very well that Jerusalem
is where all the prophets die. And “going to Jerusalem” for
Jesus means that He is going to die. These Samaritans are
comfortable with the person of Jesus as a wonder worker
who heals the sick, makes the blind to see, the lame to
walk and who, through His preaching restores hope to the
poor and the neglected; going to Jerusalem entails the end
of all these good things that come from Jesus. Hence, they
would not let Jesus move on to die in Jerusalem. But to
Jesus, going to Jerusalem is a radical step that leads to His
ultimate realization of His mission of salvation for the
world.

The struggle now is between the desire for temporal and
immediate good versus the desire to realize the permanent
and eternal good. It is between these two goods that Jesus
chose the permanent and ultimate good which consists in
doing the will of the Father.

Episode II - We may begin to wonder why Jesus refused to
accept the man who wanted to follow Him. This is because
salvation does not depend on human choice or admiration.
Salvation is God doing His thing. We may think that
we have decided to serve God, but the truth is that it is
God who calls us to serve Him. “No one takes this honor
upon oneself, unless one is called by God as Aaron
was” (Heb 5:4). No one is qualified by his or her own desire
to serve. Our dispositions can bring us closer to God but
neither does it qualify us to serve God nor does it force God
to choose us. Yes, salvation is God doing His own thing in
the way only God knows best. Only those who accept
God’s authority see God’s hand at work in their lives.

Episode III - The story becomes a little more complicated
when Jesus goes ahead to invite another person to follow
Him in spite of his attachment to his family. The man’s unwillingness
to follow Jesus is symptomatic of all who like the
Samaritans are comfortable in their state in life, hence unwilling
to accept new challenges. Moving from good to
better or from temporal to the permanent good becomes
a greater challenge to them.

Jesus says “truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat
falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain, but if
it dies, it bears much fruit” Jn 12:24. By going to Jerusalem,
therefore, Jesus refuses to allow the world to define Him
and His mission on earth. As children of God, Jesus demands
the same single mindedness of purpose in our relationship
with God. Allowing people to define us keeps us at
the level of the basic good. It is only by allowing God to
define us that we come to the realization of the ultimate
good and the greatest desire of our hearts - which is the
salvation of our souls.







From Bulletin of JUNE 19, 2016

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

The Redemptive Power of Suffering

The old Master instructed an unhappy young lady to put a
handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. “How
does it taste?” the Master asked. “Very bad” Said the lady.
The Master then asked the young lady to take another
handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in
silence to the nearby lake and when the lady swirled her
handful of salt into the lake, the old man said, “Now drink
from the lake.”

As the water dripped down the young lady’s chin, the Master
asked, “How does it taste?” “Good!” remarked the lady.
“Do you taste the salt?” asked the Master. “No,” said the
young lady.

The Master said, “The pain of life is like pure salt; no more,
no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly
the same. But the amount we taste of the ‘pain’ depends on
the container we put it into. So when you are in pain, the
only thing you can do is to enlarge your horizon - sense of
things….. “Stop being a glass. Become a lake!”

Self knowledge is the highest form of knowledge available
to mankind. When Jesus asks his apostles “who do people
think I am?” Jesus is neither in doubt of who He is, nor does
He depend on human affirmation. Jesus is rather affirming
that human knowledge alone is not good enough and this is
why the crowd did not know who Jesus is. It is the
knowledge of God that takes human knowledge from its
imperfect nature to a perfect divine nature – from a glass
cup to a lake. Peter becomes a good example of this type of
knowledge which is grounded on faith.

By professing Jesus as “the Christ of God” Peter demonstrates
that when self knowledge is transformed by faith in God it is
capable of knowing divine truth. Jesus seizes the moment to
introduce to his disciples the place of suffering in the life of a
believer. Jesus says “the Son of Man must suffer greatly and
be rejected … if anyone wants to come after me, he must
deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Come to think of it, isn’t it interesting that “suffering” is the
theme on a Sunday when the church is celebrating the Fathers’
Day! I do not like to suffer and I don't think that anyone
really likes to suffer. However, I have experienced suffering
in my life, and not just that, I have seen a lot of people
who suffered without receiving any reward for their suffering.
I have seen many fathers and mothers who suffered
to train their children, only for them to die even before their
children could get a job that would enable them to show
appreciation to their parents for their suffering and dedication
to them. Such suffering seems senseless and useless to us.
It contradicts our idea of God as a loving, caring and compassionate
Father.

On this Fathers’ Day, we remember the many sacrifices fathers
make for their children and families and the ways –
both big and small they lift children to achieve dreams beyond
their reach. So, too we remember all those who have
helped fill the void when fathers pass early or are absent:
grandfathers and uncles, brothers and cousins, teachers, pastors,
coaches, etc.

In our father’s dedication and service, we see the true
meaning of suffering that Jesus is recommending for the
children of God. Suffering for Christ's sake is the type of suffering
that has a necessary reward to it. It is a reward that is
even greater than the gravity of the suffering that leads to
it. This is the type of suffering that Jesus experienced on the
cross. When it seems that God has forgotten His only beloved
Son, it is at this time that God is not only rewarding
Jesus for being faithful but also granting the world an unmerited
favor.

Whether we see it from the point of view of salvation history
or from the point of view of our life on earth, the fact remains
that someone suffered for you to be where and what
you are today. Our present day suffering thus becomes both
a sharing in the salvation that Jesus wrought for us on the
cross and a way of contributing our quota for the civilization
of love on earth for the good of others.

When Jesus invites us to take up our cross daily to follow
Him, Jesus is not being a sadist who loves to see others suffer.
Jesus, using the language of His era, invites men and women
of all ages to expand their horizon by living a life of service
for the good of others. It is through our efforts and based on
our small contributions that the history of time will be written.

When it comes to the salvation of the world, no contribution
is too small. Experience of life in the world has taught us
that "no pain, no gain." Just like sports men and women
suffer to become the best in their fields, even though we do
not like to suffer, yet, anything that would merit heaven for
us and make life better for others, is worth suffering and
dying for.

Some parents may reap a good harvest in their children
while some do not. If you happen to be among the lucky
few, thank your God but if things did not go the way you
had expected, know that no amount of good deed will go
unrewarded either in this life or in the life to come. Jesus
may be calling you to widen your horizon from the glass
cup to the lake. Suffering for the sake of the greatest reward
that awaits God's children, which is the kingdom of
God - the reign of love, peace and justice, may after all become
the best investment anyone will ever make.






From Bulletin of JUNE 12, 2016

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“Your faith has saved You; go in Peace”

A man woke up early in order to have his morning Prayers. He
got dressed, set on his way to the Church. On his way to the
CHURCH, the man fell and his clothes got dirty. He got up,
brushed himself up, and headed home.

At home, he changed his clothes, and was, again, on his way to
the CHURCH.

On his way to the CHURCH, he fell again and at the same spot!
He, again, got up, brushed himself off and headed home. At
home he, once again, changed his clothes and was on his way to
the Church.

On his way to the CHURCH, he met a man holding a lamp. He
asked the man of his identity and the man replied ‘I saw you
fall twice on your way to the CHURCH, so I brought a lamp so
I can light your way.

The man thanked him profusely and the two went on their way
to the CHURCH. Once at the CHURCH, the first man asked
the man with the lamp to come in and offer Prayers with him.

The second man refused. The first man asked him a couple
more times and, again, the answer was the same. When asked
again why he did not wish to come in and pray.

The man with the lamp replied, ‘I’ve done my part, you go do
yours.’

The Gospel presents to us an unnamed woman who had fallen
several times and now in need of someone to help her but all
she could receive was the ridicule of the Pharisees who think
that they are the good and holy ones.

But, there comes a time in every one's life when one needs to
take a leap of faith in order to break away from the crippling
power of sin in our lives. This is exactly what we see in the life
of the un-named woman of today's Gospel who, though labeled
a harlot by those who do not know her, yet, manifested a depth
of faith which those who think they are good people could not
realize in their lives.

Here is a woman, which if properly identified, should be seen
as a victim of an unjust structure that forces her to make choices
that are neither noble nor praiseworthy. This is a woman
with a pure and sincere desire for true love. To make matters
worse, the same society that enslaves and impoverishes her,
rather than help her to realize herself would prefer to label her a
harlot, unworthy of God’s love.

This un-named woman is in fact, not a harlot in the real sense
of the term. A harlot will not have the profound courage and
conviction that this woman has. She is a seeker of truth, and she
did not hesitate to identify with it when she found one in Jesus.

The Pharisees regarded her as a harlot because she was different
from them – she was not conservative enough like themselves.
She is a woman for whom the vicissitudes and challenges
of life has transformed to think differently and act differently.
Her lifestyle may go against the normal current of her day,
yet, she did not take her eyes away from the deepest desire of
her heart.

To further demonstrate that this woman is different from the
Pharisees, we can see that while the Pharisees hate Jesus, this
woman loves Jesus. While the Pharisees are plotting to kill
Jesus, this woman did not hesitate to show compassion and
love to Jesus.

This is a woman who does not follow the crowd. She is guided
by the truth of her own conviction. To the Pharisees, Jesus is a
bad man, a law breaker but to this woman, Jesus is a good man
– the messiah.

In this woman, we see the courage and wisdom that most of us
lack – the wisdom to think and act beyond what people think of
us. We care so much about what others think of us and care less
about what God thinks of us, yet, at the end of the day what is
important is not what people think of us but what God thinks of
us. If God says it is well with your soul, so shall it be. People
are capable of preventing others from receiving and achieving
the good things of the society, not so with heavenly blessings.
No human being can prevent you from receiving blessings from
above for the hand of God is long enough to reach all.

Like the Pharisees, we may run the risk of wasting our time and
the lives of others building and defending unjust structures that
dehumanize the human person for whom Jesus gave His life on
the cross to set free from the bondage of sin and ignorance.
Imagine how many lives we could save should we be willing to
light a candle rather than curse darkness!

Like the Pharisees, those who benefit from unjust structures
will do whatever it takes to protect and defend it. They cannot
imagine life lived outside the structures. They become immune
to the adverse effect of unjust structures on others. Our defense
of structures becomes a disservice to God whenever we begin
to see those who fit into the established structures as the good
ones blessed by God and those who do not fit into it as the bad
ones rejected by God.

The power to face our own sinfulness is the power of GRACE
at work in our lives. No amount of money can buy it. The grace
of God is at work in us whenever we are willing to do our own
work and allow others to do theirs. Personal responsibility is
the key. Like the un-named woman, our lives will remain redundant
until we begin to accept the opportunities for repentance,
forgiveness and change, which God makes available to us
every day.

The Good-news we have come to learn from the woman of our
Gospel story is that CHANGE is possible. A bad person can
change to become a good person. David and the un-named
woman realized this power in their lives and today they are
considered among the greatest. God can transform our vices
into virtues, wash away our guilt and restore us to greatness.
Yes, God can make a new beginning in our lives, if and only if
we are humble enough to embrace the opportunities for change
which abound everywhere around us.






From Bulletin of JUNE 5, 2016

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“Young man, I tell you, arise”

You probably know the story of the buzzard (Any of various
North American vultures) - If you put a buzzard in a pen that is
6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite
of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is
that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run
of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not
even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small
jail with no top.

The bat - The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable
nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level
place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is
shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches
some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the
air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.

The bumblebee - A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler,
will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never
sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find
some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a
way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

PEOPLE - In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and
the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and
frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up!
That’s the answer, the escape route and the solution to any
problem! Whether the problem is in your organization, family,
social circle or personal life – Just look up.

Sorrow looks back
Worry looks around
But faith looks up … and still keeps you hooked !!!

Death is the greatest enemy of human beings. Whenever we are
faced with the reality of death, we either cry or pray. We cry
because we shall not see the person any longer to enjoy his
friendship. We also pray because of our faith in God. However,
given the reality of death in human life, parents would prefer
their children to bury them than vice versa. For the widow of
Nain to bury her only son is an expression of pain, sorrow and
despair at its climax.

I hate to recall the depth of sorrow I saw on my mother's face at
the death of our eldest brother. Yet, it is that experience that
informs and empowers me today to empathize with any bereaved
family. My initial reaction at the death of my brother
was to say "O God this woman is a widow, why let her son
die?" Why can't a good God do better than taking the life of my
brother?

At such moments, life appears meaningless, purposeless, tasteless,
and sad. But bad though my mother's situation may be at
the death of one of her 8 children, the condition of the woman
of Nain is even worse for "she was a widow whose only son
had died."

The life of a widow in a patriarchal culture in a dry desert land
whose government had neither a job opportunity for a woman
nor any social welfare system for the poor, was highly dreaded.
To become a childless widow was probably being at the lowest
ebb of human suffering. By having no son to speak for her the
widow of Nain becomes an anawim - the poorest of the poor.

In a Jewish culture where a woman's voice was not heard, being
in a situation where the only child who could speak and
offer sacrifices on behalf of the family is dead, takes taste out
of life for the widow. The unnamed widow finds herself in a
state of non-existence. Worse still is that the widow is accompanied
and surrounded by a crowd for whom the best they
could do is to bury her son.

Coming in contact with another crowd who is led by Jesus, we
see a battle between despair and hope, worry and faith, human
suffering and divine mercy. For a moment the faithless and
hopeless crowd seems to have the upper hand for they were
ready to bury the widow's son but before they know it, a faithful
crowd comes to challenge a faithless crowd to show that no
human suffering is beyond the power of God to conquer.
No wonder God allowed the widow's only son to die. Sad
though it may look, yet, it is human suffering that often provides
the ground for the manifestation of God's gracious and
unconditional love. God’s salvation is graciously and freely
given so that no one may boast of his or her good deeds.

If you, like me, have been in a situation that made you to ask,
why a good God allowed my brother/sister/wife/husband to
die? Does God rejoice in human suffering? If God is so good as
we often claim, why did He not restore our loved ones to life
since we have strong faith in God. We are called to look up to
God for there is always power from above which surpasses
human comprehension.

The story of the widow of Nain becomes a story with a happy
ending, not because God glories in human suffering but
through her God’s power is made manifest in the world. Like
the widow of Nain, God works not in our time but in God's
own time. One day God will surely raise up from the grave all
our departed brothers and sisters to a new life of glory and
bliss. All that is needed for us to rejoice like the widow of Nain
is to have faith – look up; for with God nothing is impossible.






From Bulletin of May 29, 2016

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ was introduced
to the universal church in 1264. It is the fruit of the vision
by an Augustinian nun – Juliana of Liege, who in her vision
saw a perfectly shining moon but with a hollow dark spot
on it. In her effort to find out the reason for the dark spot on the
moon, she was told that it was due to the absence of a feast in
honor of the Eucharist in the church. Hence Pope Urban IV on
September 8, 1264 introduced this feast to the universal church
to be celebrated yearly on the second Sunday after Pentecost or
better known as the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.


In spite of the beautiful history of this feast, many continue to
ask if we really need a feast in honor of the Eucharist. We will
not hesitate to say YES and this is due to the central nature of
the Eucharist in the church. It is the Eucharist that forms the
church and it was at the breaking of bread that the risen Lord
revealed himself to the community of believers, strengthening
and commissioning them to embark on the mission of evangelization
(Lk 24:30-35).


St. Paul in 1 Cor 12:27 reminds all the baptized that we are the
body of Christ and each of us is a part of it. Whenever we gather
in prayer, the body of Christ becomes visible and this divine
presence is completed by the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
– “For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with
them” (Matt 18:20).


The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word ‘eucharistia’
which means ‘thanksgiving.’ Gathering to celebrate the Eucharist
affords believers the opportunity to give a collective thanks
to God for Christ’s redemptive work and the Holy Spirit’s abiding
presence with us.


In the Gospel of John 6 on the bread of life and Matthew 28:20
on Jesus promise to be with us till the end of time, believers see
in the Eucharist a visible sign and effective means of Jesus
presence in our midst at all times. Jesus says anyone who eats
my flesh and drinks my blood abide in me and I in him/her (Jn
6:56).


In Jn 10:10 Jesus said that He has come that we may have life
and have it in abundance. The life that Jesus brings is eternal
life, which is a divine gift that only God can give. Hence, Jesus
did not hesitate to tell us “truly I say to you, unless you eat the
flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life
in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal
life and I will raise them up on the last day (Jn 6:53-54).”


Some of the Jews who first received this message doubted it
and distanced themselves from Jesus. How about you and I
today? What is our attitude towards the Eucharist? Is it that of
avoidance or one of laissez faire attitude? St. Paul warns us in 1
Cor 11:29-30 that “All who eat and drink the body and blood of
Christ in an unworthy manner … eat and drink judgment
against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and
ill, some have died.”


The Eucharist is the food that unites the world. It is the food
that reveals the unconditional love of God. We may sometimes
construe it as a sole property of an institution; it is certainly the
food of God’s children. Institutional requirements may seem to
hijack it yet believers do know that when God fed the Israelites
with manna in the desert and when Jesus fed the multitude,
God did not give them conditions. Neither the apostles had first
to confess their sins nor did they have to produce their marriage
certificates in order to partake of the Eucharist. People who
believe and desire the Lord feed on the Eucharist, reminding
them that even now God is with us.


The Eucharist ought to unite and not divide the children of
God. In the true sense of it, no one is worthy to receive the Eucharist.
Only God’s call and His love make us worthy to receive
Him in the Holy Eucharist. His mercy and love heals and
purifies us, inviting us to “take and eat.” The Eucharist is the
food of those who love the Lord and desire to grow in His love.
Partaking of the Eucharist becomes a profound expression of
faith through which we manifest our resolve to grow in holiness
and to become Jesus Christ made visible to others in the
world.


The Eucharist was established in a covenant relationship between
God and us – the new Israel (the new people of God). By
celebrating the Eucharist, we keep the covenant alive. We celebrate
who we are and who we are called to become - the priestly
people, the kingly people and God’s chosen people who reveal
God’s love in the world. This covenant which was sealed
with the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross is reenacted and
made present in the celebration of the Eucharist. It is an eternal
and everlasting covenant, irreversible and pleasing to God.


The Eucharist is the apex and summit of Christian life. It is the
highest and the best sacrifice of the church. During the celebration
of the Eucharist time ceases to exist, eternity begins and all
boundaries are broken. Only love reigns. By re-enacting this
everlasting covenant we enter into a closer and intimate bond
with God. We are not simply God’s people; we are in fact
God’s beloved sons and daughters. We are God’s family.


As long as we re-tell the story of the Eucharist, its redemptive
power remains effective in us. We celebrate what we become
and become what we celebrate. The right attitude of God’s children
towards the Eucharist should be one of deep reverence and
love.






From Bulletin of May 22, 2016

The Most Holy Trinity Sunday

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity, which simply put would
state that “God is One, God is Three” is the most complex and
difficult doctrine of the church which has always baffled the
human mind. Theologians and many spiritual writers have attempted
to synthesize and clarify the doctrine but since it is a
mystery, the more they try to explain it, the more complex and
complicated it becomes. The stories of St. Augustine’s encounter
with an angel by the shore of the sea and St. Patrick’s clover
leaf have been used to make the doctrine of the Most Holy
Trinity reasonable enough for the human mind to grasp. Yet, it
remains a fact that the logically programmed human mind is not
capable of comprehending without doubt how God could be
One and Three at the same time.

When it comes to the believability of the doctrine of the Most
Holy Trinity, what bothered the early Christian theologians and
the scholastics may not necessarily bother us today. So, rather
than continue to attempt to explain the mystery, we would be
better informed by looking at why it is not possible for the human
mind to comprehend it.

The story by a 19th century school master Edwin Abbott titled
“Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” comes to mind
here. Let’s put it this way, two ants that live in a two dimensional
world, whose minds are capable of perceiving length and
width but not height and depth, upon meeting at a narrow road,
would have only one option left for them which is either for one
ant to go back so that the other might continue with the journey
or for both to remain at a stalemate. They are capable of moving
back and forth but incapable of knowing that one ant could
go up or down, above or below for the other to pass through.
Their knowledge and decision power is limited to the perceiving
power of their minds.

This is how it is between us and God. Human power of perception
is limited to what is knowable within our four dimensional
realm such that any reality that exists above this realm becomes
a complex reality for the human mind to grasp. Humans exist in
a limited dimensional world while God exists in an unlimited
dimensional world. Things that are common-stance with God
may appear mysterious and unfathomable to humans just like
the possibility of height and depth would appear to the ants. It
is this limited nature of the human mind that makes certain realities
complex to us though not complex in themselves.

The law of non-contradiction which guides the human mind
says that “a thing cannot be one and three at the same time,”
and the law of identity, says that “a thing is what it is.” If it is
one, then it is one and not three, and if it is three then it is three
and not one. For a thing to be ONE and THREE at the same
time does not make sense to any rational person, yet, this is the
ultimate truth we celebrate today - Trinity Sunday – One God
in Three Persons.

The church calls it a mystery because the faith we profess is not
a product of reason. By teaching us that there are Three Persons
in One God, the church affirms that our God is a Trinity in Unity.
This is a truth which was revealed by scripture at the beginning
of creation when God said “Let US make man in OUR
own image and likeness.” This mystery of the Divine-Head
evades all mathematical formulae. It humbles our pride and
challenges the human mind to go beyond itself. And since the
Divine Nature is beyond human reason, it calls for an attitude
of awe and a sacred silence before the presence of God.

Our faith in God is not irrational but non-rational. Our faith is
beyond reason; hence, it may not be subjected to scientific
standards of judgment. Human reason is only conditioned by
facts. Facts are limited and subject to change. Our reasoned
conclusions are bound to change as new facts and new interpretation
of facts begin to emerge. However, reason enlightened
by faith is what elevates the human mind to a level beyond itself,
which is the level of the transcendental.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us to all truth.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, our divinely informed reason
has made us to believe that God is One, infinite in majesty, and
Three, eternal in glory.

God the Father has revealed His glory and majesty in the creation
of the world, and yet the Father did not create the world
alone hence God says "Let US make man in OUR own image
...." God the Son revealed His divinity in the redemption of
the world by dying on the cross, yet Jesus did not do His own
will but the will of the Father. It is through the love between
the Father and the Son that the Holy Spirit was sent to us to
strengthen, enlighten and guide us to the truth – the complete
truth.

The complete truth that the Holy Spirit has revealed to us
makes us to gather “in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.” We are baptized “in the name of the
Father ….” We are blessed “in the name of the Father and of
the Son ….” And we praise God by saying “glory be to the
Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”

Our faith is founded in a Trinitarian God. It is in God we live,
move and have our being. To benefit from this divinely revealed
truth, our lives must go through the process of experience,
understanding and judgment. Our choices matter, for no
one is an island unto oneself. No one can meaningfully live
alone. We are all inter-related and inter-connected. The life we
live is a sharing in the communion of the Father, the Son and
the Holy Spirit. Our choices and actions have consequences. It
is by making the best of any situation we find ourselves that we
reflect the mysterious glory of the Trinity in the world.







From Bulletin of May 15, 2016

Pentecost Sunday, Year “C”

“Receive the Holy Spirit”

There was once an Italian who decided to sell everything he
had to immigrate to the United States during the turn of the
20th century. He barely had enough money to buy a ticket to a
ship to the U.S. Because he didn’t have much money left, he
went and bought some cheese and crackers to eat during the
journey to the U.S. So every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner,
he ate his cheese and crackers.

While he was ea..ng this, everybody else was in the ship’s dining
hall. He could smell the aroma of lobster, filet mignon, cabernet
sauvignon and other delicious food. He was getting sick
and tired of eating just cheese and crackers.

On the 6th day of the journey, he went to the captain and said,
“I’ll do anything you want. I’ll do the dishes. Clean the bathroom.
Sweep the floor. Anything! Just let me have one meal in
the dining room.”

Then, the captain looking perplexed, said to him, “But sir, the
meals are included with the ticket.”

… He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy
Spirit”… (Jn 20:22)

The story of creation reveals that God breathed God’s Spirit
into human beings, setting her apart over and above everything
He created. This is the same spirit that is ignited on the
day of baptism and later reinforced on the day of confirmation
when a baptized believer is anointed and sealed with the seal
of the Holy Spirit.

God did not create us to live on cheese and cracker. God gave
us the Holy Spirit to be with us, to guide us and to live in us.
The Holy Power of the Holy Spirit is not only a part of our faith
but also an integral part of our lives for in Him we live, move
and have our being. The Holy Spirit is an integral part of being
human but like the Italian traveler we need to come to the
awareness of the immense power we have as baptized children
of God. Yes, the meals are included in the ticket. In baptism we are issued a ticket that includes the meal and it is by
living in the spirit that believers come to authentic selfrealization and are empowered to live for causes greater than themselves.

On Pentecost Day, people who were speaking different languages
due to the crisis of the building of the Tower of Babel
are once again transformed to speak one language, which is
the language of love. In the Holy Spirit is unity and without the
Holy Spirit, human life is disintegrated. It is the Holy Spirit that
unites what is divided, heals what is broken, purifies what is
defiled and makes whole again what has been ruined by human
arrogance and wickedness.

In the Holy Spirit is the power of renewal. We may look different,
live in different places, eat different types of food, work
and dress differently from each other, yet, the truth remains
that each is capable of constant self-renewal in mind, heart
and body. It is the Holy Spirit that renews and makes human
life wholesome and holy. The universal language of the Holy
Spirit therefore includes any development, idea or action that
contributes to the civilization of love on earth.

The Holy Spirit becomes the ul..mate parameter for measuring
the quality of human life on earth. We may eat the same food,
shop in the same mall, speak the same language, use the same
car and be guided by the same laws, etc. yet the children of
God are expected to live above the ordinary. By possessing the
Holy Spirit of God the children of God are set apart from the
children of this world. People led by the spirit are called to
always allow the light of Christ to shine in them, through them
and to dwell in them. In this way they are capable of living for
God even in a sinful world.

As the disciples of Jesus received the Holy Spirit, their lives
were transformed. Life was no longer business as usual for
them. Even while living in a hostile environment, they worked
hard to transform the face of the earth not by war or violence
but by speaking the language of love.

Even after more than 2000 years, our world is not different
from the world of the early Christian community. The church
today is still discriminated upon, exploited and suppressed by
the powers that be. Like the early Christians, it is by speaking
the universal language of love that Christians today could
transform and renew the face of the earth and allow the glory
of God to reign in human hearts.

The new language that will unite our politically, socially, religiously
and economically divided world may not come from
another tongue of fire from heaven. That language is already
here with us. Justice and unity happens whenever we imitate
the unique example of the Good Samaritan, feed the hungry,
clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, stand for the truth,
love our neighbor, visit the prisoner, forgive others their trespasses
against us, work for peace, etc. No matter the language
with which these noble and good deeds are done people everywhere
understand and appreciate it.

The great commission to evangelize the world remains a mandate
for children of God in every age, place and time. Love is the language
of the Holy Spirit and this is the language all baptized children
of God are called upon today to embrace. It is a no brainer
that acts of kindness and mercy destroy divisions and build bridges
between people. Our simple gestures of peace and forgiveness
reduce hostility and forge bonds of unity among peoples and nations.
Rather than wait for tongues of fire from heaven to fall upon
us on this Pentecost day, let us rather reach out in love to all, for
only those who speak the language of love are indeed the children
of God and the true Pentecost people.






From Bulletin of May 8, 2016

The Ascension of the Lord, Year “C”

Jesus Ascends into Heaven

It is quite interesting that in this scientific age of ours which
regards faith in God as a form of naiveté, the story of people
who claim to have died and gone up to heaven is becoming a
common phenomenon. Such stories have given birth to best
sellers in movies, books, paintings, songs, etc. You may have
already heard of Colton Burpo, who has one of the most popular
stories of 2014 about going up to heaven. His story was detailed
in the 2014 hit film “Heaven Is For Real,” which shows
Burpo's struggle with sickness, battle with life and death, and to
crown it all, an awesome experience of heaven.

Among other things which made the story of Burpo to sound
convincing is the extraordinary knowledge he gained while in
heaven. Finding himself in the presence of God in heaven, Burpo
spoke to Jesus and learned about his sister who died before
he could meet her. Even now at the age of 16 the little boy Burpo
still tells his story, and still believes he went to heaven.

As if the story of Burpo is not enough, there is also the story of
Don Piper who died for 90 minutes after a head-on collision
back in 2008. Talking to Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, Piper said
he went to heaven, where he was greeted by family and friends
outside the gates. He didn’t see God or Jesus or the angels, but
he did spend time with his family members, whom, he said,
hadn’t aged. Piper said he suddenly woke up while he was going
towards the gates of heaven.

“This is a very remarkable, unique situation,” Piper told
O’Reilly. “I saw things there that I wouldn't have expected to
see if I was having a dream. I saw people there that I didn't expect
to see. There were a lot of things about my experience that
convince me in no uncertain terms that that is reality and this is
fleeting. This is passing. I can't wait to go back there. I didn't
want to come back here.”

The Holy Bible too has no shortage of the story of people who
went body and soul to heaven. Enoch and Elijah were privileged
to go up to heaven. The church also teaches that since the
corruption of the human body is the consequence of sin, the
Virgin Mary being sinless, was taken body and soul to heaven
so that where the Son is, there also will the mother be.

Today, the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel story recount
how Jesus, having accomplished the Father's will on earth, ascends
to heaven by His power as God. “As they were looking
on, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.”

While the Apostles were looking intently at the sky as Jesus
was going up, suddenly two men dressed in white garments
stood beside them and said “This Jesus who has been taken up
from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have
seen Him going into heaven.” By His Ascension, Jesus hands
over the baton to us to become witnesses of God's goodness in
the world.

Since goodness has no earthly limitation, all who excel in good
deeds are empowered to overcome the limited powers of nature.
The law of gravity says that anything that goes up must
come down. Jesus goes up and not even the power of gravity
could pull him down. Like Jesus, love and good deeds cannot
be pulled down by the forces of nature.

“What goes up must come down” is not so much scientific but
rather a generalization of any “lucky streak.” A gambler winning
at craps will eventually lose his money; the stock market
cannot continue to go up forever but will have to crash; in other
words, all good things must come to an end. We may experience
partial or temporal goodness on earth; yet, the truth is that
there is no permanent home for goodness and good people on
earth. Their home is in heaven where goodness and love reign
supreme.

Going to heaven may sound irrational to the modern mind. This
is not because heaven does not exist but because the concept of
heaven is a non-rational concept. It cannot be reduced to logical
thinking. Yet, heaven is our true home and the one experience
which all who claim to have been to heaven have in common is
that heaven is a beautiful place. It is being in a state of bliss. It
is a beatific vision in heaven - the gracious gift that only God
can give to those who believe.

Today, Jesus goes home to prepare a home for us and after He
has prepared a home for us, He will return to take us back to
the Father so that where Jesus is, there too, all good people will
be. All who nourish this hope need not live in fear but live to
welcome the Holy Spirit into their lives and open their hearts to
be schooled in God's goodness and love.

By going back to heaven Jesus restores our hope of eternal life
and reminds us that this world is not our home. Our real home
is in heaven. We came from God and we are going back to
God, but while we are still here on earth, we have a choice,
either to keep gazing at the heavens to provide the solution to
all our problems or to work hard to contribute our quota in renewing
the face of the earth.

The God who created us without our cooperation cannot save
us without our cooperation. Our annual celebration of the feast
of Ascension, therefore, becomes both the renewal of the divine
mandate to contribute our quota towards the civilization of love
in the world and a reminder that this world is not our home, we
are only passing through. We should work for our salvation
with fear and trembling. While it is within your limit, be good.





From Bulletin of May 1, 2016

6th Sunday of Easter, Year “C”

“Whoever loves me will keep my Word”

I don’t know about you, doing the will of God has never come easily to me. This is why I feel embarrassed hearing Jesus say to me today “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” I may claim to love God but the truth of the matter is that I have not always done His will at all times. Thanks to God for those who do. The prayer of a poor school kid which I heard this week has made me to believe again that it is still within my reach to do the will of God.

While praying to God, a school kid has this to say “Dear God … You know my math exam was pretty bad today, but I did not cheat-although my seat mate was bullying me for notes … You know, Dad has had a bad farming season so far this year so we don’t have much food, but I ate some bread and drank my water. Thank you for this!

I saw a poor kitten who was hungry and I know how he feels so I gave some of my bread to him… funny but I am not that hungry… Look, this is my last pair of shoes… I may have to walk barefoot next week… You see this is about to be broken… but it is okay…at least I am still able to go to school…. Some say we will have a hard season this month, and some of my classmates have had to stop going to school to help with the farms … please help them get to school again, please Jesus….

Oh, you know Dad hit me again, it is painful, but I know this pain will go away; at least I still have a Dad …. You want to see my bruises? I know you can heal them … here… here and….oh …blood. I guess you know about this one, huh? Please don’t be mad at Dad, he is just tired and worries about putting food on our table and my schooling, that is why he hits me… I will never hit others though.

Oh, I think I am in love… there’s this pretty girl in my class, her name is Anita… do you think she will like me? Anyway, at least I know you will always like me; I don’t have to be anybody just to please you… You are my very best friend!”

To say the least, there is no dull moment in this school boy’s life. Things may not go well for him but he certainly has God I his life. This is what Christian life should look like. But, unlike the little school boy, we easily give in to negativity. Hence, it is much easier to sustain the penitential spirit of lent than to sustain the joyful spirit of Easter.

However, the church’s liturgy aims at sustaining our joy in God. When we think that the spirit of Easter is fast dying, lo and behold, soon comes the celebration of two great events of our faith - the Ascension of the Lord and the Pentecost Sunday. All who celebrate these great events will agree with me that like the school boy there is no dull moment in the practice of our faith.

The forthcoming feasts of the Ascension of the Lord and the Pentecost Sunday are not simply meant to keep us in the celebration mood but to confirm our faith in God. In the original plan of God for the world, our relationship with God was not meant to be limited to the physical but to grow to perfection on the spiritual level.

By His incarnation, Jesus makes human life as lived in world to become authentic, meaningful and purposeful. Jesus, having fulfilled his mission on earth and before going back to the Father, the incarnate One takes our relationship with God to the next level which is the spiritual level. Soon Jesus will ascend to the Father, not to abandon us but to help us understand that God is Spirit and only those who live in the Spirit are the true children of God.

As sentient beings we appreciate physical relationships since it satisfies our immediate need to be loved and appreciated, but we are also called to understand that the physical is limited, incomplete, ever changing and prone to decay. The spiritual, on the other hand is universal, complete, limitless and eternal. It is by living in the spirit that our love becomes salvific.

The gift of the risen Lord is neither wealth nor power but peace. God’s peace is not an absence of “war” but the serenity, harmony and tranquility that comes from a confident trust in God. This is probably the hidden greatness that I see in the life of the school boy which has renewed my belief in the possibility of living for God in the world today.

On the spiritual level of relationship, our love, imperfect though it may be, assumes a universal and liberating character.
What happens to one happens to all; love becomes more real and more fulfilling than physical relationship. God becomes my next door neighbor. The mountain, the sea, the dog and the cat help me to see the hand of God at work in my life and in others.

When this love reigns, institutions and structures disappear. Like John, we shall “see no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty … the glory of God gives it light.” As we intensify our preparation for the celebration of these two great events of our faith - the Ascension and the Pentecost, people of faith all over the world are called upon to step up to the spiritual level of relationship with God and others. By living on the spiritual realm, like the school boy, we live not just for today but forever in the now.





From Bulletin of April 24, 2016

5th Sunday of Easter, Year “C”

“Love One Another As I Have Loved You”

Once upon a time, a very poor man lived with his wife. One day, his wife, who had very long hair asked him to buy her a comb for her hair to grow well and to be well-groomed.

The man felt very sorry and said no. He explained that he did not even have enough money to fix the strap of his watch he had just broken.

She did not insist on her request.

The man went to work and passed by a watch shop, sold his damaged watch at a low price and went to buy a comb for his wife. He came home in the evening with the comb in his hand ready to give to his wife.

He was surprised when he saw his wife with a very short haircut. She had sold her hair and was holding a new watch band. Tears flowed simultaneously from their eyes, not for the futility of their actions, but for the reciprocity of their love.

It goes to show that to love is nothing, to be loved is something but to love and be loved by the one you love; that is everything.

Human life is all about relationship. The quality of life and the moral content of our character can best be measured by the kind of the relationship we keep. No man or woman is an island. We are all interconnected and interrelated in fundamental and intrinsic ways. It is impossible for anyone to reasonably and meaningfully live alone in the world. We do need others in our lives and over and above that; we need God in our lives.

Another interesting fact of human life in the world is that although we are intrinsically and inescapably related, yet, no two things are the same. Each of us is unique. Not even twins who lived in the same womb are the same. Even when we live in the same environment, eat the same food, go to the same school, worship in the same church, etc. our perception, interpretation and reaction to the realities that surround us are still different from those of others. This goes to explain the differences we see in the choices we make in life.

On Good Friday, Jesus revealed to the world the depth of God’s love for us. Jesus neither sold his wrist watch nor cut His hair to please someone. Jesus died on the cross for the world. Dying on the cross shows that there is nothing God will not do to restore human beings to a relationship with Himself. But, our perception, interpretation and acceptance of the Passion of Jesus, remains a daunting task for each and every one of us. Human life on earth becomes an effort to transform our life experiences into an Easter story.

Our honest effort to excel in life at times creates conflicts, hence an atmosphere of competition and division among us. Such conflicts make human life in the world miserable, sad and unfulfilled. The man Jesus, being aware of this truth of human existence in the world, reminds us today that love is the only recipe for a happy and fulfilled life on earth.

Love is the key that opens the fountain of blessings and abundant life. This is because only love has what it takes to renew itself. In love, everything is made new again. Wholeness, happiness and beauty are restored and the human being is graced and empowered to realize his potentialities in an atmosphere of peace and serenity.

When Jesus says to His disciples "I give you a new commandment - love one another (as I have loved you)," Jesus knows very well that love is not a commandment in the ordinary sense of the term. Jesus, knowing that He is talking to His disciples who are well grounded in the Law, people who know very well what the Mosaic law expects of them in Deut 6:5 “To Love God with all your heart …” and in Lev 19:9 “To Love thy neighbor.”

Ordinarily, a Jew will not find this commandment problematic if it is understood to mean to love God and love a fellow Jew. But this is not what Jesus means. Such understanding of the meaning of love is fraught with bias and prejudice. The love that Jesus establishes is like the sun that shines for all and the rain that falls for all. By saying that we should love as HE has loved us, Jesus means that Christian love should neither have a boundary nor count the cost. It should be freely given to all and freely received from all.

This is Agape Love – the self-sacrificial love that made Jesus to give His life on the Cross without counting the cost. This is the type of love that Jesus calls us to embrace; hence, Jesus calls it a new commandment not because it has never been given by other spiritual masters to their disciples but because of the universal character Jesus brings to it.

More than a commandment, love is a culture. Love is a way of life. Rules and commandments should lead us to love and not vice versa. In love, rules and commandments vanish because rules are rational constructs but love is non-rational. Love is beyond reason. Love is divine. Love comes from God. Only those who have the spirit of the living God can live in love and reap the fruit of love.

Love is the best parameter for measuring the quality of human life in the world. Human life is at its best when it is lived in love and governed by love. Our love of God is inseparable from our love of our fellow human beings - to love others is to love God, and vice versa. Since love is eternal, all who live in God’s love are already on the path to eternal life. This is the gift, which God has given us in the resurrection of Jesus.





From Bulletin of April 17, 2016

4th Sunday of Easter, Year “C”

“I AM the Good Shepherd – Vocation Sunday”

One Easter Sunday morning a pastor came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, the pastor began to speak…. “I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging his bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, “What do you have there, son?”

“Just some old birds,” came the reply.

“What are you going to do with them?” I asked.

“Take ‘em home and have fun with ‘em,” he answered. I’m gonna tease ‘em and pull out their feathers to make ‘em fight. I’m gonna have a real good time.”

“But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?”

“Oh, I got some cats,” said the little boy. “They like birds. I’ll take ‘em to them.”

The pastor was silent for a moment. “How much do you want for those birds, son?”

“Huh?? !!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister. They’re just plain old field birds. They don’t sing. They ain’t even pretty!” “How much?” the pastor asked again. The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, “$10? The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy’s hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them
free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, …. In the action of the pastor, simple though it may appear, we see an embodiment of the good shepherd. Our sins put us into the hands of Satan, giving Satan the right to do with us whatever he wants but God comes to our rescue by sending Jesus to pay the ultimate price that released us from the power of Satan. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, human beings are once again reconciled with God.

Although we may still live in a world where we struggle for food to eat; marry and divorce, love, hate and abuse each other. Ours may still be an economy that promotes arms race; we may still buy guns and kill each other, promote injustice and hatred to protect our privileges. We may still smoke, drink and abuse drugs; we may still live by the principle of survival of the fittest where the poor become poorer and the rich become richer due to unjust economic structures, the truth remains that in spite of all these the resurrection of Jesus has restored hope for mankind. We now have within us the power to overcome all these unjust structures and are able to work for the civilization of love in the world (the kingdom of God).

The resurrection restores the power of the human being to return to its original and undefiled nature. Thanks to the resurrection, we can once again become good. Our annual celebration of Easter becomes a renewal of our resolve to live for God by contributing to the reign of peace, justice and love in the world.

All who share this vision are called good shepherds because their actions identify and integrate them to the life of Jesus the Good Shepherd. We may not be privileged to die for the sheep but we are certainly called to live for the sheep. Hence, living and dying are not two different things for a good shepherd but rather two sides of the same coin – “for whether we live or whether we die, we belong to God.”

Today – the Good Shepherd Sunday is also called the Vocation Sunday. We though many still share one vocation, which is to love. It means that our mission on earth is to become Good Shepherds. Some become good shepherds in their capacity as ordained ministers while others identify with it as politicians, engineers, scientists, teachers, law enforcement agents, bankers, care-givers, etc. There may not be a single profession that perfectly embodies the image of the Good Shepherd but any simple action done in good faith is all it takes to become a good shepherd.

In every generation, the image of the Good Shepherd becomes the parameter for defining the moral content of our character and the values we live for. In the primitive era, the apostles became good shepherds by preaching and witnessing to the word of God, to the extent of giving their lives for it. The medieval era dedicated their lives to printing and disseminating the word of God, making it available to the world. The modern era became good shepherds by dedicating their time, talent and treasure to studying, understanding and interpreting the word of God, thus making it possible for us to benefit from the treasures of our faith.

The image of the Good Shepherds remains the ultimate challenge of our contemporary era. What shall our era be identified with or known for in history? Thanks to God, our era has been blessed with the best means of communication and modern medicine. But, what good will it be should these fail to lead to better care and compassion for others and a good life for all? Since every blessing goes with a responsibility, our generation is now faced with the daunting task of defining our history in the light of the image of the Good Shepherd.

It does not make much sense going to the moon while we cannot reach out to our neighbor on the other side of the fence. It does not make much sense flying drones to detect the enemy coming from the sky while we neglect the poor and the homeless on our streets. Like the pastor, all it takes to become a good shepherd is a simple act of kindness and the truth of the resurrection will shine forth in our life and in the world.





From Bulletin of April 10, 2016

3rd Sunday of Easter —Year ‘C’

Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?

One day, I woke early in the morning to watch the sunrise. Ah the beauty of God’s creation is beyond description. As I watched, I praised God for His beautiful work. As I sat there, I felt the Lord’s presence with me.

He asked me, “Do you love me?” I answered, “Of course, God! You are my Lord and Savior!”

Then He asked, “If you were physically handicapped, would you still love me?” ... I was perplexed. I looked down upon my arms, legs and the rest of my body and wondered how many things I wouldn’t be able to do, the things that I took for granted. And I answered, “It would be tough Lord, but I would still love You.”

Then the Lord said, “If you were blind, would you still love my creation?” … How could I love something without being able to see it? Then I thought of all the blind people in the world and how many of them still love God and His creation. So I answered, “It’s hard to think of it, but I would still love you.”

The Lord then asked me, “If you were deaf, would you still listen to my word?” … How could I listen to anything being deaf? Then I understood. Listening to God’s Word is not merely using our ears, but our hearts. I answered, “It would be tough, but I would still listen to your word.”

The Lord then asked, “If you were mute, would you still praise My Name?” … How could I praise without a voice? Then it occurred to me: God wants us to sing from our very heart and soul. It never matters what we sound like. And praising God is not always with a song, but when we are persecuted, we give God praise with our words of thanks. So I answered, “Though I could not physically sing, I would still praise Your Name.

And the Lord asked, “Do you really love Me?”

With courage and a strong conviction, I answered boldly, “Yes Lord! I love You because You are the one and true God!”

By asking Peter, do you love me? Jesus reveals to us that our God is a God of love. He not only loves us but also wants us to love Him. There is no doubt that the apostles love Jesus, but their love was not strong enough to prevent them from returning to their former lifestyle. Since the Jesus they had believed in, did not prove to be the triumphant messiah they had hoped for; they had to go back to the sea where they belong. But, having labored the entire night, the apostles who were professional fishermen could not catch any fish. One may begin to wonder whether there was no fish in the sea. …It is not for lack of fish in the sea but for their lack of faith in God that they could not catch any fish.

At the early morning hours when it is not the right time to catch fish, the risen Lord asks them to lower their nets for a catch. Now with Jesus in their life once again, the apostles were able to catch more fish than they could ever imagine. (The belief at that time is that there are one hundred and fifty three types of fish in the sea. By catching one of each, Jesus opens their eyes to the different nations and races that will eventually make up the church).

Taking the apostles from where they are to where He wants them to be, Jesus teaches us that the power of love and not the love of power is the ingredient that sustains faith in God. The new mandate given by Jesus to impetuous Peter "If you LOVE me FEED my lamb" becomes a reminder that love is not simply an emotional state of the mind and body; it is a state of action. Christians should never lose sight of the intimate and inseparable connection between love and food. People who love each other eat together and in a world where some go to bed in an empty stomach, love has work to do.

This new mandate reveals that the risen Lord is the God of Love. The God who loves us so much as to die for us is the same God who feeds. The God who fed His chosen people in the desert is the God of the Last Supper and the God who is always present at every Eucharistic celebration where God's people gather to "eat His body and drink His blood."

The same Peter who denied Jesus three times now reaffirms his love for Jesus three times "Yes, Lord, You know I love You." Jesus, in turn reminds Peter and those who always deny Jesus by their actions that true and sincere repentance consists not in a mere verbal affirmation of beliefs but in concrete actions expressed in the feeding of the poor and the needy.

In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, faith in the resurrection is kept alive. The body of Christ which we eat at the Eucharistic table becomes both the food of everlasting life and the food that empowers us to bring life to others even now.

In celebrating and partaking of the Eucharist, the past, the present and the future is integrated into a timeless present. Eternity is now. Time ceases to exist, and it is in this timeless state that the mystery of our salvation is celebrated within a sacred space and time. Those who celebrate the Eucharist become exponentially bonded with the Divine.

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy which we are called to embrace especially during this year of mercy like feeding the poor and needy …. become ways by which we touch God and affirm here and now that we love God. We, who, like Peter have denied Jesus several times could make peace again with God by putting into practice the church’s call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and set prisoners free. This is what it means to be Easter people.





From Bulletin of April 03, 2016

2nd Sunday of Easter —Year ‘C’

Divine Mercy Sunday (St. Faustina).
Doubt not but Believe

The resurrection of Jesus is both a foundational event and a defining moment in the history of creation. Easter is not a celebration of an event but a celebration of the purpose of creation. The Mesopotamian epics which were the first attempt by humans to explain the purpose of the world, painted a picture of a world in a perpetual state of flux, lacking purpose and meaning. In the resurrection of Jesus, creation is epistemologically and radically transformed from a purposeless to a purposeful end.

The resurrection of Jesus shows that the true meaning of creation cannot be found in creation itself but in God. Creation is not by accident. Things exist in this world for a reason greater than the human eyes can see. And God reveals this meaning in His self-sacrificial love on the cross. It is this love that has become the foundational experience of all God’s children.

The first reading gives us an idea of how the early Christians, renewed and reinvigorated by the experience of the resurrection, lived their lives – with one mind and one heart (OHOM). Theirs was a community that shared both their faith and possessions in common.

Their lifestyle is a reminder that PEACE IS POSSIBLE in the world; that there is an abundance of wealth/goodness in the world. Thanks to the resurrection of Jesus. If there is justice in the distribution of earthly resources, all the inequality, imbalance and wars on earth would become a thing of the past. And the key to all these is strong faith in the risen Lord as professed by Thomas in the gospel – ‘My Lord and My God.’

The gospel reveals two faces of Thomas - As a man of doubt, which we are called to abhor and - As a man of faith, which we are called to embrace. Thomas becomes a microcosm of Christian life in the world. In each of us exists the doubt and the faith that could mar or mend us. It is easy to dismiss Thomas as the “doubting Thomas” but come to think of it, he was indeed a man of profound faith who had no illusion about reality.

Look at it this way; while the apostles were still in the Upper Room for fear of the Jews, lo and behold, Thomas was already in the world going about his business such that he was not with the other apostles when the risen Lord appeared to them where they were hiding in the Upper Room.

Thomas was not ready to sit there to mourn the crucified Jesus. He decided to move on with his life. When he returned, the other disciples told him that Jesus had appeared to them. He could not believe them because if Jesus is alive why are the apostles still hiding in the comfort of the Upper Room?

Thomas doubted not the power of God to raise Jesus from death but the credibility of the testimony of the apostles. People who have witnessed the risen Lord should not be found locked up in the Upper Room. They ought to go out to the world to spread the good news to all.

How about us? Where am I in the story of the resurrection? We say that we are Christians (the Easter people) for whom Jesus died and rose again. What impact does the resurrection make in our lives? Do we live as a priestly, kingly and God’s chosen people or do we still lock ourselves up with the secure bias in our minds, still nursing hatred, envy, jealousy etc. in our hearts?

Are we a people who believe in God and yet continue to participate in sorcery, horoscope, soothsaying and other fetish beliefs? How likely is our faith to sound convincing to others or to an unbeliever when we are still locked up in our old ways of life?

Jesus did not hide His wounds from Thomas and Thomas did not shy away from touching the wounds of Jesus. Jesus becomes the wounded healer and as soon as Thomas touched the wound, he believed. As Thomas believed, so did he profess Jesus as Lord and God. Thomas thus challenges us to believe what we say and to say what we believe.

We see the greatness of Thomas not in his doubt but in his willingness to profess his faith in God when the risen Lord appeared to him. In Thomas we see a revelation of the truth which lies hidden in Scripture – that Jesus is God (My Lord and my God). Thomas reminds us today that it is only by living out the conviction of our faith that our belief will become credible.

Our world today is full of doubting thomases because of our failure to put our faith into action. We often shy away from the wounds resulting from sin. We pretend it’s not there. Jesus did not shy away from His wounds. He showed them to Thomas and the other disciples. It is by showing our wounds, by touching
and being touched that we are healed. The human heart is healed only by the presence of another human being who understands and shares our pain and sorrow.

Jesus has seen it all and He invites us today just as he invited Thomas to come and touch his wounds. It is from His wounded heart that mercy flows to us in abundance (Divine Mercy Sunday). St. Faustina reminds us of the merciful nature of God, which He is ever ready to share with all who ask for it. We are also challenged to reflect mercy and compassion to all in the world for mercy/compassion is the public face of love and faith. It is God’s mercy that sustains us and we need to take advantage of it daily. It is by so doing that we can be healed and set free to live in the freedom of the children of God as the Easter people that we truly are.





From Bulletin of MARCH 27, 2016

Easter Sunday, Year “C”

Jesus is Alive Forever

We are the Easter people, Alleluia is our song. Jesus has risen from the dead. Human salvation is assured. Today the sadness of Good Friday has given way to the Joy the risen Lord has brought to those who believe. Jesus has paid the ultimate price for our sins and has assured us that it is paid to the full. The injustice of Good Friday has given way to the reign of God’s goodness, mercy and love. On this blessed and holy day, we celebrate not just a single event; we celebrate the full meaning of history. We celebrate a perfect integration of two mysteries - the mystery of death and the mystery of life.

The Christian story is a LOVE story that is told in many ways. How strange it will sound to ask you to join me in singing “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” on Easter Sunday! It will sound strange, not so? Yet, the Easter story is nothing but a recreation of the Christmas story.

This is neither a holiday nor a shopping season. To say the least, this is a farming season. There may not be an Easter carol on the radio and television, yet, like the birth of Jesus, today is the Day all of creation is “born again.” Today is the Day that humanity is reborn to a new life of glory, goodness and truth.

The Good News of the birth of Jesus was given to Three Wise Men and today the Good News of the resurrection is given to Three Wise Women – Mary Magdalene, the Mother of James and Salome.

Hearing the good news and being led by the star, the shepherds went to where they imagined the King might be born – at the house of Herod. Scripture revealed to them that “in Bethlehem of Judea shall come forth a savior to shepherd God’s people. Today the Women, knowing where Jesus was buried, go to look for Jesus in the tomb. On entering the tomb, the Angel said to them, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised. He is not here.”

The risen and glorified Jesus goes not to Jerusalem the Holy City but to Galilee the “sinful city.” – “Go to Galilee and you will see Jesus there.”

Jesus goes to Galilee because He died to save sinners and to restore a fallen humanity to the glory of God. What would have life been for us had Christ not died for us? Even if you had known Jesus as the messiah and fell down before His feet and dined with Him and listened to His word, Jesus had to die for
human beings to be reconciled with God.

In Jesus, we see the Divine Santa and we are the Rudolf. Like Rudolf the red nosed reindeer, our sins disfigure us and make us ugly, not appealing for anyone to look at. No one likes to play the reindeer game with us because sin has disfigured us. Jesus, the Divine Santa gives His life to restore us to the glory of God.

Our new life becomes exponential in character because our former life cannot explain the new life we now enjoy in Jesus. How glorious, how happy, how blessed indeed is the life of the one who is restored to the glory of God!

Like the Shepherds and the Women, we often seek for Jesus in the wrong places. We spend so much of our precious time and energy looking for Jesus in places and persons where we imagine Him to be (Herod’s Palace and in the Tomb). Jesus is not there.

How often have we looked for Jesus in our successes, good times, among the so called good people and people of influence, but miss seeing Jesus in our failures, bad times like poor health, disappointment, or among the unwanted and lonely people around us?

We spend thousands of dollars in search of the risen Lord at some shrines, churches and other places we consider sacred, and miss seeing Jesus who is also present at the secular places, work places, and shopping places around us.

Where is the risen Lord? To know where the risen Lord is necessitates that we should know what the message of the resurrection is. That single message is “God is love.” Anyone who lives in love lives in God and God lives in Him. God’s love is not to be found in Jerusalem. Jesus is found in the Galilees of
our world today – Jesus is among the poor, the lonely, the oppressed and the forgotten.

Look around you, there is Jesus in the beauty of nature - the mountains proclaim the glory of God, the flowers, the songs, the setting of the sun reveal the presence of God, etc.

Our celebration of the Eucharist becomes both a concrete expression of our belief in the resurrection of Jesus and our willingness to go beyond our own expectations of where the risen Lord is found. It is an invitation to see God in all things here and now.

Jesus is not dead. Jesus is alive …forever. Alleluia is our song. We do not worship a dead God. We worship a living God who is always present in us and in the world.

The great news of Easter is that we don’t have to go to Jerusalem or Rome to see the risen Lord. Jesus is here with us as we gather in His name. Look at your right and you will see Jesus, and at your left and you will see Jesus.

The Easter joy thus challenges us to go out to the Galilees of our world today to proclaim the good news of salvation by working for the civilization of love on earth. For Jesus Christ has risen from the Dead - Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.


.





From Bulletin of MARCH 20, 2016

6th Sunday of Lent, Year "C" - Palm Sunday

The Triumphal Entry and Passion of the Lord in Jerusalem

In his article on the “6 famous people who eerily predicted their own deaths” published on March 28, 2013 Stephen Milton tells of the story of Mark Twain who is “arguably one of the greatest American writers that literature has ever seen, blessed with immense wit, a sharp sense of humor, and a killer mustache. He gave us classic children's characters like Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and N-word Jim. What you might not know is that, apparently, he could also see the future -- specifically, the part where he died.

In 1909, Twain joked that the next time Halley's Comet passed close to Earth, he would "go out" with it. He didn't mean romantically: The comet had last been visible from Earth in the year Twain was born, 1835, so he claimed it would be the "greatest disappointment of my life" if it didn't also pass at the time of his death. According to Twain, God must have said, "Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together."

True, Twain was advanced in years when he said that, had some heart troubles, and was depressed about losing some family members and close friends, but he was by no means on his deathbed or expecting to go to the big steamboat in the sky anytime soon. He was writing and active in his anti-imperialism league all the way to the end.

As you might know, Halley's Comet visits us once every 76 years and is only visible from Earth for a couple of months at a time. This means that at the moment of Twain's humorous prediction, the comet was due again in the following year; and what do you know, it showed up on April 20, 1910.The next day Mark Twain died of heart attack.”

Like Twain, Jesus had earlier predicted of his death in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place where prophets die. Going to Jerusalem to fulfill that prophecy is probably the most difficult journey anyone could undertake. Yet, to Jesus the entry into Jerusalem is as gracious and triumphant as anyone could ever imagine. Does this triumphal entry into Jerusalem make dying on the cross any less painful for Jesus? I don’t think so.

Jesus goes to Jerusalem to do not His own will but to fulfill the will of the Father who sent Him. Imagine how scary that would be, not even to consider the fact that a good person will give His life for the salvation of, not just a bad people but for ungrateful people who do not even appreciate this great and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for their salvation.

The Jews certainly recognized that there is something special about Jesus, but they could not really figure it out. However, in their selfish desire for mundane greatness, they shout Hosanna to entice Jesus to bring about an earthly kingdom of power and might that will elevate the Jewish nation above all other nations.

As the Jews begin to understand what the 'Jesus Movement' is all about – that rather than exalt the greatness of the Jewish commonwealth, would instead level the playing field for both Jews and Gentiles, and make all equal before God, their language radically changes from "Hosanna" to "Ecce Homo" - behold the man, crucify Him, crucify Him.

In the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, which we celebrate on this Palm Sunday, we see the beauty of courage – the courage to confront our fears. We see also the paradox of human selfishness – that the same mouth that shouted Hosanna to the Son of David is the same mouth that is now shouting “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”

Ours is a world that longs for peace, yet goes about the destruction of the world. Whenever we gather to recall and celebrate the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus, it is not our desire that Jesus should die again on the cross of Calvary. Jesus died once and for all and will never die again. Our celebration is an anamnesis – we are making new again that unique event that reconciled the human race with God.

Although these events happened more than two thousand years ago, by this celebration we become part of that history. Since we probably know better now than the Jewish people who crucified Jesus on the Cross – we know better because we have a better picture of Jesus mission on earth. Rather than weep today, we are called to rejoice because eventually Good will triumph over Evil.

Palm Sunday becomes the joyous celebration of our determination to live for God and not for the world. It is the celebration of human courage in a world that exalts selfishness; the courage to confront our fears, and our willingness to do greater things for the good of all.

As we begin the Holy Week today, the blessed Palms we hold in our hands and keep in our homes become a reminder to people of faith at any time and place that we worship divine values and celebrate true goodness. It is while the world is seeking self -gratification that Jesus brings about the civilization of love. By celebrating the Palm Sunday, we assure ourselves and all people of goodwill that ultimately the forces of evil can never overcome the power of good.

Today, as we go about raising and waving the palms, let us critically rethink the values we promote in the world, the attitude we bring about in life, the goodness we exalt and celebrate, whether it approximates the universal character of Jesus love for us.

The palms we hold in our hands thus becomes the BATON that Jesus passes on to each and every one of us to become apostles of courage, who, even in the face of the injustice and selfishness we see in the world, are bold enough to do greater things for the good of others. People who are determined to die with Christ in order to rise with Him on Easter Sunday.


.




From Bulletin of MARCH 13, 2016

5th Sunday of Lent, Year “C”

“Neither do I condemn you.”

Michelle Cottle wrote in the November 2014 issue of Technology magazine the story of Jay’s wife, Ann, who was supposed to be out of town on business. It was a Tuesday evening in August 2013, and Jay, a 36-year-old IT manager, was at home in Indiana with their 5-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son when he made a jarring discovery. Their daughter had misplaced her iPad, so Jay used the app Find My iPhone to search for it. The app found the missing tablet right away, but it also located all the other devices on the family’s plan. What was Ann’s phone doing at a hotel five miles from their home?

His suspicions raised, Jay, who knew Ann’s passwords, read through her e-mails and Facebook messages. (Like others in this story, Jay asked that his and Ann’s names be changed.) He didn’t find anything incriminating, but neither could he imagine a good reason for Ann to be at that hotel. So Jay started using Find My iPhone for an altogether different purpose: to monitor his wife’s whereabouts.

Two nights later, when Ann said she was working late, Jay tracked her phone to the same spot. This time, he drove to the hotel, called her down to the parking lot, and demanded to know what was going on. Ann told him she was there posing for boudoir photos, with which she planned to surprise him for his upcoming birthday. She said the photographer was up in the room waiting for her.

Jay wanted to believe Ann. They’d been married for 12 years, and she had never given him cause to distrust her. So instead of demanding to meet the photographer or storming up to the room, Jay got in his car and drove home….

Jay spent a few days researching surveillance tools before buying a program called Dr. Fone, which enabled him to remotely recover text messages from Ann’s phone. Late one night, he downloaded her texts onto his work laptop. He spent the next day reading through them at the office. Turns out, his wife had become involved with a co-worker. There were thousands of text messages between them, many X rated—an excruciatingly detailed record of Ann’s betrayal laid out on Jay’s computer screen. “I could literally watch her affair progress,” Jay told me, “and that in itself was painful.”

Adultery is real. Though often mistaken as a problem of the youth, experience shows that it is a problem for both the young and the old. Hence, the story of the woman caught in adultery is a very human story that we can all relate to. Sin is real and society cannot deny it.

However, the strength of the story does not lie in the act of the adultery committed by a woman but in the mercy and forgiveness demonstrated by Jesus. Hence, even if in your lifetime, you have never committed adultery, you have probably been in a situation where you have to judge others or make decisions that could preserve or destroy life.

The Law of Moses clearly stipulates in Lev 20:10 that any woman caught in adultery deserves to die. Since the law was given by God and Jesus claims to come from God, then Jesus ought to abide by the law. Again the Pharisees wanted to show that Jesus teaching on mercy and forgiveness does not make sense since it contradicts the Mosaic Law.

Should Jesus say ‘stone her to death,’ Jesus would be accused of flip-flopping, hence lose the respect of the people and should Jesus say ‘do not stone’ an adulterous woman to death; He would be accused of disrespecting the Law and the Sanhedrin will be justified in condemning Jesus to death.

Only divine wisdom could help Jesus escape the deadly trap and hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees who readily accuse a woman of adultery while lacking the courage to confess their own sins. By so doing, the Pharisees represent the man with whom she committed adultery.

To answer their question, Jesus first remained silent and by this silence Jesus invites everyone to self-reflection. On the one hand, Jesus invites the woman to acknowledge the wrong committed, while on the other, He invites her accusers to examine their conscience.

By saying “let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” Jesus does not approve of adultery but affirms that God's love is greater than our sins. His love offers a second chance even to those who do not deserve it.

This Gospel passage clearly teaches that Christian forgiveness is not synonymous with mere tolerance, but implies something more demanding. It does not mean overlooking evil, or even worse, denying it.

God does not forgive evil but the individual. Christians ought to distinguish an evil act, which as such must be condemned, from the person who has committed it. Evil does not change but the human being is capable of change.

The world is fond of identifying the sinner with his sin, closing every door of escape. God has instead sent His Son into the world to offer everyone a second chance to salvation.

By saying “neither do I condemn you, and do not sin again” Jesus shows that adultery is a serious sin but God’s love is greater than human weakness. In whatever condition we find ourselves, we can always open ourselves to conversion and receive forgiveness for our sins.

Our Gospel story becomes a “Good News” to those who long to rediscover the true sense of mercy and forgiveness without weakening human struggle against evil in the world. Since we live in an imperfect world, we ought to be careful how we handle matters of justice and mercy in the world.

On Calvary, by the supreme sacrifice of His life, Jesus seals for every man and woman the infinite gift of God's pardon and mercy. Jesus' death on the cross becomes the fruit of love, not the consequence of sin. Love renews the face of the earth and makes everything new. Without love, justice is as good as a human body without its head. Like Jesus, let us die to sin that we may be raised to life with Him on Easter Sunday.


.





From Bulletin of MARCH 6, 2016

4th Sunday of Lent, Year “C”

“I will go back to my Father …..”

If my memory serves me right, it was during his days at the University of Southern California that Matt Leinart and the
word "winner" went hand-in-hand. In Leinart’s hey days he won the “Heisman Trophy in 2004, national championships in 2003 and 2004, NCAA QB of the Year in 2004 and 2005, etc. In 2004, it looked like Leinart could excel in any sports he dared to compete in. He was practically invincible and charming. In 2006, Leinart took his game to the NFL where he was selected by the Arizona Cardinals. Moving to the next level,
Leinart left his game in USC and swapped it for living the collegiate life. Shortly after, a photo surfaced of the quarterback being involved in some drinking games.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Leinart is a gifted and talented player but like Tiger Woods since his fall from grace, Leinart has been struggling to regain the magic he had with the Trojans. With the passing of time and the emergence of new talents, it looks like Leinart is destined for a career as a backup. To some sports pundits, if Jesse Palmer and the Hasselbeck brother can make it after the NFL, anything is possible for a gifted athlete like Leinart.

The truth is that even highly gifted and amazingly talented persons are not immune to a fall from grace. This is because no condition is permanent. A fall could be physical, psychological, spiritual, moral or emotional. We see an example of a physical fall in Jesus, who, before He could get to Golgotha fell down three times.

The prodigal son in today’s Gospel is not alone in his fall from grace. At some point in life we have made bad choices that have led to our downfall, but from the life of the prodigal son, we see that the downfall of a person is not the end of his/her life.

If you have made a choice that devastated your life, you will understand what the prodigal son is going through. If you have done something you are not proud of. Yes, you did it but it does not represent who you truly are. People call you names for it. People claim to know you and define you by that single act but that’s not the real you. Even after you have made amends for your mistakes, people do not see it. Yes, the world will not see it because the world is unfair.

Ordinarily, we think it is much easier to make wise and correct decisions when we are living in abundance, but, it is in the midst of abundance that the prodigal son made the wrong decision that led to his downfall. In a state of abundance, he took his father's goodness for granted, but surprisingly in a state of depravity he was able to realize the need to return to his father.

We see the greatness of the prodigal son not in his downfall but in his ability to rise after a fall. At the lowest ebb of his life, he realized that there is still an atom of the blood of his father still running in his veins. Hence he said "I must go back to my father ...."

And this is the power of GRACE – God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense.

We are the prodigal children of God. We can excel if we try, for whatever brings us closer to God's love is GRACEFUL. What is most important is not what befalls a person but how we handle it. I know of two parishioners who received the same bad news of being diagnosed of cancer – one became more religious and devoted the rest of her life praying and serving others at a Senior Center while the other thinking that life is no good, killed himself by drug overdose.

From the prodigal son, we see that some difficulties we encounter in life are not meant to destroy but to empower us to return to our Father's love. It is not necessarily what happens to us that destroys us but how we respond to what happens to us. Prodigal, though we may all be because of the wrong choices we have made in life; our greatness will show in our ability to return to our Father's goodness, which is always there for us.

Be sure of this, if God was able to bless the effort of the prodigal son, then, God will surely bless and approve even the smallest effort we make during this Lenten season to improve the quality of our lives. Ours is a God who creates and recreates his children whenever they repent. As St. Paul puts it, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come.” And in this lies the joy of the children of God that though the world may not forgive us because we have sinned, God readily forgives us whenever we humble ourselves and come back to Him.

Ours is a God who finds no pleasure in the death of a wicked person. God wants us to change from our evil ways and live. What then can separate us from the love of Christ? “Shall distress, or tribulation, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Nothing, despite all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loves us” (Rom 8:35-37).

The world may not forgive, but the good news is that God forgives and I am a living witness of God’s mercy. I can no longer doubt that the power of the God who rescued Moses and the Israelites from the hands of Pharaoh, Daniel from the lion’s den, David from the hands of Saul/Goliath, Elijah from the hands of Ahab and Jezebel, the woman caught in adultery from the hands of the Elders, Paul from prison, the prodigal son from slavery and Jesus from the nails of the Cross, has what it takes to lift us to glory with Jesus on Easter Sunday.


.





From Bulletin of FEBRUARY 28, 2016

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year “C”

"If you do not repent, you will perish"

It was after reading this Sunday Gospel that I remembered the answer given by Billy Graham's daughter when she was interviewed on the popular television program called the “Early Show.” When asked by Jane Clayson "How could God let something like September 11, 2001 attacks happen?" Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response to the question.

She said "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He
has calmly backed out.

How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?" In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.... the Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK. Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves. Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out….”

There is no shortage of incidents that have made us to ask, God where are you? Or to wonder why they happen – incidents like tsunami, earthquake, ebola, 9/11, mass killings, Malasia plane crash, kidnap of school children, San Bernardino terrorist attack, etc. challenge us to ask some fundamental questions about the truth of human existence in the world.

Worse still is that even with the physical presence of Jesus in the world, such atrocities still happened as evidenced by the questions posited to Jesus in the Gospel today. Prominent among them were the ruthless murder of some Galileans while they were in the middle of their Temple sacrifices and the construction accident which happened near the Temple during the building of a water aqueduct. Since the Jews neither liked the Galileans (gentiles) nor the idea of the Romans using money from Temple tax to finance the aqueduct project, the Jews had believed that those who died from such accidents were being punished by God for their sins.

The emphatic answer given by Jesus to Jews is an absolute NO. Ours is not a God of vengeance. Jesus then goes on to teach them that what really destroys a human being is not accident but our unwillingness to repent and change from our evil ways. What is devastating in the life of a child of God is not physical death but spiritual death caused by sin.

To that effect, Jesus repeated several times “unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” Using the parable of the fig tree, Jesus reminds us that we have been planted in this world to bear fruit and to bear it in a timely manner. God has clear expectations from what He created. We are not in this world by accident. We came from God and we are going back to God. At the end we shall give account of all we produced with God’s blessings given to us.

We need God in our lives. Without God we can do nothing. Excluding God from human life and policies becomes the
greatest mistake of our generation. Ours is a generation that promotes godlessness and idol worship. How could a people who deny God come to accept idol worship? Ours is a generation that promotes the political and financial careers of those who preach hatred, war, abortion, violence and other forms of human inhumanities to their fellow beings.

Every Lenten season becomes a second chance given to us – the fig trees that God has planted in the world to repent from our evil ways and live. When it comes to changing from our bad ways, there is no one who has no need for change.

The fig tree is cut down, not because of the presence of sickness but because a fruitless life is not worth living. Should we continue year by year to live lives that are fruitless in honesty, devoid of prayer and empty of good works, we become fit for nothing but to be cut down and thrown into fire.

Ultimately, what really destroy life in a human being are not accidents, sickness and tragedies but our refusal to grow in love, kindness and compassion. The more human we become, the more we see the hand of God at work not only in our lives but also in others.

The Good-news is that life is good after all. While some accidents, sickness and tragedies cannot be avoided, retrogressing to a mediocre life of sin can be avoided. The hand of God is not short and no human event can outweigh the power of God in the world. All we need to do once again is to make Jesus the center of our lives, for in Jesus; God has given us all we need to be born again and to be new again.

This season of grace becomes an opportune time for us to reform and renew our lives so as to be more loving, more caring and more compassionate.

By opening our hearts once more to Jesus, we do not necessarily make God happy because God cannot be sad. We rather make ourselves happy as we are empowered to live a purpose driven life in the world.


.





From Bulletin of FEBRUARY 21, 2016

2nd Sunday of Lent “C”

The Transfiguration of the Lord

It was on April 3, 1968 that one of the greatest preachers of our time - Martin Luther King, jr. while in Memphis Tennessee delivered his prophetic Mountaintop Message to the world. In this message MLK said “Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land....”

Just a few hours after this prophetic message, the assassin’s bullet struck and MLK breathed his last breath but that was not the end of the liberation movement for which he died. His victory is marching on ….

The mountain as a place of encounter with God has a very strong biblical foundation. The Ten Commandments was given to Moses on Mount Sinai and many other encounters between God and the prophets took place on such mountains like Horeb and Nebo. In his time of distress, Elijah went to the mountain hoping to hear the voice of God and today on the Mountain we hear the story of the divine encounter between Jesus and God the Father during which His glory was revealed to the world.

Last Sunday, Jesus after fasting and praying for 40 days and 40 nights on the Mountain (Mountain of Temptation) encountered Satan in the wilderness. On that mountain Jesus declares to the world that only God is worthy of our praise and worship.

Today Abraham is challenged to sacrifice his only son Isaac on the mountain at Moriah “There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.” It was on that mountain that the faith of Abraham shined forth.

Again on the mountain Jesus was transfigured. His glory was revealed to the world and the voice of the Father was heard from heaven saying “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”

Being surrounded by mountains here in Simi Valley we know how difficult the journey to the mountaintop could be. We know how dry and how quite removed from civilization is the mountaintop. It takes a lot of courage to get to the mountaintop. Though void of luxury, getting to the mountaintop could be an enriching experience.

The mountaintop experience becomes for both the followers of Luther and the disciples of Jesus a place of encounter with God to prepare them for the martyrdom of Luther and the scandal of the Cross.

The sudden and shameful death of Jesus on the cross, Moses on Mount Nebo, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the assassination of MLK in Harlem, etc. become not the end of the fight for human liberation but an integral part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Goodness does not die hence suffering for a good deed is something noble and praiseworthy.

The mountaintop becomes a place of empowerment for the courage to fight for the emancipation and liberation of the human being from the bondage of sin and ignorance.

During the Lenten season, the church invites us to go to the mountaintop – to leave the comfort of our homes and go to a place of nothingness.

It is on the mountain that Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus. Moses brought the Ten Commandments but Jesus brings it to completion with the commandment to love God and neighbor. Elijah was the greatest prophet in Israel but Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecies. Jesus is neither Moses nor Elijah but as the voice from heaven declares, Jesus is the beloved Son of God and all God’s children must listen to Him.

As Peter beholds the glory of God, he could not but desire to remain on the mountain but Jesus brings the apostles back to the world because the battle for human liberation is not to be fought on the mountaintop but in the world.

In a short while as bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, you and I will behold the glory of God. We will be transfigured into true and living images of God hence our call to go into the world with love to renew the face of the earth.

Having behold the glory of God, like Peter, James and John, we know and believe that God is faithful to His promise, hence the courage to face the daily problems of life. Death is no longer the ultimate story of our lives for even death will be transfigured into life when Jesus will be all in all.

Our deliverance from bondage may still be incomplete and imperfect but it has already begun. In the sacraments, we have a sure basis for hope that even here and now God is at work in our lives and in the world.

The children of God may be tested like Abraham, disappointed like Moses, suffer death like Jesus and MLK, yet, is our hope that the God who began the good work in us will bring it to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Every season of lent becomes not a repetition of past events but a recreation of a salvific event. Lent is no longer a time of suffering but an opportune time when through prayer, fasting and works of charity we allow God to use us to recreate and renew the face of the earth. Even while we struggle now “His glory is marching on ...” in us and through us.

We are blessed to be part of a story that will ultimately have a happy ending when Jesus will rise again from the tomb on Easter Sunday. God will take us into the arms of Jesus and perfectly transfigure our wretched sinful bodies into copies of His own in glory.


.






From Bulletin of FEBRUARY 14, 2016

First Sunday of Lent, Year “C”

The Temptations of Jesus

An article titled the “Poisonous Paradise” was published in National Geographic Magazine of May 2001. It tells the story of the Cueva de Villa Luz or Cave of the Lighted House which is found in Southern Mexico. As you make your way to the cave you walk through a veritable paradise of tropical birds and lush rain forest. Underwater the cave is fed by 20 underground springs, beautiful watercourses which teem with tiny fish.

The Cueva de Villa Luz is a beauty to behold. It is home to spectacular rock formations and beautiful ponds. The environment is as peaceful as it is inviting. Yet, if you dare to accept the invitation, you’ll soon be dead. This is because the Cueva
de Villa Luz is filled with poisonous gases. No one who stepped into it comes out alive.

Temptation is just like that. It presents itself to us as something inviting, attractive, and life-giving. Yet in reality it’s poisonous and toxic.
Temptation presents itself to us as something that takes away our pain and makes it possible for us to fulfill the deepest desire of our heart; yet, it makes us to miss out on the ingredient that makes our life’s achievement graceful and noble.

Temptation is not a thing but a state of the mind. It presents itself like a pot of soup, steamy and smelling good, but, when tasted one finds out that it lacks the salt and pepper that makes a soup delicious and tasteful. You will never know that the soup
is lacking salt and pepper until you have tasted it and having filled your mouth with its sour taste, life will never be the same again for you. Spitting out the tasteless soup does no one any good. At best it leaves one in utter disappointment and regret,
saying “had I known.”

However, from the temptation of Jesus, we learn that no one is immune to temptation. If Jesus could be tempted, then, the followers of Jesus should not expect anything less. Life without temptation is not a human life.

Every temptation has within it what it takes to destroy or improve human life. Overcoming temptation could raise the quality of human life to a higher level while giving in to temptation could destroy and dehumanize the person.

Temptation is not simply about doing what is bad but more about doing what appears to be good. In a world where many are hungry and go to bed with an empty stomach, changing stones into bread will not after all be a bad thing to do. In the secret of the desert, bowing to worship Satan in order to posses all the powers necessary to control the world does not appear to be the worst thing anyone could do. Jumping down from the parapet of the temple to demonstrate His power as God, does not appear to be a difficult thing to do to achieve greatness.

Being filled with power from above after spending forty days and forty nights in the desert, Jesus is able to defeat Satan at his own game. Jesus did not have to taste the soup to find out that it lacks salt and pepper.

Jesus did not do so because doing a good thing for the wrong reason short circuits the power of the grace of God in our lives. Such an achievement merely boosts the human ego and does not give honor and glory to God who is the source of all good
things.

But be not deceived, the temptations of Jesus will have a quick sale in our world today because of its emphasis on the self, not others. Ours is a world that promotes self over others. We see ourselves as the good people, others are strangers and since the stranger is strange, he has to be avoided and feared.

In a world ruled by Wall Street where the end justifies the means, the temptations of Jesus will hardly be considered abhorrent. One would rather be considered naïve to miss out on such an opportunity for instant success. Achieving greatness without working so hard for it is welcomed as smart and noble.

In a world that lives and judges by appearances, a world where actors and sportsmen and women are the highest paid professionals, the temptation which promises instant glory would
attract the best of attention, and would be highly admired and welcomed.

Unfortunately, this is not the world that Jesus has come to establish for us. Jesus finds no pleasure in human suffering; yet, it is not the will of God that human beings achieve greatness without working hard for it. Whenever we begin to care so much about self gratification, we miss out on caring for others. At the end of the day, what makes for a fulfilled life is not what we do for ourselves, but what we do for others.

This is the kingdom that Jesus has come to establish. Christians should become a people who do God’s will by using God’s means. By serving the poor and needy we put our faith in God and not force God’s hand to eliminate evil in the world. The season of Lent becomes a time when people of goodwill endeavor to see as God sees, live as God lives, and think as God thinks.

Engaging in the Lenten journey becomes a sign of gratitude that even now we still believe and greatly appreciate what Jesus did on Calvary to restore a fallen humanity to God. Engaging in the discipline of Lent becomes a sign that even now, we are loving and believing that God is at work in our lives and in the world. And by undertaking the discipline of lent, we become beneficiaries of the victory won by Jesus on the Cross of Calvary.


.






From Bulletin of FEBRUARY 7, 2016

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man”

Alexander the Great is one of the great historical figures who had a transformational experience on their death bed. It was while on his death bed that Alexander summoned his army generals to tell them his ultimate wishes. His last three wishes are that;

1. The best doctors should carry his coffin ...

2. The wealth he has accumulated (money, gold, precious stones) should be scattered along the procession to the cemetery ...

3. His hands should be let loose, so they hang outside the coffin for all to see!!

One of his generals who was surprised by these unusual requests asked Alexander to explain.

Here is what Alexander the Great had to say :

1. "I want the best doctors to carry my coffin to demonstrate that in the face of death, even the best doctors in the world have no power to heal ...."

2. "I want the road to be covered with my treasure so that everybody sees that material wealth acquired on earth, will stay on earth ...."

3. I want my hands to swing lose, so that people understand that we come to this world empty handed and we leave this world empty handed. After the most precious treasure of all is exhausted, we do not take to our grave any material wealth.

On this last Sunday before Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the church presents to us the story of Simon Peter who finds himself in the same existential situation as Alexander the Great. Unlike Alexander who arrived at his conversion after seeing the vanity in all his conquests, Peter sees the holiness of Jesus in the miraculous catch of fish.

Peter and his companion, being professional fishermen know that the right time to catch fish is at night when it is dark, but having worked hard all night without catching any fish there is no way it could be humanly possible to catch fish during daylight. His first impulse was to argue with Jesus when He asked him to cast his net to catch fish. Peter says “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing” then giving it a second thought, says “but at your command I will lower the nets.”

In Peter, we see the worst and the best of a human being. When Peter was without Jesus, his professional knowledge of fishing notwithstanding, he could not catch any fish. One may begin to wonder why Peter and his companions could not catch any fish. It is probably because they were fishing in shallow waters. It was not until Jesus asks them to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” did they begin to realize that relationship with God is not built on shallow but deep waters.

It is only after listening to the word of God and then filled with faith that Peter and his companions were able to catch a great number of fish, so much so that their nets were almost tearing, reminding us that without God we can do nothing. A person of faith can see more and do greater things for God than the best scientist in the world.

Yes, we live by faith and not by sight. Any human sight or enterprise which is not transformed by the grace of God ends in chaos, but whenever the human mind is formed and informed by the word of God, there is no limit to the good we could do in the world. Devoid of God’s grace humans build fences, not bridges. The spirit of competitions triumphs over the spirit of cooperation, division over unity and hatred over love.

As soon as Peter was filled with the grace of God, he encounters the urgency of the Now. He knelt down in shame at the feet of Jesus and said “depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In Peter we see the right attitude of those who are filled with the grace of God. Peter did not go about bragging that he is now a superman who is highly favored by God.

In the presence of the glory of the Lord, Peter recognizes his brokenness. Before the holiness of Jesus, Peter sees himself simply a man. Jesus is too high, Peter too low. Jesus is too divine and Peter, too human made of clay. In Peter, we see the main reason for which Jesus came into the world – to raise a fallen human nature and to make it divine. The glory of God is the human being fully alive.

God makes us to realize our sinfulness not to humiliate but to raise us to His divine nature and to make us co-creators and partners in the building of the kingdom of God. Thenceforth, Peter will move from fishing in the seas of this world to leading people to a life of truth, justice, mercy, holiness and peace which is ultimately the kingdom of God.

Like Peter, the more we know God, the more we realize how sinful we are as human beings. And like Peter, the best response to such awareness is not pride but a radical form of discipleship which begins with personal transformation because we are all sinners. We have fallen short of the glory of God. Human knowledge and human effort alone can only do so much. Only the grace of God has what it takes to transform a fallen nature into a glorious nature.

It was not until both Alexander the Great and Simon Peter come to know this were they filled with that beauty and grace which the world cannot give. Awareness of our sinfulness which the forthcoming holy season of Lent calls for, becomes a journey of personal transformation through which we could see like Peter that the glory of God has not departed from us. It is always there for us if and only if we believe.


.





From Bulletin of JANUARY 31, 2016

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”

Last week I read a story posted on a friend’s Facebook page titled “Who is packing your parachute?” It is about an Indian Air Commodore Vishal who was a Jet Pilot. In a combat mission his fighter plane was destroyed by a missile. He however ejected himself and parachuted safely. He won acclaims and appreciations from many.

After five years, one day he was sitting with his wife in a restaurant. A man from another table came to him and said"You're Captain Vishal! You flew jet fighters. You were shot down!"

"How in the world did you know that?" asked Vishal.

"I packed your parachute," the man smiled and replied. Vishal gasped in surprise and gratitude and thought if the parachute hadn't worked, I wouldn’t be here today.

Vishal couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man. He wondered how many times I might have seen him and not even said 'Good morning, how are you?' or anything because, he was a fighter pilot and that person was just a safety worker"

So friends, who is packing your parachute? Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. We need many kinds of parachutes when our plane is shot down – we need the physical parachute, the mental parachute, the emotional parachute, and the spiritual parachute. We call on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank someone, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. No matter what life presents to us, we must always remember that we live by His grace.

Jeremiah was a good man who was called by God to preach to a hard headed people. Knowing that the road Jeremiah would walk in his ministry would not be an easy one, God assures Jeremiah that even before he was formed in the womb, he was known by God and set apart for divine purposes.

Jeremiah was a man on fire with God’s love. Jeremiah loves his people Israel and for this reason he could not stop at anything in telling them the truth. To his greatest amazement, he and his message were rejected by Israel to the extent of a demand for his life. Coming to realize that his people Israel, though chosen by God were million miles away from the truth, Jeremiah became so disappointed to the extent of regretting to answer God’s call. It was not until the prophet Jeremiah realized that his call to prophesy was preordained for him, did he begin to find peace in his tumultuous life.

Nature is ordered for the glory of God. No one is an accident in nature. There is a mission assigned to each and every one us. It could be as challenging as that given to Jeremiah or it could be as simple as being able to make one face to smile. No matter what it is, we are in one way or the other part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

Like Vidal, the Indian Air Commodore, God has from time immemorial prepared a parachute for each and every one of us and he uses mere mortals like you and I to help others in packing their parachute for the journey.

Coming to know this truth is nothing but a clarion call to be humble. Most of our achievements in life are not simply the fruit of an individual effort. There is always a Trinitarian dimension to every great achievement – it has a divine, communal and personal dimension.

Knowing that it was God who knew us and formed us and has called us to become partners in progress with Him becomes the bedrock of our existence in the world. When everything else around us does not make sense, knowing that I am part of God’s plan could give one the basic grounding needed to smile again.

Human life on earth cannot become meaningful unless it is grounded on this basic truth. This is a revealed truth that one will never get from one’s parents or culture because it was only God who knew us before we were born. No one else can know us that well. It was God who formed each one of us in our mother’s womb and called us to a life of purpose and meaning.

God’s plan is not limited by culture or structure. No wonder the poor widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon and poor leper Naaman from Syria were highly favored in a land where so many prided themselves for their holiness and noble birth. It is still the same spirit of pride which inspired the Jews to attempt to hurl Jesus headlong down the hill that motivates those who today are willing to kill others in order to protect their manmade structures and securities.

The poverty and violence we see in the world today is not so much an accident in nature as it is the consequence of human failure to pack someone’s parachute. Authentic Christian existence in the world must be grounded on love. Christians need to go beyond the promotion of a perfect observance of laws and the protection of holy structures. Christian life needs to be lived within the ambience of mercy, an uncharted territory where all structures are destroyed and the heart rules the head.

In this jubilee year of mercy, Christians must avoid making a career out of a flamboyant call for mercy. Our corporal and spiritual works shall remain undone until the least member of God’s family – all the widows and lepers are mercifully released from bondage, and our message and all unjust structures enculturated and renewed on the altar of divine mercy.


.






From Bulletin of JANUARY 24, 2016

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me ….”

There is a story of a Primary School teacher who asks her pupils to write an essay titled “What wish do you want from God?” At the end of the day, the teacher collects all the essays given by her pupils. She takes them to her house, sits and starts marking them. While marking the essays, the teacher sees a strange essay written by one of her pupils. That essay made her very emotional. Her husband comes and sits beside her and saw her crying. The husband asked her wife, "What happened?"

She answered "Read this. It is one of my pupil's essays."

"Oh God, Make me a Television. I want to live like the TV in my house.

In my house, the TV is very valuable. All of my family members sit around it. They are very interested in it. When the TV is talking, my parents listen to it very happily.

They don’t shout at the TV. They don’t quarrel with the TV. They don’t slap at the TV. So I want to become a TV.

The TV is the center of attraction in my house. I want to receive the same special care that the TV receives from my parents. Even when it is not working, the TV has a lot of value.

When my dad and mom come home, immediately they sit in front of the TV, switch it on and spend hours. The TV is stealing the time of my dad and my mom. If I become a TV, then they will spend their time with me.

While watching the TV, my parents laugh a lot and they smile many times. But I want my parents should laugh and smile with me also. So please make me into a TV.

And last but not the least, if I become a TV, surely I can make my parents happy and entertain them. Lord I don't ask you anything. I just want to live like a TV. Please make me into a TV.

The husband completed reading the essay. He said "My God, poor kid. He feels lonely. He did not receive enough love and care from his parents. His parents are horrible."

The eyes of the primary School teacher filled with tears. She looked at her husband and said, "Our son wrote this essay."

In politics, the democratic process is considered the best system of government whereby a people are given the opportunity to elect the best person to govern them. But, as to whether this is true, you be the judge.

Going by what we see on television these days, the extent to which our politicians go to expose the weakness of their opponents, we begin to wonder what the world is turning into. It may not be an exaggeration that human beings are going back to live by the primitive principle of the “survival of the fittest.”

To Charles Darwin, the principle of the survival of the fittest is not simply an evolutionary one. The preservation of favored races in the struggle for life could also be applied in the economic and political process.

The survival of the fittest should not be confused with natural selection process whereby those with a propensity to survive will have the propensity to survive. Survival of the fittest is a man made process which promotes the spirit of selfishness and competition over cooperation, and selfishness over sacrifice.

The consequence of selfishness is seen not only in our political process but more so in how we treat one another even in the family. No wonder the little boy wants to become a TV.

The Gospel reading reveals the magna carta of Jesus in which Jesus lays down to us His mission on earth and subsequently the mission of the children of God in the world.
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

This is like hearing anew the inauguration message of some American presidents like Woodrow Wilson’s 1913 message “This is the high enterprise of the new day … we shall restore, not destroy.” Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 “This great nation will endure as it has endured .… The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” John F. Kennedy’s 1961 “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

The one thing these messages have in common is their altruistic character - Seeking the common good and the common ground for a better world and lying behind these messages is the spirit of cooperation as against the spirit of competition.

However, in spite of the eloquent nature of the speeches of many presidents, none of them has been able to perfectly fulfill his agenda. Only Jesus could do it because He was anointed and led by the Spirit of God. Unlike world leaders who are led by the spirit of competition and quest for power, Jesus is led by the spirit of cooperation and love; hence Jesus invites us to become partners with Him in building a better world for all.

It is no longer enough for us to sit and blame God for the sorry state of our world. By virtue of our baptism we have been anointed as Jesus was anointed and the mission of Jesus has become our mission. The spirit of God has been given to each of us to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim a jubilee year of mercy.

We need to move away from the culture of competition and reach out to those whom society has rejected and declared unwanted. In God’s plan no one should be left unwanted or unloved. Our claim to be Christians will always fall short should we fail to listen to the cries of the poor and wounded, and endeavor to lift them up with compassion and love. It is not until we care and love especially those people who today would like to become a TV shall we be
considered honest and sincere in our profession of faith in God.


.






From Bulletin of JANUARY 17, 2016

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “C”

The Marriage Feast at Cana in Galilee

The marriage feast at Cana in Galilee is a microcosm of every Christian marriage. Suffice it to say that what we are talking about here is a real marriage and not a Hollywood make-believe or a fairytale in which they lived happily ever after. This is a marriage of two imperfect human beings who are struggling to build their lives together. This marriage at Cana could be divided into the three different stages that every marriage goes through in life. The stages are:

- When the couple has wine to offer
- When the couple runs out of wine
- When Jesus provides the sweet wine

Marriage begins with the sweet wine of romantic and passionate love. The couples are attracted to each other and they decide to spend the rest of their lives together. This initial wine (romantic love) is as sweet as it is intoxicating. Anyone who is drinking this wine wakes up every morning thanking God for bringing the other into his/her life.

You begin to wonder where s/he has been all these years you have been lonely and searching. You count yourself blessed to be privileged to have such feeling. You are grateful to God every day that at last you have succeeded in finding your missing rib. You begin to count yourself among the lucky ones who realized the joy of their heart. The climax of the human experience of the flowing wine comes with the birth of a baby or two into the family.

The second stage comes up a few years after the birth of a child; the wine begins to dry up. At this time the couples have probably quarreled once or twice and now they begin to perceive the real smell of each others mouth. You have seen each other several times without masks. At this point, all that is left for the couple to drink is water.

Water is known for its colorless and tasteless nature. A thirsty person likes to drink water, but anyone who wants to drink wine will not find water a satisfactory alternative.

At this time marriage becomes colorless and tasteless. Since there is no more wine (romantic love) in the family, loneliness begins to creep in. Imagine how sad it could be, being lonely at home. This is usually the time when some women begin to shower all their love on their children and the career minded ones give in to achieving excellence in their career. They go early to work and are the last to leave the office for fear of returning to a lonely house. They win the excellence award at work; yet, their lives at home are tasteless and empty.

The religious minded ones have the tendency to join as many religious groups as possible. They volunteer their time and would do anything to stay away from a lonely home. Don’t get me wrong here. This is not to say that people who volunteer their time to serve in the church do so because they are experiencing some difficulties in their homes. However, it is a fact that some people have the tendency to spiritualize their problems in order to avoid facing
it. The positive side of this is that their service to humanity helps them to avoid doing anything bad though their problems still hang around their neck and still haunt them.

Some weak minded men begin to look for another wine to drink wherever they can find one. This is the time guys begin to reconnect with their bachelor or divorced friends. They spend time after work not with their family but at the bar. They begin to return late for dinner and often would have excuses for being absent at the family table. They begin to listen to bad pieces of advice from guys who are unfaithful to their wives and to those who drink and get drunk.

During the water stage, you begin to remember other nice guys/girls you turned down to marry this man/woman. Did anyone deceive me to marry him/her? You begin to think of yourself as the greatest fool in the world for saying yes to this man/woman. This is the stage at which most divorces and separations take place.

Surprisingly this is not all there is in marriage. There is yet another stage which is borne out of endurance and perseverance.

The third and final stage comes with the couple having a sweet wine to offer to their guests. In this we see the greatness of the couple of the marriage feast at Cana in Galilee. During the water or tasteless/crisis stage of their marriage, they did not shiver. They did not give up. They did not fight. They did not blame one another for not having more wine to offer to their guests.

They rather beckoned on Mary the Mother of Jesus to intercede for them. Whether it is the couples or their friends that begged Mary to come to their aid, we see the role of the community in protecting a Christian marriage. This is probably what we are very much lacking in the world today.

Beckoning on Mary, to me, is like a couple going down on their knees during their trouble moments to pray the rosary together. With the intervention of Mary, Jesus takes what is imperfect in the couple’s lives – their imperfections, tastelessness, mistakes, emptiness, sins, hurts, disappointments, etc. and transforms them into the best wine possible. This is the wine of new hope, new courage, new blessings, new peace and new life.

No wonder the sweetest wine of marriage is experienced not at the beginning, but rather towards the end after couples have gone through the crucibles of life. How often have we seen this in older couples who become much more in love in their old age? The couples begin to realize how much they love each other. They begin to wonder what would have become of their lives had they given in to divorce? “I wouldn’t have known that s/he loves me this much!”

No matter what stage you find yourself in now the new wine
is possible, but only if you believe.

.






From Bulletin of JANUARY 10, 2016

Christmas Season, Year “C”

The Baptism of the Lord

Every baptism I perform or witness reminds me of my own baptism. The baptism ceremony gets more interesting, especially when the baby begins to sleep, cry for food or gets scared because of the presence of so many people around it. At such moments I begin to wonder how I behaved when I was being baptized; did I cry, sleep or stay calm in my mother's arms? I begin to imagine the love that filled my parents’ hearts as they presented me to the priest to be initiated into the faith and subsequently into the community of the faithful called the Church. Although I do not know or remember anything that happened on the day I was baptized, yet it is this very unique event that transformed my life for good, forever.

As the water was poured on my head, my life was exponentially transformed from something mortal to something immortal, from something material to something spiritual. What a mystery happening before our eyes! It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. As I begin to respond to the name that was given to me on the day of my baptism, my personality and identity begins to develop. I begin to occupy a dispensable place in human history in a manner that gives me an indispensable place in the history of salvation, because salvation history can no longer be completely told without the mention of my name in it.

It is by virtue of my baptism that God has come to know me by name. In baptism I became an individual person, inseparable in myself but separable from others. The greatness of my baptized nature is that even if there is no other person in the world, Jesus would still have died to save me.

This tells me how special I have become through baptism. I begin to appreciate the immense value and dignity I share as a baptized child of God. Thanks to my parents who initially said Yes to God on my behalf on the day of baptism and helped to make that initial Yes mine on the day of my confirmation and at every mass when I am privileged to renew my baptism.

As a baptized person, therefore, I share in the divine nature of God who humbled Himself to share in my humanity. I share in the prophecy of Isaiah when he says “... my sins are expiated; indeed I have received from the hand of the Lord, double for all my sins. Like a shepherd, the Lord feeds me as His flock, carry me in His bosom and lead me with care and compassion.”

Whether one is baptized as an infant or an adult, baptism should not be perceived as a passive event but as an active incorporation of one’s nature and being into the mission of Christ the beloved Son in whom "God is well pleased."

Being a baptized person is not simply a fulfillment of the mandate given by Jesus when He commanded His disciples to go out into the whole world to proclaim the Good News; those who believe should be baptized in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is fundamentally an incorporation into Christ, hence no one can claim to be a Christian unless one has received the sacrament of baptism.

The feast of the baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas season but the beginning of our lives as God’s people. As baptized women and men, we begin to share in the grace of God and are entrusted with the mission of Jesus who has come to bring justice to all the nations; to become a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement and from dungeon those who live in
darkness.

As baptized persons everything we do matters. What comes out of our mouth, the works we do, everything we produce, the mouths we feed, the sick for whom we care, the environments we clean up, the children we nurture, the spouse we love, the friends with whom we laugh, weep and rejoice, the kindness we offer to strangers, the naked we clothe, the prayers we make, etc. all matters, and not just now, but for all eternity because it is done for and with God.

It is incompatible therefore, for a baptized person to not care for the earth created by God. A baptized person is not just a product of evolution but someone created in God’s image and likeness. In baptism we become both human and divine, making it possible for us to share in the communion of saints who call God “Abba” – Father.

All baptized persons share a dual citizenship. Christians are citizens of their native countries and citizens of heaven. Christians by virtue of their baptism, have a higher calling rooted in faith. They are morally bound to fulfill the laws of their earthly nation, but much more are they obligated to obey God’s commandments and do His will.

As baptized people, we see God's kingdom as a future reality lived here and now. We do this when we show mercy to others, forgive others their trespasses, stand and fight against injustice and all forms of discrimination, become not just peace-lovers but peace-makers, stand strong in defense of life, work against a culture of death, violence and oppression, and contribute our quota to make the world a better place for all.

Living out our baptismal promises is not something we do overnight, like anything important it takes a lifetime of work. It is by learning every day to love and trust more, and to be more honest with our God that we shall receive that greatest accolade from God who will say to us on that Day of days "You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased."
.






From Bulletin of JANUARY 3, 2016

Epiphany of the Lord, Year “C”

“We have seen His star ....”

I like the Christmas greeting card that reads "Wise men still seek Him." Yes, in every generation God uses simple people and ordinary things of nature to reveal His truth, beauty and goodness in the world and it takes the sincerity, courage and determination of humble women and men to see the hand of God at work in the world.

It is much easier and if not convenient for human beings to keep God in the sky but the essential truth of the incarnation is that God is with us. God has become a necessary part of human history; hence our vision of the world can never be complete without recognizing God's divine presence in the world. And God's presence in the world remains a mystical presence because God is in the world and yet above the world.

In the feast of Epiphany, we recall and celebrate not only the event of the three shepherds' journey to Jerusalem to present gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus who is the visible presence of God in the world but also our call to discover the presence of God in our lives, in our family and in the world here and now.

Seeking for Justice, Truth, Beauty and Goodness has always been the basic preoccupation of the human mind in every generation. The hidden truth which the Epiphany reveals to us is that the basis of all human desires lies in God, hence seeking to find God becomes an essential truth that holds the key to true happiness in the world.

Many have made sincere effort to find God and yet could not find Him. Some have made the ultimate sacrifices without gaining an insight into the divine truth. Many factors could contribute to our inability to find God in the world today. It is neither for lack of trying nor for lack of the presence of God in the world but due to our lack of openness to the divine plan of God.

The Maggi started their quest for God by following the star. The star was all they know, all they have and all they could use in finding the Truth. Being guided by the star, they could only go as far as the house of Herod. The star alone could not lead them to where Jesus was born. It was only when Herod, though troubled by the Good News, consulted the chief priests who in turn consulted the Scripture and reading from the prophets, they realized that scripture had foretold that "In Bethlehem of Judea ... shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."

It is ultimately the word of God that revealed the Truth and not simply the stars. Stars are not God. It is a creature of God. Even the stars obey God. Following the star as we often do through horoscope, consulting fortune tellers, sooth-sayers, palm readers, visioners, tarot cards, etc. to know what the future holds for us is following the path that leads only to Herod's house. Herod and his household, as we know it, stand against the values of the Gospel, hence are in contradistinction with God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

You cannot find the Truth by making Herod’s house your final destination. In Herod, power rules over love, justice and truth. God’s plan for the world is not based on the love of power but on the power of love. This is probably why the shepherds after paying homage to the new born savior of the world, did not return to Herod.

An unchristianized world is a world of Herod, which is governed by the principle of survival of the fittest. Might is right, hence the ways of the wealthy and powerful people of the earth are always justified. New rules are made to favor those in power and authority. Maps are drawn and re-drawn to grant them political favors. Our courts of law judge the dead while the oppressor walks free and is empowered to do more evil. Evil and corruption has become a fast road to stardom. Doing good does not make the news while a reckless lifestyle guarantees an instant celebrity status.

The unchristianized world of Herod is the type of world that the Maggi left in search of the Truth and having found the truth, did not return to it. People who encounter Jesus do not return to their former ways of life. They follow a new path to their new home, which is built and governed by love. Their ways are guided not by the lust for wealth and power but by the love of God as it was revealed to the shepherds in a dream by an angel.

There is no doubt that we are still in search of truth and meaning in life. Our fundamental challenge is to determine what should be the foundational basis of our search for meaning and direction in life. What is it that forms and informs the decisions and choices we make in life?

The truth of the Epiphany, therefore, is this revelation that it is being guided by the word of God that we shall come to know the Truth. This is the Truth that shall set us free from the bondage of sin and ignorance. If the stars obey and serve God, how much more is the clarion call of nature and reason for human beings - the beauty of creation to serve God by becoming part of God's plan for the salvation of the world?

The one basic assumption that we all have come to agree on is that there is no shortage of goodness in the world. As it was in time of Herod, so is it in our own day. In spite of the evils that abound, God's presence, goodness and power is always there for us. It is only those who make sincere effort to find God that will find Him. No wonder the wise still seek Him.
.




From Bulletin of December 27, 2015

Christmas Season, Year “C”

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Family is all about the relationship that people or things share in common. This relationship could derive from a conscious or an unconscious decision to belong to a certain group, culture or organization. When used in the human context, family is often associated with blood relationship which could range from the relationship between parents and their children to the relationship that exists between people of a particular tribe or cultural heritage.

Recent developments in the study of human DNA point rather to a common human family origin, hence the renewed interest in biblical story of creation. The differences we see among human beings on earth are due to nvironmental, social and cultural influences.

When it comes to the human family, we notice that it is a given. We do not make any conscious decision to choose our parents, brothers and sisters. Like thunder and lightning, family is made in heaven and given to us to cherish and behold. This is why every family is beautiful but no human family is perfect.

Family is a mixture of weed and wheat. It is what it is. Do you lament about your family? You ain't seen anything yet. If you have a perfect family … I doubt it, but thank God for it and ifyou have an imperfect family, thank God too. It could be worse.

In spite of its imperfect nature, family remains where a human being derives the greatest joy in life. Family is where your art is. To have and live in a family is a blessing. No wonder the incarnation took place in a human family set-up with its fair share of hardship, disappointment and failure.

The Holy Family is presented to us today as a model of all Christian families. It is called a Holy Family because in spite of their challenges, they did not lose their focus on God. It is a family that was determined from the get-go to do the will of God in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, till
death do them part.

However, even with Jesus in the family, the Holy Family did not enjoy a perfect life. They experienced the many ups and downs of life. They were persecuted by Herod and the powers that be. They had neither a good house to live in nor a good means of transportation. They walked like every other person to Jerusalem to perform their spiritual duties. They were neither exempt from paying the temple tax nor in bringing the prescribed offering for a first born child. Theirs was a normal human family who were determined to be guided by their faith in God.

Human family is not enough. It is only a beginning, not an end. Human family prepares us for the Christian family. Human family is based on blood relationship but Christian family is based on faith. Our natural family is a given but to belong to a Christian family is a conscious decision one must make for oneself.

It was faith that elevated the life of the Holy Family to a higher realm. Being part of the Christian family becomes a higher and a more excellent way of living in the world. From the Holy Family, therefore, we see what every Christian family should model itself to look like:

Every Christian family should have a hero or heroine that everyone can look up to as a model. This could be the mother or the father – a mature person whom the children can trust and look up to in time of need.

Every Christian family should have a switchboard operator, someone who tracks what others are doing and keeps everyone connected. Unity is an inevitable characteristic of a Christian family for a family is something more than a group of people in a house.

Every Christian family should be hospitable and deeply devoted to each other. It is the depth of their warmth and closeness that makes every member of the family to feel beloved. Every Christian family should have a ritualist who talks not only about God but also makes effort to celebrate the birthdays and other anniversaries of family members. They provide the family something tangible to look up to every day, every week, every month and every year.

Relationship based on faith is a higher calling than a relationship based on blood. Making a conscious decision to belong to a Christian community is the beginning of eternal life because it initiates one into a relationship that will last forever. As the church remembers and prays daily for her own members both
living and dead, Christians experience eternal life even now for their names are written in the book of life where they will be remembered forever.

We often hear that blood is thicker than water, but the water of baptism is thicker than blood relationship. A fellow believer seated on your right and on your left could become a better and more reliable brother or sister than blood related siblings who do not have Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

As a Christmas people, no one lives alone. We belong either to our natural family or to our faith family. In whichever one we may find ourselves, Jesus is given to us today to become the center and cornerstone of our lives. As Jesus lived in obedience under His parents, let us always remember that giving honor to our parents remains the fourth but the first commandment with a promise and blessing – Honor your father and mother if you want to live a long life and if you want God to bless you.
.






From Bulletin of December 20, 2015

4th Sunday of Advent, Year “C”

“Blessed are You among Women”

One of my best Christmas stories is told by Carol Laycock on how her Grandma taught her everything about Christmas. “I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," jeered my sister. "Even dummies know that!"

My grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days.

"Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself…. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobbie Decker a coat. I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. I didn't see a price tag, but ten dollars ought to buy anything. I put the coat and my ten-dollar bill on the counter and pushed them toward the lady behind it.

She looked at the coat, the money, and me. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" she asked kindly. "Yes," I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobbie. He's in my class, and he doesn't have a coat." The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons, and write, "To Bobbie, From Santa Claus" on it ... Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy.

Then she drove me over to Bobbie Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers…. Suddenly Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell twice and flew back to the safety of the bushes. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobbie. He looked down, looked around, picked up his present, took it inside and closed the door.

Forty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my grandma, in Bobbie Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: Ridiculous!

Santa is alive and well ... AND WE WERE ON HIS TEAM!

We are only four days away. I can't help feeling nostalgic especially being many miles away from home. I begin to reminisce the joy I used to feel receiving family members returning home for Christmas or being received and hugged by family members upon arrival home for Christmas. Not to think of all the many gifts we receive. All faces are full of smiles. Both the young and the old run from one house to house, rejoicing and sharing the loaf of bread and the cabin biscuit that "abroadians" bring home with them.

During Christmas, we get to see our new-born relatives, nieces, nephews, cousins, new wives, etc. whom we have not met in a long while. Behold Grandma rubbing your hair and saying "Hey, my son you have grown very fat." And we all enjoyed it as a compliment.

The roads are given a face-lift after the heavy rainy season, houses are repainted and trees are trimmed to give the compound a new look. All is bright, merry and nice.

Yes, this is the best time of the year …, if not the best time of
life. Next I’ll go to my tailor to make sure that my clothes for Christmas is ready. Since we were not financially well off, we could not afford the best tailors hence we have to accept delay as part of the bargain by going to tailors who will not commit to any particular day for you to claim your Christmas clothes. Imagine the joy that fills my heart whenever my Christmas best is complete and ironed.

This is similar to the same pure joy that fills our hearts today as Mary says YES to the Angel. Yes, a virgin has conceived.

In a culture where the woman was considered the property of a man, the law mandates that any woman who becomes pregnant, if not by her husband, should be disgraced publicly and be returned to her father's house. Joseph knowing the law, yet, did not fully understand God's plan for human salvation hence his confusion about what to do. However, being a just man, Joseph is willing to divorce Mary in secret.

We see the greatness of Joseph in his willingness to let Love triumph over Law. And this is what Christmas is all about. Rather than argue about the existence of Santa or when and where Jesus was born, let us keep the spirit of Christmas alive by going out to provide a smile on the faces of all the Bobbie Deckers in our world and this will become a joyful season for all.
.





From Bulletin of December 13, 2015

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year “C”

“Jesus is coming soon”

The scripture readings during the season of Advent are full of promises of the good things to come but living in a world where people hardly keep their promise it is easy for us to doubt that these promises will ever come to pass. In spite of the many confusion in our world, the human mind still has a knack for recognizing and being attracted to a genuine and true promise whenever we hear it. The Advent promises bring with it an air of hope which appeals to the deepest and greatest desire of the human heart, hence our instinctual attraction to it.

Today is the Gaudete Sunday when the Church calls on her faithful to rejoice and to hold her head high because our salvation is near at hand. Living in joyful hope demands a new way of thinking, doing and seeing things. Although there are many reasons to doubt and live in fear, the prophet Isaiah asks us to put away the robe of mourning and to put on the mantle of joy. Isaiah says “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! … The Lord, your God, is in your midst; a mighty Savior.”

Without faith all we have is fear - fear of life, neighbor, earthquake, accident, cancer, etc. An unchristianized life/world is a chaotic life/world. Human history in its crude and impure nature is characterized by confusion and disorder, but, as God puts order into chaos in the creation of the world, so does the incarnation restores a fallen humanity and renews our hope in the ultimate fulfillment of God's plan for the world. Christians do not belong to the world of fear. Christians belong to a world of hope because for unto us a child is born, to us a child is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In the incarnation of Jesus, history assumes a new dimension and a deeper meaning that is greater than itself. In the incarnation, the mundane becomes divinized hence a new parameter is needed to measure and understand it. Christian life is no longer business as usual.

In the incarnation, God humbles Himself and shares His love with us and invites us to share our love especially with those who neither deserve nor expect it. John the Baptist in his unique and characteristic manner asks those who have two cloaks to share with those who have none and whoever has food should do likewise. Those in power should stand for justice for all and be satisfied with their wages.

Love is the ultimate force behind the spirit of Christmas. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy vindicated by praxis are what could satisfy the demands made by John. Hence, our yearly preparations for the celebration of the incarnation of God becomes a way we empower ourselves to commit once again to continue the works of Jesus who comes that we may have life and have it in abundance.

Christmas is a joyful event but the reality may not be the same for all. You may find yourself on Christmas day with relatives who are not that easy to relate with. Most families I know face this sort of thing. In fact, you may spend a good part of the day with people whom you otherwise would rather not want to see at all. But it's Christmas, and they are family. Christmas is not for good people only. It is for both the good and the bad, so why not go ahead to see your relatives, whether you like them or not. There is strength in embracing challenges.

Christmas does not ask us to pretend or fake it that all is well or to pretend as if things are great when they are not. But, believe me those who find themselves in a tough life situation with a relative, are probably in the best position to have a joyful Christmas celebration because they do have a lot of grace to share. Maybe it will be as simple as a kind compliment: "This table looks wonderful, Amanda." Or Amanda saying "I'm really glad you got that new job." Who knows? Perhaps you will even have the chance to share your joy, pain or give something more meaningful by way of a smile, a handshake or a mere physical presence.

All I am saying is that you could use the Christmas day, not only to think about Jesus the greatest gift of all, but also to imitate the greatest gift giver of all by becoming a gift to someone. Look around you and see if there are people whom you can care for and love; people whom you could offer a gift or words of kindness. Maybe even a word of apology or forgiveness. Look into the eyes of the people you meet, and smile, with your face, with your words, and with your heart. Say "I love you" and mean it. Who knows? Maybe and just maybe, this will be the best gift somebody in your life will need for the rest of his/her life.

We go out of our ways to do this because of God. Human promises may fail to achieve their aim, not so with divine promise. And while the promise is being fulfilled, we ought to be patient and to commit ourselves to "strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak and say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you."

As Christmas people, therefore, we are called today to Rejoice. There should neither be room for despair nor for failure because our hope is founded on Rock. Yes, the Rock of Ages. And His name is Immanuel - God is with us. All who nurture this hope are called to REJOICE.
.






From Bulletin of December 6, 2015

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year “C”

“Prepare the Way of the Lord”

I have on several times been tempted to make a public proclamation that Christmas celebration for this year be postponed because of the many atrocities happening in the world today. Why celebrate Christmas when the world is in turmoil? More than at any time in human history, everyone is suspected as a terrorist and unworthy of trust. Everyone is seen as an enemy and treated as such. Traveling has lost most of its flavor since not even the pilot could be trusted.
Public gatherings and other social events have become traps and fertile grounds for the destruction of human life. It has become easier to purchase weapons of mass destruction than to buy a cold medicine. Guns are neither safe in the hands of criminals nor in the hands of the police. There is no safe place in the world today, neither at the White House nor at the Vatican City. Besides the fear of terrorist attack there is also the fear of El Niño or a major earthquake and worse for those of us who live along the fault lines. The first aid box in the kitchen reminds me that a major disaster is only an unforeseen seconds away.

While all these are going on in my mind, from nowhere I laid my eyes on the reflection of Ralph Wilson titled “Lord of the Messy Manger.” He starts the reflection by saying “If you think your life is an utter disaster, that God could never use a life as messed up as yours, think again.” He goes on to remind us that God is bigger than our messy and fragmented world. God is not impotent. God is not confined by human boundaries. God is God! He is not afraid of working in messy situations. In fact, God’s grace is best at work when we neither merit nor expect it.

Why is the world in pain? What is the mess that you are struggling with? Maybe, just maybe, God is able to take our
mess, and out of it bring blessing because we do know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love
him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Wilson goes on to ask “How bad can it get? A girl gets pregnant. Her parents are utterly shamed. Her fiancé, not the father, is ready to dump her. And then he is told, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” How bad can it get? The girl is in labor, far from home with only a cave-barn where she can lie down and have her baby. The only place to put her newborn is a manger. A cattle trough. We imagine it with fresh, fragrant straw plucked from a bale of hay. But I doubt that the cave was stocked with neat bales stacked against the wall. The straw that night was neither fresh nor fragrant. Life was a mess — but God was in it.

God sees Mary with her tiny infant and sends a host of angels to announce the birth.

“Behold, I bring you Good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of
David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

The messy manger is itself a sign from God. Is your life a mess? Then let this be a sign to you.

Your very Good news is that the God of the messy manger, the resurrected Christ of the cruel cross, and the Holy Spirit,in whom you live and move and have your being, are able to break through in your life, begin to clean up your mess, blessyou too. And that — like the messy manger — will be a wonder all its own” (www.joyfulheart.com).

No one understands what it means to live in a messy world better than John the Baptist whose voice is heard from the
desert asking us to prepare the way of the Lord. The sense of urgency in the voice of John the Baptist becomes a reminder of the radical nature of the preparations that is expected of each and every one of us during this Advent season.

The world may be crazy and too dry for comfort but it cannot be worse than what John has seen and experienced in the desert. John has seen it all, yet, he knows even in the midst of dryness it is still possible to prepare a way for the Lord – “make straight His paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made straight ….”

Yes, our world is in turmoil and this makes it the best possible world for the birth of the savior. Jesus is born into a troubled world to humanize and divinize it for the greater glory of God. Your life may also be in turmoil and this is what makes it suitable for the Advent season. Our life may be crooked and needs to be straightened; sin has caused pot holes in our hearts needing it to be filled up with love, there are unjust structures that make life on earth hopeless and forlorn, etc. But, as God is not afraid to be incarnated in a troubled world, so should we who live in the world not be afraid to live in joyful hope for the Day of our salvation is at hand.

Being an Advent people makes us to become part of the community of faith who trusted that God’s word spoken by
the prophets shall come to pass in their time. As Advent people, therefore, what inspires and motivates us are neither
what human eyes can see nor what human hands can touch but our faith in the One in whom we live, move and have our being.
.





From Bulletin of NOVEMBER 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent, Year “C”

“Days are Coming ... when I will Fulfill the Promise ....”

Happy New Year to each and every one of you..... Today the church begins a new liturgical year with the season of Advent. Every new season comes with new energies, new opportunities and new blessings. As we begin a new liturgical season today the first Sunday of Advent, we embark on a spiritual journey that empowers us to renew the most beautiful Desire of the Ages. This is the desire to experience in our time and place the incarnation of God.

The Advent spirit is a renewal of hope and joy. And no one brings out the intense nature of this feeling better than the
prophet Isaiah, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could hot hope for …. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for Him” (Is 63:19; 64:2-3).

The Advent journey is unique because it is not an outward journey that traverses the physical space but an inner spiritual journey over the landscapes of our hearts. It is a journey that takes us out of our comfort zones and challenges us to open our hearts to the “Mysterious Other” who we know and relate to as our God, our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, our Holy Spirit, our Truth, our Justice, our Beauty, our Goodness, etc.

In this spirit of expectation, we hold TIME in our hands - the past, the present and the future unite as ONE in the person of Jesus. During Advent, we prepare to celebrate the PAST, when Jesus was born in Jerusalem, the PRESENT, when Jesus is born on Christmas Day and the FUTURE, when Jesus will return at the End of Time.

To be a Christian, therefore, is to live in joyful hope - there is no dull moment in the history of our salvation. Christians are a people who live in the "mean-time" which means those who live in the time between Christ's coming in past history to share our humanity in the incarnation and His coming in the future in the fullness of time.

The Advent spirit invites us to wait in joyful hope because the coming of Jesus will bring about the fulfillment of the greatest desire of the human heart - peace, goodness and joy. Advent is a holy season of expectation when we prepare for the greatest event in human history – the incarnation of God. During this season we prepare for two comings – the coming of the Lord on Christmas Day and the second coming of the Lord to judge the world.

Both comings are complementary because of their transformational effect on the human person. It is a coming that renews the face of the earth; hence the right attitude for this season is to open our hearts to embrace the beauty of creation. While we wait in joyful hope, we prepare for this singular event by doing good and avoiding evil. St. Paul prays “that the Lord make us to increase and abound in love for one another and for all….”(Thess 3:12-4:2).

The incarnation of God – that God takes on flesh to dwell among us is not just a single event among other historical
events. It is One in many and many in One. It is the meeting point and culmination of history. In the incarnation, history finds its meaning and purpose. Reality is no longer limited to matter. Reality assumes an ontic ontological dimension as a new spiritual component is added to it. God’s divine presence in the world becomes the center around which everything else in our life must find their true meaning.

Advent renews the hope of human salvation. We wait in joyful hope because God’s promise is “Yes” and “Amen.” God is faithful to His promises. Human beings may promise and fail to keep their promise. God’s promise to dwell among His people is a sure promise. During Advent, we join men and women of all ages who long for the fulfillment of this promise by being “vigilant at all times and pray that we have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk 21:34-36).

Being vigilant is an invitation to keep doing good through prayer, penance, alms giving, corporal works of mercy and corporal works of charity. This is how we prepare effectively so that when the Lord comes in power and glory, God may find us not sleeping but wide awake, full of good deeds to present to the Jesus who will be born for us in Bethlehem and who will come again in power and might to judge the living and the dead.

Being awake to encounter the Lord should not be construed as a one day event but as a reminder that the Christian life is not seasonal. It is a daily “walking along” with Jesus as our companion, living in joyful hope and having a relationship with God at every moment of our lives.

Failing to put Jesus at the center of our lives makes our waiting to become self-destructive. Our life becomes empty, hence the desire to grab whatever we can grab. Pride comes in to fill the vacuum left by lack of prayer and sacrifice. Secularism and commercialism replace our sense of the sacred. Selfishness suffocates and replaces the ideal of sharing which this holy season invites us to embrace in joyful hope.

Let us open your eyes to see that something great is happening in the world. Our God is sharing His love, mercy, truth, goodness and beauty with us. To become a truly Advent people, it is necessary that we stand for justice, praying that we gain the spiritual energy that will transform our hearts and homes for God during this holy season of grace.
.




From Bulletin of NOVEMBER 22, 2015

34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

Feast of Christ the King of Heaven and Earth

We live in the final phase of the reign of kings and queens. To be called a king today has become more of a ceremonial or an honorary title devoid of its real meaning. Earthly kings belonged to the higher echelon of society. Kings were supposed to be men of noble and impeccable character. They were regarded as the spokesmen of God or the gods. They were specially chosen and consecrated. Kings were honest, compassionate and just. They were highly admired and respected by their subjects. The royal family comprising of the king and queen, prince and princess were always at the center of their subject’s world. Laws were made to protect their interests. The royal family and their lifestyle was the measurement of moral standards.

The kings were the mediators between God/gods and human beings. Kings enjoyed absolute powers and no one dared to question their actions and decisions. The life and action of kings gradually became the parameter for measuring right and wrong in their society. However, there came a time when the earthly kings who were supposed to be led by the power of love, in their love for human praise and in their quest for material things, became attracted to the love of power. By so doing, they usurp the honor and glory that belongs to God.

Since earthly power corrupts, the kingly standard became oppressive and exploitative, making it to fall short of the divine standard which God expects from His representative. The kings neither listened to the voice of God nor to the message of the prophets sent by God to bring them back to the right path. They became blind to the fact that it is out of love for the world (Jn 3:16) that God sent His beloved Son into the world to renew the face of the earth and show us how to live for God.

God in His infinite goodness decided to right the wrongs wrought by earthly kings by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to show us the way to God and to renew His glory in the world. By referring to Jesus Christ as the King of the universe, the church is much more interested in the ideal and noble character of the king and not in the abuses that have been made of it by earthly kings.

The solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the universe which was instituted by Pope Pius XI in his 1925 encyclical letter Quas primas in response to growing nationalism and secularism in the West, was later in 1969 added to the Western liturgical calendar by Pope Paul VI in his motu propio Mysterii Paschalis to be celebrated on the last Sunday in the liturgical year before a new liturgical year begins with the First Sunday in Advent. This solemnity has since then gained traction among the Russian Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, and other Protestant churches as a fitting event used to mark the end of the liturgical season.

It becomes fitting that after journeying with Jesus from the season of expectation in Advent to His birth on Christmas, having walked with Jesus, suffered with Him during the season of Lent, die and rise with Jesus during the Easter season and having listened to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles during the Ordinary season of the year, we are now happy to say it loud and clear to the world that Jesus is our king.

Unlike earthly kings who reigned over their subjects, Jesus is a king who came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, laid down His life so that human beings may have life and have it in abundance (Jn 10:10). Scripture testifies that after the trial by Pilate and the Flagellation of Christ, the soldiers mocked Jesus as the King of Jews by clothing Him in a purple robe (which signifies royal status), and then placed a Crown of Thorns on His head. They beat and mistreat Jesus (Matthew 27:29-30, Mark 15:17-19, John 19:2-3).

The continued labeling of Jesus with the term King by the Jews in order to press charges against Him becomes the key element of the final decision to crucify Him. As Pilate tried to release Jesus (John 19:12), the Jews objected, saying: "If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend: every one that makes himself a king speaks against Caesar" thus they bring the power of Caesar to the forefront of the discussion. Again in John 19:12 the Jews cried out "Crucify him! ... We have no king but Caesar."

It was on the cross of Calvary that God revealed Jesus as king; hence Pilate mounted over His head the inscription that reads INRI – Iesus Nazaremus Rex Ieudorum – “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” This affirms the message of the Wise Men – Magi who came from the East looking for the new born King of the Jews.

Jesus is the King whose kingdom does not depend on economic strength or political power. His, is a spiritual kingdom. Its primary aim is the civilization of love through faith, prayer and good works. Jesus' kingdom does not seek to increase its wealth, inflate its image or expand its borders. It is a kingdom that promotes peace where there is violence, justice where there is exploitation and freedom where there is oppression. All peace makers belong to this kingdom and all are welcome.

By virtue of our baptism, we have been called, chosen and anointed as King David and the prophets were anointed. We have become a priestly, kingly and God’s chosen people. We have been called to reign as kings in the world by laying down our lives in sacrifice for the good of all. As we thank God for bringing us to the end of this liturgical season, it is our prayer that whatever is found lacking in us may be filled with the grace of God’s presence in our lives. Amen.
.







From Bulletin of NOVEMBER 15, 2015

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

“The End of the World”

As we begin the last days of the liturgical season, this is also the holiday season, the harvest season, the cold and dry season, which gradually takes us to the end of the year. As we begin to experience the harsh effects of climate change with el Niño in sight, the Fall season sets in, the trees (fig) begin to shed off their leaves and appear to be dead, the fields look very dry after the harvest, the grass on the mountains are dead, the fire season sets in and with the fear of a sudden and devastating earthquake on our minds, the word of God comes in with a spirit of optimism to encourage us to look beyond nature in order to see the hand of God at work in the world and in our lives.

Forecasts about the end of the world have become part of human story. Some forecasts attract a wide range of believers while others do not. John of Toledo predicted that the world will end on September 11, 1186, William Bell of London on April 5, 1761 and there were other predictions for April 28, 1843 and September 21, 1945, December 21, 2012 going by the Mayan calendar. However, we may be comforted knowing that over the past 2000 years there have been at least 200 date specific prophecies about the end of the world that proved to have all been wrong.

Timing and location has been of an important essence to the end of the world timers. Some of the followers of William Miller in 1844 sat on top of their homes so that when they were raptured heavenwards they would not crack their heads on the ceiling. Others watched for the dawn on mountain-tops expecting Christ to appear in His glory with the rising of the sun. Yet, others glued to their laptops for instant news of a 24-hour rolling wave of destruction that will start in New Zealand, etc.

Given all these hullabaloos, some people think it is naïve to believe in the end of the world, but, looking at the operations of nature, I think it is more naïve for those who live in a timecontrolled world not to believe that what has a beginning will eventually have an end. Speaking about the end-times should not be construed as an idealistic or utopic construct meant to make us live in fear and trembling. Nature speaks to an end, likewise the principles of operation in the world. If the world has a beginning, it will definitely have an end.

The big bang theory recognizes that the expansion of the universe will eventually be followed by the process of contraction and since the expansion started at some point in time, it will eventually reach its climax and will naturally be followed by a gradual process of contraction.

While I do not have any pretensions of having better knowledge of what the end of the world implies, I do think that
we could understand the notion of the end of the world from both a personal and universal perspective.

Death leads to the end of the world on a personal level while the possibility of a natural or nuclear disaster that could wipe off everything is another level. In both situations, the end of the world becomes more real than believing that rain will fall tomorrow.

Our faith in God does not make us immune to the changes in nature. It rather exposes us to the reality of suffering and the challenges of life. Just like anyone else, Christians may still have to go through tough times like sickness, death in the family, involved in an accident, loss of job, let down by friends, betrayed by loved ones, defeated in a battle, bad investments, broken families, children not living up to expectations, cancer, etc. These things do take away our joy, making us think that the end is near but they are not sure signs that the end is near.

It is a sure lack of faith believing the predictions of men about the end of the world. Christians should rather listen to the word of God as revealed to us in the scriptures to learn how to prepare for the end of the world. The end is only known by God alone and it will come like a thief in the night – unexpectedly.

Christian life, however, is not about living in fear of the end of the world; Christian life is all about doing good. For those who believe in God natural ends create an opening for the spiritual to begin. Goodness is immortal and people who do good things, share in the eternal life which God gives to those who love Him. It is by doing good that we become co-creators with God.

Christians should never lose sight of the Day of Judgment. Christian greatness comes not in the denial of the end of the world nor in living in fear of the end, it comes from our ability to hold both extremes in a healthy balance, realizing that even now God is with us on our journey.

Though we suffer daily in the world, yet, we are glorious because Christ has already won the victory. In Christ Jesus, we become conquerors in Him who gave His life for us. No matter how badly things are going, "God will somehow intervene in our history to complete His victory" in our lives. Even death, which is the greatest enemy of mankind, cannot stand against it.

Our loved ones will rise to shine like the stars of heaven; then all who have done good deeds shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

This hope which we cherish shall not come about through inactivity. While we are still in this life, we are reminded that it is only by doing good that this will come about. The grace of God has what it takes to exponentially transform temporality into eternity; mortality will assume immortality making death which marks the dividing line between the physical and the spiritual to disappear.

Those who nurse this hope and cherish this vision are called to live in joyful HOPE because eternal life and not death, is our golden portion.
.






From Bulletin of NOVEMBER 8, 2015

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

God loves a cheerful giver – Widow’s Mite

You and I shall remain strangers to life and to one another until I am willing to sacrifice my life for you without counting the cost. This is called love … it is called gratitude. The daily life of a Christian should be a life of gratitude. November is specially chosen as a Thanksgiving month when we express our gratitude to God for the gift of life and also pray for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed. In many parts of the world and especially in tropical climates, November is also a harvest season. This is followed by the holiday season when people rest from farm work before the next farming season begins. This is also the season when people use part of their harvest to offer in thanksgiving to the almighty God from whom all good things come.

This act of gratitude becomes a sacrificial act whenever it is done with love. The widows of this Sunday’s readings show us the way to go. In a male dominated culture where a man wakes up thanking God for not creating him a woman, not much good was expected to come from a woman, less a widow. The predicament of a widow is even worse if the widow has no male child because it is from the male child that she could secure the inheritance due to her husband.

The widow, like a child, is seen and not heard from. Widows were generally poor, helpless and forlorn. As a poor person, a widow depends solely on the generosity of friends and relatives. This is a world where it was unimaginable that a woman less a widow could make a difference, but, in the widow of Zarephath and the widow of today’s Gospel reading we see how their willingness to share the little they have made them great.

The widow’s mite as often misunderstood, is not about giving a little from one’s abundance. It is all about giving all you have without expecting anything in return for “she from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mk 12:44).

By sharing her last food with Elijah, the jar of flour did not go empty and her jug of oil did not run dry. By giving away her last two coins in the Temple, the widow of the Gospel pulled off the best financial transaction ever made by a human being. Their greatness being that the widow of Zarephath shared her last food in a time of famine and the Gospel widow invested her last coin, not in the bank but in God.

These widows’ actions assume a transcendental dimension because their faith in God was of greater importance to them than keeping the food/money that will sustain their lives for one more day. Their actions also assume a noble quality because it was not only done by women for the men who build the unjust structures that impoverish them but because their lives depended on this single act of benevolence. Hence, in their actions we see the meeting point between the physical and the spiritual (the human and the divine).

From the courageous acts of these widows we see how faith and human goodness trumps the culture of selfishness and fear. These widows have enough reasons to excuse themselves from sharing the little they have. It will be perfectly logical for them to say “we are widows who do not have anything to spare, let others give who can afford to do so without any pain."

Their refusal to resort to excuses or self-pity and their willingness to risk giving and sharing what they have becomes a living example of a profound Faith and Trust in God. And this is what religion is all about. Religion and religious people out of fear sometimes build unjust structures that dehumanize the person redeemed by Christ but true religion should be fundamentally about the liberation of the human spirit from the bondage of ignorance and fear through selfless acts of love.

In a world that thinks that there are no good people in a bad nation or that there are no bad people in a good nation such becomes a great challenge. From the actions of these widows we see the reversal of worldly cultural thinking - the poor feeding the rich, the weak helping the strong, the oppressed coming to the aid of the powerful.

There are good and bad people everywhere. Most of the time the quality of goodness that saves the world comes, not from those we expect it to come from but from those whom the world takes for granted. People like Joseph, Mary, Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene, etc. were far from being the best during the reign of Herod and Pilate; yet, they were used in no small measure for the salvation of the world.

No one has a monopoly of goodness. If good deeds could come from widows, given the situation of widows during the time of Jesus, then, there should be no shortage of goodness in the world today. Do you have any reason to be grateful to God? Of course we all do. We may not be privileged to do great things in the world, but we certainly have the chance to do small things with great love. It is sad how some people often resort easily to giving excuses rather than contribute their quota to build a better world for all.

Be not deceived, there is no shortage of goodness in the world but the fundamental challenge is whether we are part of this goodness. Does my action bring about the kingdom of God or am I still waiting and looking up to the sky for God to bring it about? Since the God who created us without our cooperation cannot save us save us without our cooperation, then, it is left in the hand of each and every one of us to do what it takes to bring about the reign of justice, truth and goodness in the world.
.






From Bulletin of NOVEMBER 1, 2015

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

Feast of All Saints

The celebration of the feast of All Saints dates back to the 4th century but it was not until the 8th century that Pope Gregory IV extended this feast to the universal church to be celebrated on November 1. According to some fathers of the church like St. Ephrem and St. John Chrysostom, this day was initially set aside to celebrate the lives of those martyrs who sacrificed their lives in defense of the Good News of salvation.

During the era of church persecution, the blood of martyrs proved to be the seed of Christian faith. The church regarded martyrdom as a sacrifice of utmost importance because it is a sharing in the life of Jesus who died on the cross for the salvation of the world. The lives of these noble men and women who offered their lives for Christ whether they were canonized or not, were considered worthy of remembrance, hence, the faithful gathered to celebrate their noble and heroic deeds.

As the era of martyrdom ended, the church began to see other manifestations of the faith in Christians who fully participate in her mission ad gentes – the mission of the church in world by way of prayer, teaching, preaching, healthcare, outstanding leadership and other missionary activities. These men and women who courageously live the Christian life in the world are recognized and admitted into the company of saints. Today, the list of saints in the church includes people of every nation who profess the name of Jesus Christ and use their talents to contribute to the civilization of love in the world.

Saints are neither sinless nor perfect human beings, but, they are certainly men and women who love God and neighbor. Many saints like Peter, Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Frances, Mary Magdalene, etc. struggled with pride, anger, lust, envy and other weaknesses in the world but they did not give up in their effort to become better human beings for the glory of God and the salvation of their soul. St. Thomas Aquinas said he broke all the commandments except murder. St. Augustine out of lust fathered a child out of wedlock. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute who later changed her ways to love the Lord.

These men and women were not immune to the vicissitudes of life. They had their good and bad moments but there was a constant in their lives – they love God. It is love that makes people saints. Anyone who loves God and neighbor, whether canonized or not, is a saint.

The feast of All Saints celebrates the unity of the church in all her ramifications as a militant, suffering and triumphant church. The members of the church in the world consist of the church militants who fight principalities and powers in higher places (Eph 6:12). The soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria fight with armored cars and missiles to defend their lives but Christians fight with love through prayer and good works.

In every generation, the church needs saints who manifest the glory and power of God in the world. As Pope Francis puts it ““We need saints without cassocks, without veils - we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies, that listen to music, that hang out with their friends (...) We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, and theatre. We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.”

Tomorrow we shall celebrate another important part of the church which is the suffering church. In the feast of All Souls, we celebrate the lives of men and women who lived in this world and have run the race to the end but now await the redemption of their souls from purgatory. Since the dead cannot praise the Lord but depend on the prayers of the living in order to see the face of God, we, the church militant remember and pray for the forgiveness of their sins – those we know and those whom no one remembers that with the sacrifice of the Holy mass, which is the highest sacrifice of the church, God may forgive their sins and grant them eternal happiness in heaven.

As the church militant (living members of the church) prays for the suffering church (faithful departed) to become members of the triumphant church (the saints in heaven), so does the triumphant church in turn prays for the church militant that we may run the race to a perfect end. In this spiritual exercise we see a perfect display of the unity of the church. No member of the church is an island because at every stage of our lives, someone holds your back.

The feast of All Saints becomes a reminder that this world is not our home. We are merely passing through.
Christians are not in this world to do their own will but to do the will of the One who called us out of darkness into His own marvelous light. Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to God. Loving and doing the will of God is what brings eternal happiness to the human heart which the saints enjoy in heaven.

We are all called to be holy (saints) for without holiness no eye can see God. The work of the church in the world can never be said to be done until every member of the church is counted among the triumphant church (saints).
.





From Bulletin of OCTOBER 25, 2015

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

“The healing of blind Bartimaeus”

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he asked a question:

'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.

Where is the natural order of things in my son?'

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child ....'

Today’s Gospel story is not about a child but a man whom the forces of nature has rendered incapable of enjoying what other people take for granted – to see and be seen as a human being. Physical blindness made it impossible for Bartimaeus to see and admire the beauty of nature.

Some studies by Vanda Pharmaceuticals show that when total blindness happens, chances are high that a person will develop Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder. As many as 70% of people who are totally blind suffer from the effects of living with Non-24. This serious circadian rhythm disorder brings about restlessness at night, the overwhelming urge to sleep during the day, and a range of functional problems. This is caused by the eye's inability to perceive environmental light, which is what resets the master body clock and circadian rhythms every day.

Light perception is a key element in maintaining a 24-hour body clock because environmental light signals the time of day to the brain. In people who are sighted, this resets the body clock to 24 hours, ensuring that the circadian rhythms synchronize to the typical day-night cycle. For people who are totally blind, there are no such light cues, and the body clock's extra minutes add up day by day until the circadian rhythms are essentially upside down from a typical 24-hour day (
www.vandapharma.com)

During the time to Jesus, blindness and leprosy were among the most dreaded diseases. Such ailments were attributed to evil spirit and sin (Jn 9:2), so blind people were separated from “normal” people to avoid contamination. It was common to see the blind, deaf, lame and lepers outside the city gate begging for food.

In a just world, people who are disadvantaged by nature ought to be taken care of by those been blessed by nature, but, such is not the case. The predicament of the blind is made worse by the religious institution of the day. Religion which should come to the aid of the poor and needy is instead used as a reason to justify the maltreatment and dehumanization of the poor, lame, blind and lepers. By so doing, religion loses its raison d’être.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus destroys the unjust structures that dehumanize human beings. In Jesus, a new kingdom has dawned upon the world. Human liberation from the bondage of ignorance and sin becomes real. But, as the blind man struggles to embrace the new energy which Jesus brings, the crowd tries to stop him. The same crowd that treats him as a sinner and keeps him at the city gate to beg for food is still the same crowd that wants to prevent him from being healed.

We see the greatness of Bartimaeus in his ability to separate himself from the crowd. Realizing that it is nature and the crowd that keep him in his miserable state, for once Bartimaeus follows his instincts and continues to shout in a loud voice “Son of David, have pity on me.” His resilience makes the crowd to turn around and begin to support him, encouraging him to get up to meet Jesus. It is this meeting that will exponentially change his life forever.

Nature which did not allow Bartimaeus to see its beauty could not prevent him from hearing the voice of Jesus; hence, as soon as Bartimaeus regains his sight, he becomes a disciple of Jesus. He becomes an agent of transformation and change in the world.

Does it surprise anyone that poor Bartimeus begins to live a more purpose-driven life than most "healthy" people? Suffering has a way of shaping the human mind to make it focused; hence, unlike most of us Bartimeus knows what he wants in life.

The resilience and determination of Bartimaeus puts him in the category of the few who were privileged to have a second chance in life. How wonderful it is that Bartimaeus – son of Timaeus (honor) becomes a disciple of freedom.

Being true to his name, Bartimaeus did not change to please the crowd. His action is rather contrary to what the crowd wants, thus, teaching us that it is not what the crowd thinks of a person that matters but what God thinks. And what does God think of Bartimaeus? - "Be healed, your faith has saved you." Isn't that awesome? Of course, it is.

Human nature is unfair because it has been deformed by sin. Shaw and Bartimaeus are the victims of a deformed nature, but, in Jesus the power of faith prevails over nature. Religion is superior to nature and should not be at the service of nature. Nature deforms while religion redeems. Nature does not give people a second chance in life, but religion does. Religion renews and heals nature making it possible for those disadvantaged by nature to be whole again. Bartimaeus should not be condemned for being born blind, rather, they are condemned who have eyes but refuse to see.

In Jesus, therefore, the role of religion in the world is redefined. Religious people or the church is not in the world to please the crowd, the state or the rich. True religion is not measured by how advanced it is in the use of mass media or how politically correct it is in the preaching of the word. True religion is measured by how believers treat all the Shaws and the Bartimaeus in our world today.
.






From Bulletin of OCTOBER 18, 2015

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

“Who is the Greatest?”

Colman was a certified dentist in his country Nigeria before moving with his family to live in America. His certificate is not considered good enough to secure him a job as a dentist here in America. Given his age, Colman did not consider doing another five year dentistry course as a feasible project he would undertake. He decided to do a 2 year course to become a pharmacy technician. After graduating, he applied for job at several pharmacies. Wherever he goes, they will ask him for referral letters from well-known pharmacists. Having been in America for about three years, he knows no one who would recommend him. Being without a job for 8 months after graduation, Colman gave up and accepted a job at a warehouse so he could make some money to pay his bills.

We live in a world where relationship guarantees professional and political progress. The findings of a psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant reveals that progress/success in the world is not simply the fruit of hard work, talent and intelligence; it mainly depends on one’s relationships. Some people secure a lucrative job even before they graduate while some with first class in their area of specialization may remain unemployed or underemployed throughout their professional career. And going by the way things happen in the world, progress/success is less about “who you are” but more about “who you know.” It may be surprising knowing the extent of how “who you know” affects and determines your progress/success in life.

As an author and investor Ben Casnocha puts it, “opportunities don’t float down from the sky - they come attached to people.” In big economies, companies find hires by way of referral. The New York Times reports that companies like Ernst & Young emphasize referral-based hiring. Last year 45% of non-entrylevel placements at the professional services giants came from referrals, which is a 28% jump from the 2010 statistics
(http://www.businessinsider.com/how-your-network-shapes-yourhealth-happiness-and-success-2014-4).

In an ideal world referrals should be based on one’s qualification and excellence in service, but that is not always the case in the real world. This is not to say that successful people did not work hard to get to where they are. The point being made here is that even with high qualifications, it is not always easy for the poor and those who have no one to speak for them to be hired for a good job or be recommended for positions of honor
in the society. Who you know matters.

This process of climbing the ladder of progress is not unique to our time. It has always been this way and the apostles of Jesus were very much aware of it; hence, James and John were willing to take advantage of their being among the closest associates of Jesus to secure a successful future for themselves. The extraordinary power and great leadership skills of Jesus made becoming His lieutenants’ one of the most attractive positions anyone would wish for.

The need to use Jesus to climb the ladder of progress becomes more urgent given the apostles’ wrong conception of the messianic kingdom . James and John being among the closest companions of Jesus did not hesitate to ask for a favor. “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”

It is interesting to note that the sons of Zebedee did not ask to share in Jesus’ suffering and death. They wanted to share in Jesus’ glory. No one is born great, but, there is an inborn desire for greatness in everyone. All our actions aim at making us great because greatness is a noble value. Seeking for greatness is a wholesome and praiseworthy act that is only engaged by those who desire to improve the quality of their life.

In the world, children of people in power do not need to suffer so much in order to rise to greatness. There are those whose palm kernel are cracked for them by a benevolent spirit by way of good guidance, luck, family inheritance/connection, natural endowments, environmental factors, good education, etc.

Are all called to greatness? “Yes.” Is it possible for everyone to become great? In the world, it is not possible but in the spiritual realm it is. How we go about to realize this innate desire for greatness is what shows the depth of our faith and the moral content of our character.

To an extent, progress in the world is a given (institutionalized). The rich do not always have to work too hard to succeed. This is not so with spiritual progress. Rich or poor, what you give is what you get. Growth in spiritual life is a personal decision one must make. Your parents cannot make it for you. Your friends cannot make it for you. You must make it for yourself.

James and John were professed Christians, yet they pursued greatness in an unchristianized manner by adhering to the culture of favoritism. Even at that Jesus did not ask us not to become great. Rather, He sets a new parameter for true greatness, which is faith expressed through service. True greatness is not given but merited. Those who achieve greatness through connection are prone to put their trust in human beings, while those who achieve greatness through service will put their trust in God.

Greatness through service is not about “who you know” but “who you serve.” It takes the grace of God to serve. People who serve are a blessing to others. You cannot replace people who serve. Blessing and peace follow them. Wealth and goodness follow them. They are a joy to behold and a blessing to be around with. Their goodness is without boundary. You are great who train your children according to Christian values, teachers
who inspire their students to high ideals, doctors and nurses who care with love, volunteers who work for no reward, etc. They are the ones who reflect the true image of God in a world opposed to truth, compassion, justice and peace.

Thanks to God, no one has a monopoly of true greatness. With Jesus on our side, people like Colman who know no one in power in the world are able to rise to greatness through Christ who strengthens us in love and rewards the smallest act of faithful service done to others.
.






From Bulletin of OCTOBER 11, 2015

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

“Attachment to Wealth”

A famous and rich actor hired a security firm to investigate his girlfriend. Facts gathered revealed that she was not all she claimed to be. She was an ex-convict and has a substance abuse problem. Feeling he was no longer in love with her, the actor decided to sever ties. But his girlfriend was not going to go that easily. She warned him that if he dumps her, she would run to the tabloids claiming he was drunk and abusive. The fact that it wasn't true was irrelevant. He saw his promising movie career being jeopardized.

He decided to offer her a monetary settlement. He and his attorney invited the woman to lunch in a public place, with his security detail in tow. The attorney offered the woman $500,000 to $1 million if she would sign a cease-and-desist contract and walk away. She suddenly stood up, refused the offer, became irate and started to leave.

As the attorney tried to calm her, she grabbed a steak knife and lunged at her ex-boyfriend, slashing the knife in the air near his face. The attorney intervened and was slashed across the arm before the security detail could grab her. She was booked for assault with a deadly weapon. She eventually agreed to a settlement and the actor dropped the charges.

Stivi, who counts Warren Buffett among his former clients, says he has dealt with wealthy individuals for almost 20 years, and the biggest challenge for them is knowing whom to trust. In today’s Gospel we see a rich young man who trusted that Jesus has what it takes to make his life better and in the process he discovers an essential truth about himself which no one would ordinarily bring him to see.

Whether rich or poor, it is impossible not to identify with the sentiments expressed by the rich young man upon hearing Jesus say to him “… go sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven ….”

It was a common Jewish belief that righteousness leads to prosperity; hence, wealth is a sign of blessing from God while poverty and sickness are caused by sin. All the friends of God from Abraham to Solomon were rich. God chose Abram and promised to bless him and make his name great (Genesis 12:1-3). In the process, Abram became rich (Genesis 13:2).

God blessed Isaac and he became very rich (Genesis 26:12-14 ). David and Solomon's wealth was seen as a sign of God's favor (1 Kings 3:13; 1 Kings 10:23 ). Job when blessed by God, saw his wealth increased greatly (Job 42:12). Based on these ideas, it would be easy to think that having wealth means one is in the clear, safe from danger and leading a good life.

Being wealthy or at least having enough money to be financially independent seems to be a genuine desire of every person. Human beings work hard to gain wealth, even though we do know that money is not a guarantee of safety.

The dangers of poverty like homelessness, hunger, lack of opportunity, neglect, etc. are obvious but the dangers of wealth can be much more hidden. Poverty can disfigure and eat away the human body but unbridled wealth disfigures and withers the soul. Wealth without wisdom takes away our happiness and makes us prisoners of own making. If we allow wealth get the best of us, it can leave one just as ruined as poverty would do.

Jesus, in today's (Sunday) gospel reminds us that neither wealth nor poverty is a genuine parameter for measuring the depth of our relationship with God. Jesus neither condemns wealth nor glorifies poverty. In their proper contexts, wealth is a gift that can be used to glorify God and make a positive impact in the world. But like anything else in life, wealth only works when it is submitted to the authority of God.

When God created the world, God said it was good but God expects us to become the best we can because only the best is good enough for God. Interesting to note is that the things that prevent us from becoming the best we can be are not really bad things in themselves but rather good things that are used in a bad way. To keep wealth from warping us, we need to keep our hearts and attitudes always in the right place.

Jesus challenges the human heart to grow up. It is easier for human beings to change from bad to good than to change from good to better and to best because of the sacrifice it entails. Wealth is not always an obstacle in itself in following Jesus but human attachment to wealth and the uses we make of them are what could prevent us from becoming disciples. The prayer of the wise then is "Give me neither wealth nor poverty ...."

Jesus destroys the basic foundation of the commonwealth of Israel and levels the playing field for all who desire to inherit eternal life. Jesus calls us to re-examine our values to see how much wealth or poverty has replaced the need for God in our lives - Has the joy of watching HD television replaced the time for prayer in our homes? Has working two jobs replaced family time and Sunday mass for us? Has bias, selfishness or dependence on drug and alcohol dampened our conscience with regard to respect for life and care for the needy in our midst?

Jesus in essence condemns neither the rich nor makes them feel guilty for being rich. Jesus challenges us to reflect critically on what our priorities are, in order to come to an awareness of all those things that prevent us from putting God first in our lives. When we follow God’s plan for our money, wealth becomes a great blessing. If we allow our love of money to outgrow our love of God, then, we become slaves to the very empires that we have built.
.






From Bulletin of OCTOBER 4, 2015

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

“Two of them become one flesh”

In the recent past Christian marriage has become a topic of great contention. People question what constitutes a gender appropriate marriage - Is a Christian marriage only between a man and a woman? If love is the reason for marriage, is it also possible for a man to marry a man, a woman to marry a woman, a man to marry a cat, a woman to marry a dog, a man to marry his gun, one to marry a nephew or niece, a man to marry as many wives as he can take care of or a woman to marry as many men as she deems fit if she could love them equally?

Times change and we change with them. Some lifestyles, relationship or choices which human beings used to consider abnormal or unhealthy are now being considered as ok. Hence, no matter your stand on what constitutes a healthy or gender appropriate relationship, there is always a divided opinion whenever the question of marriage or divorce is discussed.

Why do people fall in love (marriage) and why do people fall out of love (divorce)? There are some honest people who, even after giving their best in a relationship, have found themselves divorced or abandoned by their husbands or wives. Is it moral to condemn such people for a crime they did not commit or a situation they did not cause?

Marriage and divorce are sensitive issues that have to do with the deepest core of human nature. Love and feelings are not irrational but non-rational. It is a unique form of human experience that often evades rational judgment.

Most biblical laws about marriage and divorce which are often employed in cases of marriage and divorce were influenced by a Jewish culture that did not considered women as equal to men. The Deuteronomic law upon which the Rabbis based their interpretation of Scripture is a law which no rational being would accept at this age, hence, it is not out of place that the present generation would have difficulties understanding and appreciating the insight of Bible-based solutions to the problems of marriage and divorce.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 said, "If you want to divorce your wife, all you need to do is give her a piece of paper on which is written "I divorce you" and send her away. If you give her that paper before two witnesses, everything will be all right and you will be free to marry whomever you want."

In the Jewish culture at the time of Jesus there were two prominent schools of thought that interpreted this Deutronomic law on divorce. The conservative school, led by Rabbi Shammai, interpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4 to mean that a husband could divorce his wife only for the reason of adultery. The liberal school, which was the predominant view at the time of Jesus, led by Rabbi Hillel interpreted it to mean that a husband could divorce his wife for any and every reason.

By "any and every reason" Hillel means that a man could divorce his wife if the food was too salty or if she was seen in public with her head uncovered. A man could divorce his wife if she talked with men in the streets, if she was a brawling woman, if she spoke disrespectfully about her in-laws in her husband's presence, or if she was troublesome or quarrelsome. Rabbi Akiba, who agreed with Hillel, said that a man could even divorce his wife if he found someone prettier. In other words, a man's lustful eye could be used as a reason to divorce
his wife.

The view of the school of Hillel was predominant at the time of Jesus. In a Jewish culture where women had very few rights, only men could divorce women. It was a common practice for men to put away their wives for any and every reason. It was the man who determined what was right or wrong, hence the ultimate collapse of the family culture.

To answer this question, Jesus employed a certain rule of exegesis used by rabbis to interpret the Scripture. In rabbinic exegesis, something earlier was weightier. Jesus knows that rule, so He went past Deuteronomy 24 and all the way back to Genesis 1 and 2. According to the rabbinic rule, the passage Jesus was citing from Genesis was of greater authority than any later passage or interpretation of it. So Jesus focused on God's original plan of marriage and asked the Pharisees to also focus on what was true in the beginning before sin ever entered the world.

Marriage is the only sacrament that was not washed away by the flood during Noah’s time. In fact, the idea of divorce did not even enter into the creation story. God, who makes out of the two one never to be separated, is the God of marriage. There is no provision for divorce in Genesis 1 and 2. Divorce is only the consequence of a fallen humanity, hence, Moses ordinance in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was not meant to interpret the mind of God but to address the problem posed by the sinful nature of a fallen humanity.

In other words, Jesus is saying that both Rabbi Shammai and Rabbi Hillel are wrong in their interpretation of Scripture. We need to go all the way back to Genesis 1 and 2 to discover God's principles governing marriage, not divorce. To Jesus, the solution to the problems posed by marriage and divorce does not lie in human experience which has been destroyed by sin but in the original plan of God for humanity. Love, like thunder and lightning is made in heaven and is meant to last forever. It is only those who embrace it with a single mindedness of purpose that will benefit from it.

A woman is not an object to be used and thrown away. She is a created in God’s image and likeness and deserves to be respected and loved. Since human love is not perfect because it has been destroyed by sin, we cannot shy away from the reality of divorce in the world. And since the salvation of soul is the supreme law of the church, the church could make laws to reduce the burden of divorce on the human person, but these laws cannot replace the original plan of God for human beings.
.






From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 27, 2015

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

“… perform mighty deeds in my Name”

You have probably heard the story of a young man named Ricardo Milla who posted his resume for a job. In six months only two employers reviewed his resume and after which he did not receive any offer for an interview. Ricardo did everything possible, everything he was told to do, and yet still remained unemployed. He even toned down the font size of his name on the resume. But there’s nothing that seem to work. Slowly he begins to realize this … hence come to one assumption that leads to a postulation that culminates into a realization fermenting at the heart of the matter. It has nothing to do with his credentials and qualifications.

Ricardo can more than perform for the companies and positions that he has applied for. Both Ricardo and the companies know this. What’s holding him back and preventing him from realizing his full potential, well, it’s his name.

People who do not know you well, judge you by your name. That beautiful name given to you at birth by your parents who wanted you to become your own person has now become an obstacle for you on the road to progress in life. Your unique name has provided you with nothing but unemployment and no chance of advancement.

Since the name on a resume need not be one’s legal name Ricardo decided to change his name from Ricardo Milla to Rickie Mills. Within one week his resume received more reviews than it had ever received in the past 6 months. And this was subsequently followed by several invitations for interviews and job offers.

It was Shakespeare who once wrote in “Romeo and Juliette” “what is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Of course, we do know that there is something in a name. Your name is what sets you apart. It is what makes you, you. All names may be good and beautiful, yet, in the world all names are not equal.

Ridiculous though it may sound, in this world certain names are like passwords that open the door of progress. It may not be an over-statement to say that material and political progress is 70% inherited and 30% based on individual effort. Yes, there is something in a name. The resume of a person surnamed Lincoln or Bush may receive more attention than that of a person surnamed Osama bin Ladin. Although this may be a poor comparison, yet it helps us to appreciate the power in the name of Jesus in the world. Through baptism we have become members of Jesus family.

The first believers in the Gospel were called Christians because they are people who want to be like Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ empowers believers to receive the power and authority to use His name to heal and restore order in our troubled world. Believers gather in the name of Jesus Christ and celebrate in His name and disperse in His name.

The apostles saw some people who were not of their fold using the name of Jesus to perform wonders. They tried to stop them from using Jesus name. The reply of Jesus is “Do not prevent them. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.”

Jesus is reaffirming that there is power in His name but most of us do suffer from a failure of confidence in claiming the power that comes from that name. Be it in the case of Eldad and Medad in the first reading or the rich who oppress the poor in the Second reading or the Apostles exclusivist mentality, Jesus makes it clear that no one has a monopoly of His name. Jesus’ name is a universal name for all who wish to be saved.

Unlike in the world where material and political progress are circumstantial, anyone at any time, place or nation who mentions the name of Jesus will as much be blessed as the apostles who shared physical company with Jesus. It is a waste of time fighting to protect Jesus name or killing others in God’s name. We should rather aim at using Jesus name to do good and contribute to the civilization of love in the world.

It is a sad truth that unbelievers are not ashamed to misuse the name of Jesus as we can see in movies that portray Jesus as a magician, liar, macho, illegitimate child, deceiver, arrogant prophet, etc. We abuse Jesus name in dirty songs, slangs, vulgar words, cursing, etc.

Worse still is using the name of Jesus to justify slavery, injustice, inequality and oppression. Yes, it is bad to misuse the name of Jesus, yet, it is worse when believers refuse to call on the name of Jesus in times of temptation, failure, bondage, disappointment, sickness, etc. There is power in the name of Jesus.

Jesus is the most beautiful name ever given to human beings by which salvation is made real to us. We should be proud to use Jesus name, for salvation comes not in preserving or protecting the NAME from abuse or distortion, but in calling on the name of Jesus. This is why the door to heaven is open to all (good and bad alike) who call on His Name.

Having come to this realization that Jesus name is available for the use of all. Those who follow the footsteps of Jesus ought to come to the realization that authentic religious faith should be inclusive, not exclusive. Believers must aim at cooperation, not competition. The spirit of competition may be necessary for a successful career in the world of politics and business, not so in the building of the kingdom of God. It is the spirit of unity that motivates believers to contribute their quota for the building of a better world. All who do so are in fact the true children of God called to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from time immemorial.
.






From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 20, 2015


25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

"Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?"

Whatever people say when they are about to die is always true, for no one who looks at the face of death could afford to lie. Surprisingly, a dying person has nothing to lose but everything to gain - Peace. As His death draws near, Jesus, knowing that death is a great divider, tries to strengthen the faith of his apostles so that they could stand strong in the service of the kingdom even when confronted with the naked reality of death.

There is hardly any human being or family who has never had a fair share of the experience of death in the family. Although no one prays for death in the family, yet, death-moments could make or mar a family. I don't know about you, in our family, our father was the first to die but since I was still a kid, I did not know much about it. It was not until our mother died that I began to see the challenges and transformations death could bring into a family.

Among my experiences after the death of my mother is the death of the word "OUR" in our family vocabulary. All I hear at home now is "my land, my children, my bicycle, my wheel barrow, my dog, my tree, my knife, my plate, my spoon, etc." These are words I did not hear when our mother was still alive. It was always our family and not my family, our children and not my children, our tree, not my tree, etc.

This transition from "our" to a "mine" mindset could sound to a modern mind like growing in personal responsibility but that may not be the case because certain things ,like sweeping the family compound which was never a problem when our mother was still alive, are now a big problem since no one wants to claim any responsibility for whatever is not "mine."

The apostles of Jesus were not different from my own brothers. Yes, they were not happy to see Jesus die, yet, they were not immune to the challenges posed by death as a great divider. Having come to know Jesus as one who says what He means and means what He says, the apostles could not resist the temptation of thinking "what's there for me after He is gone?"

The situation is made worse by their wrong conception of Jesus as a conquering messiah who has come to restore the kingdom to Israel like it was during the reign of King David when Israel was the super power in the world. Thinking of Jesus death as the ultimate point at which this process of restoring the earthly kingdom shall come to pass, the apostles, instead of sharing in the pain and desolation that Jesus feels in His heart, were only interested in what they will gain from following Him.

Ordinarily, an un-graced human being is a selfish animal. Human nature in its crude state is desolate and forlorn. Human beings love to be served rather than to serve; to be first, not the last; to gain, not to lose; to be secure and not be left in suspense.

From the apostles response to Jesus message, we can see how caring and compassionate they are. Imagine sharing the sad news from the doctor of having a stage 4 cancer of the liver that has metastasized ... instead of receiving empathy from friends and family, all you get is the news of their struggle of how to divide and share your wealth?

The immediate feeling could be that of regret and disappointment of having such type of friends and family members. You may even regret accumulating the wealth they would inherit. That is not what Jesus did. Jesus sees death-moments as teaching moments. Jesus seized the opportunity presented by this crisis moment to teach the apostles and us some important truths about the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of heaven is for those who stay focused on the goal. Staying focused on the goal in spite of the disappointments and challenges we encounter in life is a sure sign of greatness. We do not come about this quality of greatness by chance. Jesus by His teaching, reveals to us the way to authentic greatness.

Jesus teaches us that discipleship is service. The greatest is not the one who is served but the one who serves. People who serve are loved both by God and others. You cannot replace people who serve. Blessings follow them. Peace, goodness and beauty follow them. Wealth follows them and they are always a joy to behold and cherish.

The depth of service that Jesus is talking about here is not serving to be noticed and praised. We come to this level of serving when service becomes our second nature. Seeing other people smile brings us joy and doing our best to make the world a better place for all becomes our vocation.

To arrive at this depth of service would necessarily demand a purified mind and heart that is dead to selfishness, worldly power and authority. It demands a transition from the joy of being served to serving. This is what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary and this is what He expects from Christians of every age, time and season to do in a world that operates on the principle of the survival of the fittest.

By calling us to serve rather than be served, Jesus exalts the spirit of cooperation over the spirit of competition. Jesus establishes a new parameter for measuring greatness and makes it clear that we can excel by serving others rather than be served by others. Way to go.

Those whose notion of greatness is based on worldly standards are called to think again. And for those who think that the kingdom of heaven is a continuation of what the world admires and values, Jesus invites to grow up by cultivating the mind of God.
.






From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 13, 2015


24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

“Who do people say that I am?”

The ancient Greek aphorism "Man know thyself" is one of the Delphic maxims inscribed on the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo. This maxim, which Plato later attributed to Socrates in the “Dialogues of Plato,” remains one of the greatest saying of all times. Several meanings have been attributed to this maxim in different literatures, religions and traditions. In common parlance, it is applied to those whose boast exceed what they are Hence, “know thyself” becomes a warning to the wise not to pay serious attention to the opinion of the multitude.

Man know thyself elevates the human nature to a divine realm and makes it worthy of knowledge. It challenges the human mind to go beyond the physical for there could be more to life than the human eyes can see. It exalts self-knowledge as the highest form of knowledge available to human beings—Self knowledge is so important that nothing can replace it and nothing can suffice for it. It holds the secret key to finding meaning and purpose in life.

When Jesus asked his apostles today "Who do people say I am?" Jesus, in a subtle but radical way, challenges them and us to embrace the unique transforming power of self knowledge.

Psychologists have made us to understand that a person (persona) means a mask. What we see on the surface is nothing but a mask. You can never know who a person truly is by looking merely at the physical appearance (mask). To know who is behind a mask takes a lot of work. And not just that, anyone
wearing a mask finds it difficult to see and relate well with the ordinary things of life.

People who wear masks do funny things which may not reveal the true identity of the individual behind the mask. Since we do not see clearly because of the nature of the masks we wear, our freedom of speech, movement and ability to relate with others are limited; hence we become slaves of our own making.

Lack of knowledge of the masks we wear makes it easier for us to jam and be in conflict with others who are also wearing their own masks. And the situation becomes worse when we accept, judge and live by the deformed knowledge we gain through our masks.

Wearing a mask and more so being satisfied with knowledge gained through our observation of the activities of other masks (persons) becomes the highest form of ignorance, which seeks for liberation.

Knowing oneself demands that we break the shells imposed on us by our masks to be able to see clearly. This is a process of introspection which is not an easy project to undertake. We shy away from such a project because we want to see ourselves as good persons but what we see inside of us does not always reflect what we want to think of ourselves.

Peter was able to know the truth about who Jesus is because at the core of the human heart lies the truth, hence it takes an individual to know the truth. And to know the true identity of an individual, we need to go beyond the mask (person).

In a world where people live by appearances, self knowledge remains the greatest challenge of discipleship. Having been with Jesus from Jerusalem to Galilee, and now at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus challenges His apostles’ knowledge of Himself to see if they are motivated by public opinion or have come to realize through personal relationship and being open to the word of God, that He is the Son of God.

Their answers reveal to us that the crowd cannot know the truth. The crowd has no eyes, no ears, no brain, no heart and to follow the crowd is to live with a half-truth. And ultimately half-truth is not the truth.

Only the individual can know the truth because unlike the crowd, the individual has two eyes, ears etc. It is by opening our heart to the truth of the Gospel that an individual comes to break the barriers posed by our personal masks. It is the word of God that has the power to break our masks and reveal the true image and likeness of God in each and every one of us.

Unfortunately our world is full of people who believe in their masks and close their hearts to the word of God, hence the many conflicts we see in our personal lives, families, neighborhood and among nations.

Ours is a world that is full of half-truths which is ultimately lies. Half truths can win you a political position but it can neither empower us to know ourselves as to be in genuine and lasting relationship nor can it empower us to know Jesus and have a personal relationship with God.

Man Know thyself remains a challenge to us because the glory of God is human being fully alive. It is by knowing and loving oneself that one is able to know and love others. It is incomplete to claim to know God without knowing our true self and knowing our true self necessitates openness to the word of God.

The authentic faith which Jesus invites us to embrace in today’s Gospel, cannot be dissociated from knowledge expressed in good works (deeds). This is true because as we begin to know our true selves, we begin to share in the joys and sufferings of others. We begin to see ourselves as part of larger reality that is greater than ourselves. We begin to appreciate the place of God in our lives.

Knowing Jesus will no longer be an abstract reality. Knowing and having a relationship with God becomes a joy shared with all sentient beings here and now.






From Bulletin of SEPTEMBER 6, 2015


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year “B”

“He Has Done All Things Well.”

The Sunshine Cathedral has a story of an encounter between Stevie Wonder and Tiger Woods which goes like this: “Stevie Wonder met Tiger Woods at a celebrity party. Wonder
mentioned that he, too, is an excellent golfer. Tiger was a bit skeptical that the blind musician could play golf well, but he was too polite to say anything.

"When I tee off," Stevie explained, "I have a guy call to me from the green. My sharp sense of hearing lets me aim."

Tiger was impressed, and Stevie suggested that they play a round. When Tiger agreed, Stevie asks, "How about if we play for $100,000?"

Tiger insisted he wouldn't play for money, but Stevie argued until Tiger finally relented and said, "So, when do you want to play?"
Stevie laughed and replied, "I'll play on any night you choose."

You see, Stevie Wonder isn't handicapped, he's 'differentlyabled,' and he was just leveling the playing field, stayin' open to the possibilities.

Like the blind, the deaf are disabled in some ways but abled in some other ways. The deaf may not hear the sound of music or the cry of a baby but they do hear the voice of God who speaks directly to their hearts, hence their disability
should never be construed as inability.

The deaf, the blind, like any of us is fully entitled to the grace and healing mercy of God. In the healing of the man with speech impediment, we see the humanity of the man fully brought to bare by Jesus. To heal him, Jesus took him aside from the crowd, first established a relationship with him and blessed him in a way he could never ordinarily imagine.

In this healing encounter with Jesus, we see the dual nature of the deaf who represents not only those who are sick, marginalized and oppressed but also a society that is deaf to the word of God.

It is a no-brainer that no one likes to be deaf. Being deaf is an obstacle in our effort to develop a good relationship with others. The deaf are often ignored. People do not like to identify with them and many do not make effort to learn how
to communicate with them, hence the deaf are often lonely, desolate and forsaken. Sad though that may be, today’s Gospel reminds us that more dangerous and more devastating than physical defect is spiritual deafness, which prevents
human beings from hearing the voice of God calling us to embrace God’s goodness.

Being spiritually deaf is suffering an inner blockage, which covers the deepest core of the person’s being - Heart. Spiritual deafness is what Jesus came to "open," so as to empower, liberate, enable human beings to live fully in a loving
relationship with God and with others.

In Jesus we see the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in today’s first reading which promises the healing power of God when “… the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared; then the lame will leap like a stag
and the tongue of the mute will sing” (Is 35:4-7). In Jesus, we see the establishment of a kingdom where the rich and poor have equal access to the grace and healing mercy of God (James 2:1-5).

By preserving the original word used by Jesus, "
Ephphatha – Be Opened," Mark sums up the church’s mission on earth.
The Word of God has within it that which makes those who have been spiritually rendered deaf and dumb by sin to become abled to hear the voice of God, which is the voice of love speaking to human hearts, transforming and inviting it to a deeper relationship with God and with others.

The church in her wisdom continues to preserve the word and the gesture of '"Ephphatha" in the Rite of Baptism, when the priest or deacon, touching the mouth and ears of the newly baptized says: "Ephphatha," praying that God may
open the ears of the newly baptized to hear the Word of God and open their mouth to profess the faith. Benedict XVI highlights this point when he said that “through Baptism, the human person begins, so to speak, to "breathe" the Holy
Spirit, whom Jesus had invoked from Father with that deep breath, to heal the deaf and dumb man.”

Does the prophecy of Isaiah continue to be fulfilled in our day? People of faith would agree with me that true healing never stops. It cannot, for it is the birthright of all those who are graced by God in baptism. As Steven Levine rightly observe,
the grace of God is still at work in us and in the world as “the continuing expansion of the "big bang" of birth, constantly creating universes to be explored and merged into. To discover this inner grace in each moment is to become
healed. It is to discover the human divine within, the very source of healing, the essence of the deathless, the everhealed.”

The greatness of the church is not to be known by how much it invests on the rich and the healthy but by how it takes care of the blind, the deaf and the oppressed in their midst. The healing project of Jesus becomes our project even now because there are still church/family members, neighbors and nations who are still deaf to the word of God. Their deafness is still our deafness and the church should stop at nothing at making all able to hear the word of God. The challenges posed by physical defects are not absolute. It can be overcome, thanks to the grace and healing mercy of God that anyone of any culture, place and time who opens up to Jesus’ call to conversion is privileged in many ways to benefit from the healing power of the God who does all things well and keeps it in being.




From Bulletin of August 30, 2015


22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year “B”

“... things that come from within defile.”

Last week I was opportune to listen to a woman (Ellen) who told me how growing up in a poor family made her to swear to work hard to provide a good life for her children. Not only that she was determined to marry only an educated man with a good job, she also worked two jobs. Ellen spent her vacations doing gardening. She stayed away from gambling, jewelries and other expensive lifestyles to have enough savings to provide a good life for her children.

Ellen worked so hard that at the age of 26 she was able to buy a house in a good neighborhood, had a personal car and was able to pay for the education of her children. She made an honest effort to provide for her children all they wanted like the latest electronics, play station, fashion and to crown it all, the 7th birthday gift her husband gave to each of their 3 children was a five thousand dollar worth of stock he bought for them.

One would expect anyone who had done so well to wake up every day happy because she did her best to realize her dream. That is not the case. Ellen lives in pain, rejection, sorrow and regret because in spite of her honest effort, her children are not only ungrateful but two have abandoned their faith and have joined an ecstatic New Age movement that has introduced them to drugs, hypnosis and hallucinogens.

Where did Ellen go wrong, many may ask?

It is one thing to work hard to realize your dream but it is another thing to do what is right and necessary for the well being of another person. It is one thing trying to please others but it is another thing doing what is pleasing in the eyes of God.

Like Ellen, the Pharisees detested the lifestyle of the Gentiles whom they considered to be immoral and not law abiding. They did not want to be like them. The Pharisees honestly wanted to please God by their fidelity to the law. This attitude becomes a problem because it made them to look down on the Gentiles as damned and unworthy of God’s love.

Jesus tells them (& us) today to rather do what is pleasing to God. A life that is pleasing to God may not always be pleasing to us, yet in the end what matters is neither what I think of myself nor what people think of me, but what God thinks of me.

Whenever one is too holy to love the poor and the needy, one may be holier than God expects him to be. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world (Jm 1:22). Our care for others assumes a redemptive value especially when it is done for the glory of God.

Doing so may demand that we sometimes do things that may be unpleasing to us and lawless in the eyes of others. In our effort to do good and live up to our dreams, we should never lose sight of what God expects from us because there are ways that may look pleasing in human eyes but in the end leads to doom (Prov 14:12).

No one likes to be materially poor. Not even the poor likes to be poor. Material poverty may appear quite devastating but in fact, it is spiritual poverty that is very disastrous. Both the Pharisees and Ellen cared more about external poverty and worked hard to conquer it forgetting that it is the internal -spiritual poverty which they cared less about that eventually conquered them. Ellen provided for the material needs of her family but fell short of rooting her family in spiritual and moral values. In the end her efforts led to misery, disappointment and failure.

When Jesus says “nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person ...,” Jesus is not teaching us a lesson in hygiene. Jesus is inviting us to look inwards – “... the things that come out from within are what defile.” It is from within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.

By this statement, Jesus goes further to tear down an institutional and cultural belief that dehumanizes the person. Some cultural practices are time sensitive and should be understood as such. Emphasis on the law was at a time necessary in the formation of Israel as a nation but using the same law as ground to look down on others defeats the primary aim for which the law was established.

Some people or institutions may have a monopoly of material wealth in the world but no one has a monopoly of the spiritual wealth that leads to salvation. In our effort to overcome lawlessness and material poverty, we should never lose sight of spiritual values. Race, religion or political affiliation could guarantee material success in the world, not so with God. God’s salvation is for all. Contrary to the traditional Jewish belief that salvation is gained on the grounds of one’s birth, race or religion. Salvation is a gift that only God can give. It is given to people of any race, place and time who have strong faith in God.




From Bulletin of August 23, 2015


21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

Choose for yourself whom to serve

In the last five years I have used 3 cell phones, 2 cameras and 2 laptops. Don't even ask me about the many pairs of shoes and clothes, reading glasses, etc. ... plenty. There is always a reason for me to change or update to something new. This is not because I have the money but because I feel socially pressured to update and get on par with the latest technology in the market today. I once changed to a new laptop because I wanted one with in-built camera, and now I would like to update to one with a blue-ray player and a higher resolution for better communication.

We no longer live in an age when shoes, clothes, cameras, cars, computers, watches, etc. were expected to last for up to 20 years. Because of the quality of the materials used to build cars, the damage on the body and engine of a car due to an accident that happened on our streets would make it look like the accident happened on the freeway at a speed limit of 80 miles per hour.

I don’t know if things are getting better... but all I do know is that things are being improved upon every day. The medical technology has improved a lot on pregnancy, brain and plastic surgeries. Drones are monitoring people for better security. The internet speed is at its best and we practically have the world in the palm of our hands. But, it is not always easy to keep up with these developments in the world of fashion, medicine, electronics and communication.

The stress of keeping up with the pace in a fast changing world could be so heavy as to force one to the extreme of either closing one’s eyes to modern technology or paying for whatever it takes to meet up with its demands. Easier still is to adopt an attitude of non-commitment to these developments to avoid the stress that derives from trying to remain current in a fast changing world of rhyme and reason.

This attitude of non-commitment becomes a problem whenever we transfer it to our relationship with God and our fellow human beings. The fruit of non-commitment can be seen in the rise of a text-message culture, fast food restaurants, empty church pews, pornography, divorce, corruption, violence, broken vows and broken relationships.

We are experiencing the rise of the spirit of narcissism. In today’s readings, Joshua, Paul and Jesus demand the highest form of commitment to God as the best way to overcome the vicious circle of the self-seeking and self-serving spirit which characterizes human relationship in the world. An attitude of commitment to a cause greater than ourselves empowers us to liberate ourselves and to develop a genuine spirit of service that gives birth to the civilization of love.

Total commitment to a cause in a fast changing world is very hard; yet, God demands the highest form of commitment in our relationship with Him. Joshua asked the Israelites to choose the God whom they are going to serve. Equivocally they affirmed that they will serve the living God who has done wondrous deeds in their lives. In the Gospel, Jesus asked His disciples “do you too want to leave me? Simon Peter replied, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have come to believe and are convinced ....”
Life is all about commitment to a cause. The quality of our commitment goes a long way to reveal the quality of the life we live.

Today the word of God challenges us to critically reexamine the quality of our relationship with God and with others; our commitment to God, self and family. The depth of commitment demanded by Joshua and Jesus today does not come naturally to human beings unless inspired by the grace of God. It goes deeper than our commitment to modern technology. Knowing that left to human power and wisdom alone, it may be impossible to ascend to the divine realm of relationship, Jesus gives us the Eucharist – His body and blood as the food that empowers us to become one
with God.

