Monthly Archives: July 2014
God created everything good on earth but the devil is making God’s creation bad. That is what this parable is teaching us today. The wheat is God’s creation which is very good, and the weed is the evil that the devil brings into our world. 1Peter 5:8 says, ‘’ be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings’’.
Today the devil has devised several means of making our world bad. Our society has been so influenced that God is no longer given a place in our lives. Our world today makes us think of ourselves alone and any other person is not important. We think of only our own comfort, interest and satisfaction, and we do not care how others are faring. Some people can go to any length to ensure that evil is done in our society. They make it look good before our eyes and insist that we accept it. If we do not accept it they make life unbearable for us. Good examples are the issues of abortion, mercy killing, same sex marriage and avoiding mentioning God in public places. Many people are made to work on Sunday with no time to go to Church, some work all day and night so much so that they have no time for themselves and God. Others are made to work in places and do things against their beliefs and wishes. We are being forced day by day to do evil directly or indirectly by others because we depend on them for our survival. In other places, people are being killed and their property destroyed because they are Christians or believe in God. We also see all kinds of evils in our families and immediate environment. We see lack of love, peace and unity amongst family members. We see hatred, divorce, jealousy, unhealthy competition, selfishness and greed in our homes and families. The weed planted by the devil is growing fast and making life unbearable for many people today.
Unfortunately God is not willing to get rid of the weed. He is giving us more time to repent of our evils. That is, the mercy and compassion of our God. We must take advantage of his mercy and love and repent from our evil ways. Each one of us must repent from sin so that our world can truly be the kingdom of God where there is peace and love for everyone. Remember the Bible tells us that there is joy in heaven over the repentance of one sinner (Lk 15:7).
The other parables are: parable of the mustard seed and of the yeast. These two parables explain the growth of the kingdom of God from very humbled beginning to a state where it becomes a home for very many people. We should allow the seed of the word planted in us by God to grow and bear fruits that many people can experience love and peace in our world. Do not allow the weed planted by the devil to grow in your life so that you are not condemned on the last day.
SIXTHEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
In the first reading today, prophet Isaiah says the word of God has the power to give life to people. It is like rain and snow that come down and does not return without watering the earth and making it fertile and fruitful. That is, making the soil produce food for the farmer. That is how the word of God is when it is planted in the hearts of men. It does not return empty handed without doing the will of God the father.
The gospel is about the parable of the sower. He planted seeds and they fell on four different types of soul: hard path, rocky, thorny and rich soils. The sower is Jesus and any messenger or prophet of God, the seeds are the words of God, and the different soils are human minds and hearts.
The seeds germinate and grow in some soils but not in other soils. Why is it so? It depends on whether or not the conditions of those soils are favorable to the seeds. Why do people refuse to believe in God? It depends on how their minds and hearts (soils) welcome and allow the seeds planted in them to bear fruits. The rich minds and hearts (soils) produce good harvest in the church and society. The four groups of people received the gospel message; those minds like the hard path are those who soon after hearing the word of God, allows the devil to take it away from them. Those like the rocky soil allow them to germinate but do not allow them grow deep because of the hard nature of their minds. Those like the thorny soil are those who receive the word with joy but temptations and distractions of worldly pleasures do not allow it to grow and bear fruits. While those that fall on the rich soil are those who accept the word and allow it to germinate, grow deep roots and bear much fruits in their lives.
Base on this parable are you? Are you a soil or seed or a sower? You can be all of these in different ways. Sowers include: Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, parents, religious teachers and any disciple of Jesus. Being a seeds include, any time we die to ourselves in order to give others life. Parents make sacrifices to give their children good things and future. Teachers and instructors put in hours to train others to succeed in life. Friends and neighbors assist each other to achieve success in life. As soils, our responses to the word of God correspond to, at least, one of the soil type mentioned early. What kind of soil are you? Are you a hard path, rocky, thorny or rich soil? If you think you are a rich soil, how would you rate your fruits? Is it 100%, 60% or 30%?
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Our human nature makes us want to take the easy way out in every situation. For instance, we want to make money without working for it, we want to pass our exams in school without reading hard, we want to have children without labor and responsibility, we want good health without exercise and good eating habit. All we want is to be happy and enjoy life without pain or sorrow. People want break- through in life without breaking any sweat, success without efforts. These are the reasons behind dishonesty, fraud, scam, and outright theft in our society today.
In the same way, some people think they can gain salvation without working for it (salvation by faith alone, instead of by faith and good works). Jesus did not promise us an easy life. Rather, he said we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him (matt. 6: 24). In other words, there is no free lunch in Christianity. No easy way to salvation. He said we shall be rejected and persecuted in the world. All of these are our experiences as Christians in our world today.
