Monthly Archives: February 2017

Be Holy as your Heavenly Father is Holy by Fr. Joel

The Lord demands holiness of life from every Christian. Holiness is our vocation ascalled-to-be-holy Christians. The readings of today gave us the means by which to become holy or perfect as our heavenly father is. The means is unconditional love for everyone including our enemies.
In the first reading, the Lord said: be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy; love your neighbors as yourself; bear no grudge or hatred against anyone and do not revenge or retaliate any wrong done to you, instead love generously. The Psalm said that the Lord is kind and merciful. It is a song of thanksgiving to the Lord for his love and compassion to his people. We are expected to be kind and merciful to others.
Saint Paul in the second reading said that we are temples of God and the holy spirit of God dwells in us. He discouraged us from destroying God’s temple to avoid punishment from God. He encouraged us to seek and to live according to the wisdom of God but not the wisdom of the world. The wisdom of the world is foolishness in the sight of God. Therefore, we should not accept and live by it.
In the gospel, Jesus gave rules for his disciples to follow in order to be perfect as our heavenly father is. He discouraged hatred for our enemies and retaliation for wrong done to us. Instead, he encouraged us to love and be generous with our time and resources especial to those in need. He asked us not only to love our loved ones but to also love our enemies. This is very difficult teaching. But it means our love as Christians must not be conditional. We are to love as God does. God loves everyone including the good and the bad people alike. Our love should surpass that of the unbelievers. Our love should be all inclusive with no conditions attached.
To be holy like God means seeking and living according to God’s wisdom; which includes being merciful, generous, compassion, loving, and forgiving to everyone including our enemies. Anyone who is in need is our neighbor and deserves love and assistance from us. Unfortunately, many people prefer worldly wisdom than the wisdom of God. We see living according to God’s wisdom as weakness and cowardice, but acquiring power and material possessions as a mark of strength and success. Worldly wisdom, possessions, and successes are temporal and cannot give deep and lasting peace or joy to us. Instead, they bring into our lives terrible miseries, unhappiness, depression and frustration in our lives. Worldly wisdom leads to pride, greed, anger, hatred, violence and destruction of lives and property.
The Lord asked us to pray for and bless our enemies. Jesus and Steven, the first martyr after Jesu, prayed for their persecutors before their death. As Christians, we are called to pray for our persecutors/enemies for God to bring peace and conversion to their hearts. As Christians, we have been called to promote love and peace by all means. This is very difficult teaching; however, the Lord wants us to practice living according these rules in order to become holy as he is. The world sees living according to these values as foolishness, weakness, senseless, and cowardice. That is why we see Christians being persecuted in different parts of the world as a result of promoting these values. Those who are powerful and rich in the worldly sense do not appreciate these values. These values restrain them from using their power and wealth the way they want to and especially against the weak and poor people of the world.
However, this teaching does not mean being passive and surrender to injustices and abuses. Turning the other check should not be interpreted literally. We must understand the cultural and social context in which this was said. At that time, it was forbidden to use the left hand for anything good or positive. The left hand was used for negative or unclean things. Therefore, to slap a slave or inferior person you need to use your right hand and slap the person on the right cheek. Superior person do this to their slaves alone. But if the slave turns the other cheek, it means offering the left cheek for the slapped. The superior person cannot slap the slave on the left cheek because it will mean throwing away his dignity. By turning the other cheek, the slave is challenging and telling the superior that he is not a slave but someone with equal dignity with the superior. Then the superior person is force to stop abusing the slave. Remember the Jewish people were like slave under the Roman Empire.
Therefore, this saying is teaching us to be strong and stand up against any form of injustice and abuse in our society that threatens lives. For example, abortion, domestic violence, discrimination, bullying and many other forms of injustices in our society are to be challenged by Christians. It does mean you should not submit to injustice and abuse by anyone. Therefore, in the face of any evil or danger that threatens your life you can escape it or avoid it or run away from it, challenge it or embark on self-defense. You are to protect lives and property from being stolen or destroyed by evil people. Note that there is difference between challenging and retaliating unjustly attacks of the enemy.
For instance, Jesus forcefully drove doing illegal sales and cheating at temple. He challenged an unjust slapped by the guard during his trial before the high priest. He avoided being thrown over the cliff to die. He also encouraged his disciples to sell their cloaks and buy swords for self-defense and protection. Saint Paul also protested being flogged and put into prison as a Roman citizen. These are some examples of defense against unjust attacks and abuses. We are called to promote reconciliation, love and peace in our society and at the same time to resist any form of injustice and abuse to our lives. It is our right to defend and protect our lives and properties from the enemy by using legitimate means and authorities like the lawyer, police, fire fighters and the military. Remember, we are not to attack or seek revenge against any wrongs but to forgive all wrongs done to us. And we are called to be vigilant and challenge any attacks on our lives and properties.


The Challenges of begin Disciples of Jesus Christ by Fr. Joel

In the first reading, prophet Isaiah said that the Lord asked his people to share their salt_and_light_4-29-16resources with the less privileged in society. And that the Lord will answer their prayers and he will favor, protect, vindicate, and make them shine like light upon the world. The Psalm said that the just man will shine in darkness because of his good deeds. Saint Paul in the second reading encouraged us to rely on the power of God rather than human wisdom. The gospel acclamation said that whoever follows the Lord will have the light of life. In the gospel Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah about the light of God coming to shine on earth. Jesus said we are the salt that will give taste to the world and light that will shine upon the earth and make it a brighter place to live in.
By virtue of baptism, we have been called to be light, salt and cities on hill top for the world to see and experience the goodness of the Lord. As light and cities on hill top, we cannot afford to be hidden; instead we are to shine and be seen by everyone. We are expected to shine brightly for everyone to see through our good works. We have received the light of Christ and we are to shine brightly and dispel the darkness/evil of the world. Our words and actions are to become shining examples for the world to follow. The Christian faith and life breeds joy, love, mercy, generosity, forgiveness, patience, peace, and justice in our society. The Christian faith and life brings purity, flavor, and preservation like salt does to food. Let us live and show examples of all these virtues in our daily lives.
Our world is full of so many evils and we have been called to eliminate them through our good deeds. We have been called to follow Jesus Christ and to continue to reveal the presence, love, mercy, and the glory of God on earth. As Christians our lives should be pure, shining, tasty and attractive to the people of the world. We have been called to be disciples in order to promote and preserve the gospel values. Being light and salt to the world means sharing our resources with the poor, showing love and mercy, fighting injustice and uplifting the oppressed in our society.
A good Christian cannot afford to hide in the midst of people because his or her good deeds will always be revealed to the world. If we are not seen by others, as a Christian, it means we have lost our taste, value, and flavor and we have become the same with the people of the world. Every one Christian should be able to bring light, taste, value, and flavor to his or her family, friends, community, and the general society. We are like the sun, moon, and stars that bring light and warmth to the earth. No matter how dark the night is as soon as the sun raises it disappears and everywhere becomes bright again. That is how true disciples of Jesus are to be to the world that is full of evil/darkness. Therefore, as Christians, salt, and light let us endeavor to bring light to the world, bring taste and flavor to the world. Let our words and deeds become attractive and contagious so that people can come join us to worship the living God. Please be a true disciple of Jesus and be light, salt and a city on the hill top for other people to see and follow Jesus.