Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Good Shepherd by Fr. Joel

Today we celebrate Jesus the good shepherd who laid down his life for us, his sheep to haveshep eternal life. In the first reading we read about the experience of St. Paul and Barnabas at Perga who in spite of persecution were bold to proclaim the word of God to the people over there. St. Paul said: ‘’It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For the Lord has commanded us, I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.’’ The psalm said: ‘’we are his people, the sheep of his flock.’’ The second reading, vision by John on the multitude of people he saw worshiping the Lord in heaven; those who have washed themselves clean with the blood of the Lamb of God. Then the gospel is about Jesus being a good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep to give them eternal life. He knows his sheep, and his sheep know his voice and follow him. He gives eternal life to them so that not one of them would perish.

This is very interesting message for us today especially in a time when we are experiencing all kinds of evil and crisis in our society. These crisis and evils in our society are as a result of failed leadership. Many of our leaders have let us down. However, Christ the good shepherd has not let us down. He loves so much that he offers himself in order to give us eternal life. He is there always to give hope and wipe away our tears. For he said come to me all you who labor and are over burden in life and I will give you rest. Christ was persecuted and crucified on cross because he spoke the truth. His apostles too suffer the same thing because they preach his gospel as we saw in the readings of today about St. Paul and Barnabas. We see that the more they were persecuted they more they got the strength to speak boldly against the evils in there society as good shepherds. They fed the people with good food so that they will not perish. Hosea 4: 6 says that my people perish for lack of knowledge. We need good shepherds today to lead and feed the people with good food so that they will not perish.

By virtue of our baptism and other sacraments we have been called to be good shepherds; to lead and feed others with good food so that they will not die of lack. As parents, teachers, leaders, and adults we are called to be leaders and mentors to others especially the children and youth. This job is not without sacrifice. We need to be bold like the apostles to teach what is right and good to the people. You are to lead and feed others by what you do and say every day. You start from your immediate family and then to your neighbors and all the people you encounter every day of your life. Every day, on the one hand, you are a sheep to be led by a good shepherd and on the other hand, you are a shepherd who leads others as well. You must make sure you are both a good sheep and shepherd at the same time.

The other Sunday we heard St. Peter saying to the Sanhedrin that they will obey God rather than men, that means to obey and do the will of God is better than doing the will of men and women. Our world today is against the gospel and values that are found in it. There are voices that claim to be good shepherd, so you have to be careful to know which one to follow. Unfortunately many of us prefer leaders that mislead us and feed us with junk food every day instead of good shepherds that tell us the truth that will save us and lead us to eternal life. We must be wise and bold both as leaders and followers to stand for the truth of the gospel so that we do not perish. We must be able to recognize the voice of the good shepherd and follow him to salvation or else we shall perish. Remember it is not how loud and attractive the voice is but how authentic the voice it that you follow. There are many who claim to be good shepherd but they are wolf in sheep clothes, be careful before you are led to destruction.

Jesus the good shepherd assures us of his protection and eternal life if we follow his voice. We should learn to recognize his voice and follow him accordingly. Furthermore, we must assist others to know him and follow him as well. Anyone who has Jesus in his life will enjoy profound and eternal peace in his/her life. He is the only shepherd that has the map to where we are going, heaven and the key to the gate of eternal life. Therefore allow him to lead you to abundance life of peace and joy. Any other leader is a thief and will only lead you to destruction. Never be afraid of challenges and persecution, rather face them with faith and courage in the power of Jesus and you shall overcome them. Always turn to the good shepherd and ask for help in times of crisis and he will surely come to your aid. Just be a faithful follower of Jesus, the good shepherd and you will have no problems in your life.

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER 2016

 

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Cry Out with Joy to God by Fr. Joel

 Today’s readings invite us to praise the Lord FOR his suffering, death and resurrection for crossmanour sins. In the first reading, we read how the Sanhedrin and high priest questioned the apostles for preaching about Jesus and blaming them for killing him. And Peter replied, ‘’we must obey God rather than men.’’ The apostles were bold in their presence and they rejoiced that they were suffering for the sake of Jesus. The psalm says, ‘’I will praise you, Lord for you have rescued me.’’ And in the gospel, Peter was asked three times and he responded three times that he loved the Lord more. And he was given the responsibility to feed the flock of God.

This is the third appearance of Jesus to his disciples. This time around it was at the sea of Tiberias where he called the first apostles and they left their work of fishing and followed him to become fishers of men. Out of frustration and disappointment because of what had happened to Jesus, the apostles when back to their old profession of fishing at the same sea they were used to. And Jesus decided to deny them any catch all through the night until he came at dawn and instructed them where to cast the net and the caught a huge number of fish. This story is very important and symbolic. This was to tell them that without him in their lives they can do nothing. They could not recognize him except John the beloved. This also shows that only when you love Jesus that you can recognize he and his will. They caught plenty fish because they obey his instruction. The number 153 represented the different kinds of fish found in that sea that time. And so this in turn represented the different races and nationality that we have in the world. That is why the church is universal. So stop fighting over space and position in the church, there is room for everyone.