In today’s gospel, Jesus discloses his intimacy with the father. He claims that no one knows the father as he does. This tells us that only Jesus fully understands the will of the father, and only him, can fully reveal the father to anyone. He asks us to come to him with our burdens (sickness, poverty, frustration, sorrow, and sins). He encourages us to shoulder his yoke. A yoke is an instrument that allows heavy burdens to be carried or pulled without difficulty. This yoke is the teaching of Jesus makes our burdens easy. Jesus did not promise us less challenges in life, but he promised us assistance to face these challenges in our lives. He said if we follow his teaching these burdens will become easy for us. Remember that Jesus himself carried our burdens especially on the cross for our salvation. So he is asking us to learn from his gentleness and humility which make our burdens light and our yoke easy bear.
The demands of Christian life are much, and many of us are not prepared to make such sacrifices, so we need the grace of humility and gentleness of heart to succeed. Some preachers pick and choose isolated passages in the scripture that serve their world view. Then they turn blind eyes to those passages that do not support their views. Most of the teaching we hear from some of these preachers are not theological sound. They do not represent the true teaching of Jesus on many key issues. Many people would prefer prosperity preaching that promises success with little or no effort, Christianity without the cross. Jesus never promised his followers an easy life; however, he promised to be with us all the times. A lot of us are offended when preaching makes us uncomfortable and does not fit our world view. Unfortunately, that is what a good preaching does: it makes us uncomfortable because it addresses the wrongs and evils in our lives. It is meant to challenge us to change and improve our lives. Humility is instrumental to getting salvation but the wise and knowledgeable in terms of worldly standard do not know this because it is hidden from them. Their pride makes them blind to this secret of the kingdom of God.
Even though, living the Christian life is tough, Jesus promises us his support. He said he will make our burdens light and our yoke easy. Remember with God all things are possible. We can do all things in God who strengthens us. To get his grace to support us we must be humble and gentle.
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
It is a long tradition in the church that these two saints are always celebrated together. Many institutions and churches are named after both of them. Some families name their twins after them, as Peter and Paul. Some scholars describe them as ‘’the founding fathers’’ ‘’the two pillars of the church’’ on which the church was built.
The truth is these two saints were very different from each other. Peter was a Hebrew Jew, a native of Palestine, the home of all the Jews. Paul was a Greek Jew, a native of Tarsus, in Asia Minor. Peter was a rural popular man, while Paul was a cultured cosmopolitan gentleman. Peter was a fisherman with little or no education while Paul was educated in the scripture and the law. Peter knew Jesus and lived with him, while Paul had only a post-resurrection encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Peter was the first to become a disciple of Jesus while Paul was a persecutor of the Christians. Even in their physical appearances they were different. Scholars said that Peter was a big man that is why he was called the rock (Cephas). Some called him the ‘’big fisherman’’. Paul on the other hand was a small man and so he was named Paul (Paulus), which means literally ‘’small’’.
However, the two saints have some things in common which include, single-mindedness, and almost fanatical commitment to Jesus. Jesus was everything for them. For instance, when Jesus challenged his disciples to go away if they were scandalized by his teaching on eating his body and drinking his blood, Peter said, ‘’Lord to whom shall we go. You have the message of eternal life’’ (Jn 6:68). In addition, in today gospel reading, Peter answered the question of Jesus (who do you say I am?) saying, ‘’you are the messiah, son of the living God’’. (Jesus called Peter ‘’Rock and foundation’’ because of this profession of faith and commitment to him, and on it he built his church). This statement is loaded with meaning: Peter is given a role of leading the church, and was given the keys as a symbol of that role which is like the office of a prime minister (most senior minister and head of government in parliamentary system; the president is only a ceremonial position). Since Jesus was leaving and not going to be visible, Peter was given this office to lead the church. Paul on the other hand would say, ‘’I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me’’ (Gal. 2:20). Paul converted the energy he used in persecuting Christians into energy for converting Gentiles into Christianity. He is called the patron of all missionaries and apostle to the gentiles because of his numerous missionary activities. The commitment of both saints led them to take the message of Jesus from Jerusalem to other parts of the world. This same commitment led to their martyrdom in Rome during the persecution of Emperor Nero in 64 A.D. We see that despite their many differences the two great saints were united in what really mattered: their commitment to Jesus, their missionary zeal, their witness to Christ through martyrdom. That is why they are described as the ‘’Princes of the Apostles’’ and their names are always put together in the Tradition of the Catholic Church.
Lessons for us learn from these two great apostles of our Lord Jesus. We should be united, no matter our differences in terms of color, race, nationality, tribe, language, education or social status; because what we have in common far outweighs our differences. What we have in common is Jesus, and he is bigger than our differences and any other thing. He prayed for unity of all his followers on John 17. Our differences should be blessings to be cherished and celebrated, not be source of division amongst us. We should relate with one another as brothers and sisters. Both of these saints were not perfect but God used them to build the church. You too can be a good instrument for building the church with your money, time, energy and other resources. You can strive to be a pillar in your family, community, Church and society at large
Remember our mission statement. We are called to be members of body of Christ, sent to witness his life, love and presence. We are called to worship together as a community of faith, to recognize the presence of Christ in every person, to foster spiritual growth through prayer, education and faith formation, to live the gospel through daily example, to reach out in service to all our brothers and sisters in our parish and beyond, to share our God-given time, talent and treasure.