The question then is: How committed are we with the Lord? How far are we willing to walk with Jesus? Our ancestors gave their life for the faith, some renounced material wealth to live in abject poverty in order to challenge human craze for wealth; some devoted their time and energy to explore nature in order to provide cures for diseases; some travelled by land and sea to foreign lands to spread the good news of salvation so that people may not die in ignorance, etc.

What has our generation got to offer? If our generation must be reckoned in the annals of history for their commitment to making the world a better place for all, we must be willing to take up big ideas. Genuine commitment to causes greater than ourselves is a big and noble idea worthy of the children of God and a people who are not willing to commit themselves to truth, beauty and goodness as lived out in the family, church and world will eventually have their names written on sand.

The demand for justice for all is probably the greatest hunger of our generation. How far are the present day Christians who eat the body and drink the blood of Christ willing to commit their lives to work for the reign of justice in the world? In the midst of a fast changing world of science and technology, Christians have a choice to make – either to become a people who have chosen to murmur and walk away or to become a people who follow the footstep of the Jesus whose body and blood we receive by fighting for the reign of peace and justice in the world.




From Bulletin of August 16, 2015


20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Anyone who eats this bread will live forever

Today Jesus makes one of those radical claims that could never go unnoticed by any critical mind. I have seen many nice and lovely people who received the Body and Blood Jesus die. My mother who was an avid believer in Christ died and likewise two other brothers of mine. Some people, friends and relations that I have known and worked with have all died and are no more. They ate the body and drank the blood of Christ but still died. How is it that Jesus says today that 'whoever eats my flesh and drink my blood will live forever?'

How could it be that they who had eaten the Body of Christ and drank the Blood of Christ still died? Did they eat the wrong food and drink the wrong wine?

Life in the world is always lived within the tension of the past, the present and the future. The present as we know it is more real than the past and the future, hence its tremendous
influence on the choices we make. However, overemphasis on the power of the present could make one to lose touch with the past and the future.

This is probably the predicament of the Israelites in the Gospel reading for this Sunday taken from Jn 6:51-58. Knowing who Jesus is, His parents and siblings, they found no reason to agree with His claim that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven and has the power to give eternal life to those who receive it.

Jesus, in the course of His ministry was used to disagreements and He took no offense at those who disagreed with His message. However, the attitude of the Israelites in today’s reading is considered sinful because instead of making effort to understand what Jesus is saying by asking questions, they murmured.

Murmuring is a bad habit that is often neglected because we think it offends no one. Murmuring is a grave sin because it hinders both spiritual and social progress not only
in the individual but also in the family, church and society. People who murmur are difficult to live with. We easily condemn it in others but often engage in it.

Scripture strongly condemns murmuring (Nm 14:1-3) Israelites murmured in the desert ... would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?; Mtt 20:1-16 the laborers in the vineyard
murmured because they had worked hard all day while others who had worked for only about two hours received the same wages; Lk 5:29-32 the Scribes and the Pharisees murmured because Jesus ate and drank with sinners.

To murmur is to whine and grumble. We murmur when things are not going the way we want it. It is often directed to oneself or to the wrong person and hardly to the right person so that corrections could be made. It makes a mountain out of a mole hill and could easily lead to selfjustification.

We often grumble and whine about things that happen around us. In the church we whine and grumble about the temperature of the room, the sound system, Sunday sermon, the benches, body odors, cry of babies, etc. To the whiner, everything is bad – since their life is miserable, they want to make it that way for everyone else.

This is not to say that Christians should not make legitimate complaints or observations about the things that are happening at home, workplace or church. The manner with which we go about it is what makes the difference for there is a fundamental difference between murmuring and making a legitimate observation or complaint.

When the Grecian widows in Acts 6:1-5 were not fairly treated; they complained to lawful authority that they were being neglected in the daily ministration. Immediate steps were taken by the apostles to correct such anomaly.

In relation to the life of the Christian in the church, we may have good reasons to complain about certain services like the behavior of ushers, Eucharistic ministers, priests, singing, bathroom, bulletin announcements, parking lot, etc, such complaints are normal because no single standard can satisfy the needs of all no matter our good intentions. If you want the room temperature to be cold, someone wants it warm; if you want the music to be solemn, another worshiper likes it loud. When things fall below our preferred standards, we should never resort to murmuring.

And make no mistake about it, murmuring is sinful. Christians should "Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" Phil. 2:14-15. "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" 1 Pet. 4:9. It causes one to perish 1 Cor. 10:10.

The Eucharist – the body and blood of Christ, remains the apex and summit of Christian worship. It is the highest sacrifice of the church. We who partake of it are called to go beyond the physical to the spiritual realities it reveals. In the Eucharist, we see a perfect union between the present and the future. To eat the body of Christ is to receive the future in the present. This understanding makes me to see that my mother and all the other lovely people I have known who ate the body and drank the blood of Christ have transitioned from temporal to eternal life. This is a reason to believe that like Jesus though they all died, they are alive for ever.

Yes, eternal life begins now for all who believe and receive Jesus in the Eucharist. It is my faith in communion with Christ that assures me of this and keeps me going. Everything may not go the way we want it but we should never forget how blessed are we to receive the Eucharist.





From Bulletin of August 9, 2015


19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

Food for the Journey

One of the major implications of the dual citizenship which Christians share is that while still on earth Christians are not immune to the vicissitudes of life. We see this even in the life of the prophet Elijah who was acclaimed as the greatest prophet in Israel. It was Elijah who single-handedly challenged the prophets of Baal, the god worshiped by the King, Ahab and his wife, Jezebel the daughter of the King of Tyre. Jezebel had quite a dominant influence on Ahab and she used her position to work hard to spread the worship of Baal in Israel.

To challenge the spread of idolatry in Israel, Elijah brought some offering and proposed that the God who will consume the offering will be worshiped as the true God in the land of Israel. The prophets of Baal prayed but their gods could not consume the offering but when Elijah prayed, His God answered by fire and consumed the offering. Elijah then gathered all the prophets of Baal who mislead God’s people with their magic and sorcery, stoned them to death and proclaimed Yahweh as the only true God.

When Jezebel heard what Elijah had done to the prophets of Baal, she threatened to destroy the life of Elijah. Elijah runs to Mount Horeb where he hoped to encounter God. On his way to Horeb, Elijah was so famished that he preferred death to life. It is at this lowest ebb of his life that Angels provided food for Elijah to eat to regain his strength to reach Mount Horeb.

Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb for forty days and forty nights shares a similarity with the forty year journey of the Israelites in the desert before they could reach the Promised Land and the forty days and forty nights that Jesus fasted in the desert after which He was tempted by the devil. The God who fed Israel with manna in the desert and who through the instrumentality of human angels provided for Elijah at his point of despair, today in Jesus stops at nothing from helping the children of God on their earthly pilgrimage.

The food eaten by the Israelites and Elijah in desert prefigures the Eucharist which is the Body and Blood of Jesus. But unlike manna (Israel) and cake (Elijah), the food that Jesus gives us - the Eucharist goes beyond the satisfaction of temporal hunger for food. It is the food that guides us not only to an earthly destination but to heaven where we shall be one with God.

The Eucharist is not just one of the foods we eat. It is the culmination of all the food we eat. Earthly food is meant to prepare us to partake of the heavenly food which Jesus gives to us in the Eucharist – Jesus’ Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Jesus says “I am the living bread that came down from heaven … whoever believes HAS eternal life.”

Eternal life is not a process that begins after death. Eternal life begins now. Every step and every choice we make here and now put us on the way to eternal life or eternal damnation.
It is not God who puts us to hell but rather the choices we make. However, it is God who gives us eternal life because immortality is a gift that we cannot achieve by our own effort. It is the grace of God that sanctifies, redeems and preserves us.

Knowing that the vicissitudes and challenges of life could lead us astray or make us to lose focus during our earthly pilgrimage, Jesus gives us His body and blood as the food
that strengthens us here and now to live for God.

In the celebration of the Eucharist, the past, present and future unite as one. Time ceases to exist as heaven and earth unite as one. Receiving the Eucharist therefore puts us on an
epiphenomenological level. Our action takes place in time yet goes beyond space and time. In the celebration of the Eucharist, we celebrate what we truly are and what we shall truly become after our life’s journey on earth. We celebrate eternal realities that are non-rational hence cannot be reduced to time.

By saying that “anyone who eats this bread will never die,” Jesus is not ignorant of the reality of physical death for all mortals. However, it is by partaking of the Eucharist that physical death is transformed from being an annihilation to a transition from temporal to eternal life. And Jesus seals this covenant by shedding His blood on the Cross where He said “it is finished” – our sins have been paid to the full (tetelesthai). Hence, all the baptized who receive the Eucharist are already on the path to eternal life.

To further assure us of the veracity of this belief, Jesus says “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will
give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Jesus does not need any permission from anyone to bring about this reality - the eternal redemption of our souls.

This new understanding of the transcendental dimension of our lives does not call us to be proud but rather to be humble enough as to work for our salvation with fear and trembling.
Receiving the Eucharist should empower us to set our eyes on the goal and to live right so as to merit the eternal values which are already prefigured now in the Eucharist.




From Bulletin of August 2, 2015


18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year “B” – “Do Not Work For Food That Perishes”

You have probably heard some people argue that religion makes people live with a sense of sin and guilt. They go on to recommend that children should not be raised with any religious beliefs or that children should be allowed to grow up and later decide for themselves if they need religion in their lives.

However, we do know that guilt and sin go beyond religious belief. The sense of sin is deeply ingrained in the human psyche and consequently affects our relationship with our environment. As the ignorance of the law does not make the law not to exist, so does the denial or ignorance of sin does not make sin not to exist.

Is there anyone who has no sin in his or her life? Surely, the answer is no one. But are there people who think they have no sin in their lives? The answer is Yes. The most difficult people to live and work with are those who think they have no sin in their lives.

Human nature is fundamentally flawed; hence, our perpetual struggle with sin and guilt. As Christians, to deny the presence and power of sin in our lives not only shows how dishonest we are, but also reveals the depth of our ingratitude to Christ who gave His life for our salvation.

Sin is real. Sooner or later, we have to deal with it. Sin is so powerful that it affects both the self and the environment. It is sin that conditions how we perceive and respond to reality.

We always recount the story of the Israelites because it reveals to us the human struggle with sin and guilt in the world. In the first reading, we see how the Israelites struggled with sin before they could enter the Promised Land. The Israelites regarded life in Egypt as life lived in bondage, sin and slavery. Leaving Egypt for the Promised Land was a movement from bondage to freedom, sin to holiness and slavery to emancipation.

In their effort to liberate themselves from the life of sin in Egypt, they encountered many difficulties and temptations which made them once again desire to go back to slavery in Egypt. “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread.”

Having experienced the power of God in Egypt, especially in the death of the first born sons of the Egyptians and in the crossing of the Red Sea, it is not so much that the Israelites were unaware of God’s power to see them through any difficulty in their lives. Their grumbling today is more of an outward expression of an inner desire to return to a life of sin, slavery and bondage.

If you have struggled with sin or have tried to overcome any bad habit in your life, you will very much appreciate what the Israelites are going through in today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus. Sin, guilt or bad habits can have such a strong hold on us making us prefer remaining in its bondage to doing what it may take to obtain freedom.

Ordinarily we detest sin but sin also can be very attractive, making us long for it. Sin is so powerful that even when we want to leave it, it may not want to leave us. There is something about sin that remains attractive in spite of our desire to conquer it.

This is the struggle we have to go through in life in order to liberate ourselves from the bondage of sin and guilt. And this struggle happens more inside of us than outside of us.

Jesus, being aware of the human struggle with sin; gives us today the ultimate remedy for sin and slavery in the world. The people that heard Jesus preach and experienced the multiplication of the loaves that fed 5000 people, thought that having enough food is the key to freedom from sin and guilt.

Today, Jesus takes the people from where they are to where He wants them to be. The key to authentic freedom does not lie in the product of the miracle but in the Person of the miracle. Earthly food is not an end in itself. We are not fed so as to be strong enough to accumulate more food. God feeds us so that we could be strong enough to do God’s work which reaches its climax with faith in Jesus.

Jesus says “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

Our Gospel readings for a couple of Sundays will reveal to us what Jesus means by this message. Jesus knows how strong and how weak we are. Left on our own we can do nothing. As manna helped the Israelites in their desert journey, so does Jesus body serve as the food that will help us to overcome the challenges posed by sin in the world. Even when material food is our pleasure, Jesus should be our treasure.

Jesus thus recommends this radical move from material to spiritual food as the panacea to freedom from the bondage of sin, ignorance and death. Jesus says “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

The factors that keep us in bondage may be physical, yet, the means of overcoming them are spiritual. Our participation in this Eucharist becomes a visible sign of our resolve to use all our energies, power and might to work, not for material food but for the spiritual food that endures forever.




From Bulletin of July 26, 2015

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B” —The God that Feeds Us

The youngest son of a retired teacher who had always thought that his father was of no good, while cleaning their house, came across the pay-slip of his father. To his greatest surprise, he saw how much money was the monthly salary of his father. He began to wonder how his father was able to use such a meager amount to feed the family, clothe and pay the school fees of his six children.

The feeding of the 5000 is one of the miracles I saw my mother perform several times for my siblings and I. And not just my mother, but most mothers in Africa. I remember the many times my mother transformed the remaining drop of soup in the pot into a full meal for her children. How she was able to do that, I do not know.

I still remember the many times when upon returning from school—and not yet finding my mother back from the market or from the farm—if there was no food at home, all I needed to do was to go to a neighbor's house. By mere exchange of greetings with the mother of the house, she would hear the sound of my voice and with a mere look into my eyes, she would know what I needed and would give me food to eat. I didn’t need to beg for food, mothers were able to read and understand our minds and out of the generosity of their hearts, they would do whatever was necessary to satisfy our needs. I saw my mother do this to others, and I also experienced the same generosity from others.

Although the entire village was poor in the material sense of it, yet, no one died of hunger. No one was homeless. No one was lonely. And the best part of it is that we never knew that we were poor. We had so much love in our hearts. We knew one another by name and by a mere look at the face; one could easily be identified as the son or daughter of this or that man. We made jokes of almost everything, including death. We smiled a lot and considered ourselves richly blessed because we had people who cared.

No one can underestimate the power and effect of care. In the Gospel today, there was need to care for people who were hungry and, from what transpired in this story, we see the difference the perspective we bring into any life situation could make.

After preaching to the people and seeing them hungry for food, Jesus challenged his apostles to give them food to eat. The apostle Philip, using his human eyes, could not see how they could feed such a vast crowd. He said “two hundred days’
wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” He would even go further to suggest that they send away the crowd so that they could go to the neighboring villages to get some food to eat.

In the apostle Philip, we see the crippling effect of viewing reality only from human and material perspective. Whenever we view what we or others have with mere human eyes, it is never enough for us, hence the tendency to avoid sharing and to accumulate more.

It is by caring and sharing what we have that we begin to live beyond the immediate self and its limiting effects on the human mind, for it is the power of care that catapults the human mind from the physical to the spiritual realm. The physical eyes limit our possibilities but the spiritual eye opens it up to the limitless horizon of the blessings that surround us.

Rather than seeing five loaves, like Jesus, we need to see five blessings. Five loaves are countable while five blessings are not. It is only when we begin to see five blessings and not just five barley loaves that we begin to build a world in which all will be rich in Christ - the Kingdom of God.

On the spiritual sphere, there is no limit to the good we can do when we believe: “Little is much when God is in it.” Those who are willing to offer their lives selflessly by relinquishing their attachment to material things like time, money, talents, etc., will be used by God to create extraordinary things in the world. We must never believe that our resources are too little to be used to help others because God delights in taking a humble, seemingly insignificant person, for the greater glory of His name (1 Cor 1:27).

The God who created us without our cooperation cannot save us without our cooperation. God could simply snap His fingers to feed the crowd, but He didn’t. Instead, He used what was available and then “gave it to his disciples to distribute to the people.” The disciples trusting the Lord distributed what they were given, and likewise should we.

Our problems are never too big (the “many” of John 6:9) for God to handle. Like Andrew we often wonder, “What good are we going to do with only five loaves and two fish?” Logically this is impossible but we should never loose sight of the fact that it is God’s doing, not ours.

We ought to bring our lives to God in a spirit of obedience and sacrifice, no matter how insignificant we may think our gifts or talents are (Rom 12:1). When doing so, expect God to do far beyond what can be imagined (Eph 3:20). By virtue of our baptism, we have within us the power to multiply bread for all the hungry people of our world. Our struggle then should be not to die with our potentials, but to endeavor to make them actual and to trust that God will lavish the hungry with spiritual blessings in abundance.


From Bulletin of July 19, 2015

Jesus Cares

My experience of life in Africa where I lived among shepherds and having owned goat and sheep in the family, helps me in no small way to appreciate the image of God being presented to us in the readings of today. If you have ever owned a sheep, you will agree with me that the sheep is an animal with a very low IQ. The sheep is not only weak and helpless, but also easily gets itself in trouble. To an extent, the goat can be quite independent but not the sheep. As a shepherd, you need to go out several times in the day to untie the sheep so that it can get some food to eat. If you meet the sheep on the way, it simply gazes at you and will hardly give way for you to pass. You will better avoid the sheep or you will run over it and then feel guilty for killing a sheep.

Though created with intellect and will, the human being is both a rational and stubborn animal that gets itself in trouble all the time by doing what it is not supposed to do. It is not by chance that Scripture uses the image of the sheep to tell us what the human being is like before God. As it takes a lot of patience to care for the sheep, so does it take even more patience to care for a human being.

The creator God is merciful and compassionate. Caring for the poor and needy was not simply a mandate but the best expression of Israel’s love for God. But, there came a time in Israel’s history when their quest for power and control of their neighbors led to a sequence of wars which resulted in the neglect of the weak, the poor and the needy.

The widow and the orphan are a group that no one likes to identify with, yet, Scripture did not make light of how very dear they are to God’s heart, hence a refusal to help them is nothing but a sign of Israel’s failure in her vocation as the chosen people of God.

Since it is the moral responsibility of those who are strong to care for the weak, today, God indicts the leaders of Israel for neglecting the widow and the orphan in their midst.

Neglect is a sad thing but unfortunately it is widespread in our society today. Ours is a world where dogs and cats care more than human beings. This human neglect of their fellow beings gets worse when people who claim to be religious see the poor as a problem to be avoided and not as an opportunity to be appreciated. Instead of caring for the poor and the needy, we blame them for all the political and economic problems in the world. Our politics are at their best when it comes to blaming the poor and our desired solution to poverty is eliminating the poor the same way we incarcerate criminals to reduce their number in our cities.

In a world ruled by lawyers and technocrats, the poor who have no lobbyist to influence laws and decisions are always taken for granted. There are many people in the world today who are like sheep without shepherd. We often hear and yet ignore the cry of these homeless and lonely people in our midst. There are families who have no money to care for their children; there are children who in their search for greener pasture have abandoned their aged and sick parents in the hands of care-givers; governments who do not care for the welfare of their citizens but would rather provide the poor with enough drugs, abortion and birth control pills to limit their population.

Our world is filled with people who are only for themselves and this is the value that is promoted daily in our society. Selfishness is presented as a virtue, while self-sacrifice and other altruistic behaviors are being regarded as a form of ignorance.

Today’s readings invite us to do more. God is a Father who cares for all, especially the poor and needy even when they are as stubborn and ignorant as the sheep. In the incarnation, God assumes flesh in Jesus the Good Shepherd to lay down His life for His sheep. We see in Jesus the protection of a father and the compassion of a mother who is ever ready to give her life for her children without counting the cost.

Having come from a family where my orphaned mother was widowed in her early thirties, leaving her to assume the responsibility of caring for eight children during the Biafra war, I can easily appreciate the point being made by both the prophet Ezekiel and Jesus in today’s readings. It is thanks to the benevolence of relatives and neighbors that our mother was able to provide food and drink for her eight children. In these uncles and aunts I see the hand of the Good Shepherd guiding us on the right path, caring for us and making it possible for us to have a happy and healthy childhood.

There are so many children in the world today who feel the absence of a good shepherd in their lives. Even worse still are children and youth who feel fatherless and abandoned even when their parents are still alive – children and youth who are seeking for direction and purpose in life with no one to help them.

In this lies the beauty of our religion, we have within us the power to do the same thing as Jesus our Good Shepherd has done. As children of God, created in the image and likeness of God, we should not hesitate to go an extra mile in helping the widow and the orphan in our midst. Our God is the God of the poor (Ps 68:5-6) and the cry of the poor reaches up to heaven.

Coming to the aid of the poor and the needy becomes the most certain prayer that reaches up to God.



From Bulletin of July 12, 2015


15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”
- Predestination and Human freedom


I have chosen to speak on the topic of predestination and human freedom in our homily today. This is an age long argument which probably predates the message of the 2nd reading of today taken from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

In Eph 1: 4-5 Paul writes “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world … and destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.”

Church theologians and philosophers have come to understand this passage differently hence their disagreement on the correct interpretation of this passage. While theologians strongly believe that God is all good, all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent) and God’s knowledge must always come true; philosophers argue that if God knows what will happen tomorrow, then, God certainly knows what I will become. God knows that I will be in church this morning. Does it mean that I do things not because I am free to do them but because God knows them? And since what God knows must come to pass, then, I cannot do otherwise?

This would certainly imply a denial of human freewill, personal responsibility and the Christian notion of sin (Hard determinism). If God has already determined our eternal lot from time immemorial and there is nothing we can do to change it; why then should we strive to do good and holy?

Holding on to hard determinism would mean that God has predestined the death of an innocent baby in the womb through abortion? How about the victims of earthquake and tsunami, victims of child abuse, heart attack, cancer patients, accident victims, etc? Is God’s knowledge responsible for all these evils?

Holding on to hard determinism would certainly go against our understanding of God as a loving, caring and compassionate father/mother. How could a good and just God be a fair judge of people who are doing only what His knowledge has made them to do?

The effect of this kind of thinking leads to the wrong categorization of humanity into two viz: - the elect, who are the chosen ones predestined to go to heaven - the gentiles or the reprobate, who are destined to go to hell.

If this thinking is right, how do we interpret the passage of Acts 10: 34 – 35 which says: “God has no favorites; anybody of any nationality who fears
God and does what is right is acceptable to Him?”

Why should Paul tell us in Phil 2: 12 to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” if there is nothing we can do to change the lot marked out for us?

The incompatibility of hard determinism with the Christian notion of God gives rise to another school of thought - a group of theologians called soft determinists who maintain that it is true that God is all good, all knowing and all powerful with perfect knowledge of the future but that God’s knowledge of the future is not responsible for our actions and the choices we make here and now. This goes to mean in spite of God’s omnipotence, human beings are still responsible for the choices they make. We are still free to choose to do or not to God’s will, to do or to refrain from
following certain directions. This kind of thinking makes room for human freedom and personal responsibility, grace and sin, etc.

The notion of predestination as used by Paul, therefore, should be understood as teleological rather than mechanical in character. Paul teaches us that God created everything for a purpose. And the purpose is good. Human beings have within them the free-will to choose to work for good or for evil in the world. The sublime truth expressed here is that in its unaltered state the human will is oriented towards the good and the pursuit of happiness. Evil, pain and suffering may appear to distort the divine plan of God for the world but Paul goes further to affirm that the will of God
must surely come to pass.

Soft determinism highlights the omnipotence of God. Since God is all-knowing, nothing can escape His knowledge. Human beings ought to be transparent before God since we can only run but cannot hide from God. Opening our hearts to God and being obedient to God’s divine plan for the world becomes the true source of happiness for Christians and the best use of our free-will. It is a waste of time and energy for human beings to go against God’s will.

The possession of free-will should empower human beings to decide at every moment to become co-creators with God. Although it is within our power either to cooperate or resist God’s plan for us and for the world around us, true happiness will only come from doing the will of God.

This teleological character of our free-will becomes most evident in the message of the prophet, Jeremiah. Jer 1: 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

God has an eternal plan for you and I, yet, God respects our freedom hence He does not force us to do His will. Because we can choose to accept or reject God’s divine plan for us, Paul reminds us in Eph 1:4 that “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love.” This is the primary reason why God created us. So, doing the will of God does not in any way diminish the power of the will but helps us realize the purpose of creation. Our work on earth will then humanize rather than dehumanize us. Aligning our free will to God’s plan does not make us robots, but empowers us to cooperate in building God’s kingdom here on earth.

Human beings are in the world to build the kingdom of God which put in another way is to contribute to the civilization of love, which is the reign of peace, justice and truth. It is the power of love and not the love of power that should govern our world, hence the need for us to reject all that go contrary to the will of God.






REV. PATRICK MBAZUIGWE!

Rev. Patrick was born on February 16, 1965. He is the youngest of the eight children of John and Mercy Mbazuigwe. He was ordained a priest in Nigeria on July 3, 1993, and has since served as a Claretian missionary in Cameroon and as a lecturer at the Claretian Institute of Philosophy, Maryland Nekede. He did his postgraduate studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and University of the West in Rosemead, California, where he obtained a Master’s degree in Philosophy and a PhD in Philosophy of Religion, respectively. Here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Fr. Patrick has served at the following parishes – St. Genevieve in Panorama City, St. Anthony in San Gabriel, and St. Peter Claver in Simi Valley, California. On July 1, 2015, he was appointed by Archbishop Jose Gomez as the Administrator of All Souls, Alhambra. He loves soccer, music, tennis, and art.