Jesus was trying to tell them to go preach and catch all people for his kingdom. And despite the huge catch the net never got torn. That represents the unity of the church in spite of diversity and many people that are inside it and that no force on earth is capable of destroying the church. Three questions about love to Peter were very important and symbolic too. The amount of love was very important in making Peter the leader of the church because if you do not love something and you are given custody of it you will not be serious in doing so. Jesus wanted to be sure Peter had greater love for him before he would give him the responsibility of feeding his sheep. Deeper level of love entails greater level of commitment and sacrifice in your duty. Peter denied Jesus then because his level of love for him was low, therefore, Jesus wanted a higher level of love before he can entrust him with his sheep that he died on the cross for. Saying something three times in most cultures suggest the seriousness of the issue. Jesus asked three times to make sure Peter knows the seriousness of the matter. It was also to remind him of his denial of Jesus three times and meant for him counter them. This was like giving him second chance.  After this we saw how Peter became bold in speaker about Jesus without fear. A good example is in the second reading of today where he told the Sanhedrin that they would rather obey God rather than men. And he continued with this courageous leadership of the church till his crucifixion upside down on the cross for Jesus.

We should learn from this story how to praise the Lord for his goodness to us, to bear witness boldly to him at all times especially difficult times. Learn to share the gospel with everyone and welcome them into the kingdom of God for he is the father of all people. Learn to trust and obey the Lord especially during hard times in our lives because without him we can do nothing.

THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C

Blessed are those… by Fr. Joel

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND HAVE BELIEVED

In the first reading we are told that many signs and wonders were performeddoubting_thomas1 by the apostles and many more people came to join them. The second reading is about John’s vision where he heard the voice of the Lord telling him to write what he saw. And when he caught sight of the son of man, he fell down out of fear and reverence to the Lord. But the Lord encouraged him not be afraid but to believe that he is alive and has the key to eternal life.

The gospel is about Thomas one of the apostles who was absent when Jesus appeared to the other apostles and he would not believe them that Jesus came unless he saw and touched Jesus himself. And when Jesus eventually came and showed him his hands, legs and side where the wounds were, and asked him to put his fingers in there, Thomas confessed saying, ‘’ My Lord and my God!’’  And Jesus said to him, ‘’Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed’’

There are many of us who still doubt just like Thomas did so long ago. Many of us want to see evidences and logical proof before we will believe in God. You hear some people say if God is good and loving why is there evil and suffering in life? For others if they don’t get what they want in life then there is no God. And for some the idea God is denying them their freedom to do what they want. That is quite unfortunate. Even with the many signs and wonders in our world that serve as evidence of the existence of God, many people cannot believe in him today.

Jesus said that blessed are those who have not seen but believed in him. It is because of this that we believe and do the things we do in our church. For instance, at the beginning of mass the priest greets the people with the same words of Jesus saying ‘’peace be with you.’’ That is how Jesus greeted his apostle each time he visit with them. Jesus also said, ‘’as the father sent me, so I send you.’’ He breathed on them and said, ‘’receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’’ These we do in the Catholic Church. During ordinations of priests and Bishops this spirit of Christ is passed on to the newly ordained by the anointing and laying of hands. And they send forth to continue spreading the good news. In the sacrament of reconciliation the priests exercise the power of forgiving sins given here by Jesus to his apostles. Let me quickly say this, that priests are bound by confessional seal and cannot reveal whatever they heard from a penitent to anyone for whatever reason, even to a law enforcement agent or under the threat of death. In fact, we do not remember people’s sins after confession. As you leave the confessional your sins are wiped out and forgotten completely, both those confessed and those forgotten. So, reference is not to be made to them at all at any time. Please stop trying to make reference to the sins you confessed the last time you came to confession. Even if we try to  remember, it is not possible to do that because our brains are not like a computer memory that can remember everything and certainly no all the sins of all the people that have come to us for confession.

Another thing that we do in the church that is found from the readings of today is what John in the second reading did, falling to ground to give reverence to the Lord; and what Thomas in the gospel said, ‘’my lord and my God.’’ During consecration we all kneel down except the priest because he is acting in the person of Christ. And when the body and blood of Jesus is raised we all confess my Lord and my God.  Lastly, the very last part of the gospel reading said that not everything that Jesus did was written down, but these that we have are meant to help us believe in him as the source of eternal life. This helps to debunk the argument by some people that they must see everything in the bible before they can believe it. The church still receives revelations from God and she has the power to discern and know the will of God through prayers.

Therefore, cast away your doubts and believe Jesus the son of God, the author of eternal life. Open up your minds and hearts and allow Jesus to come into your life so that you can encounter him. Each time you come to mass know that you have come to worship and encounter Jesus in the entire liturgy from the greeting to the final blessings. Remember the church is not a movie theater or stadium for entertainment even though we could get some kind of entertainment in church but that is not the main reason for coming to church. We come to church to worship God as his family, to listen to him and carry this message to others out there. As the father sent me, I send you too to preach the kingdom of God and Jesus the author of life is truly risen from the death.

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER