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In the first reading, the Lord said, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel…. I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land”. In the second reading, Saint Paul said that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Only those who are in the spirit can please God. If the spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead is in you, he will give life to your mortal body.
In the gospel, Jesus said, “If one walk during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he does stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After then, he proceeded to Judea and raised Lazarus from the dead. By so doing Jesus fulfilled the promise of God, to give life to the dead. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
At baptism we received the spirit of God that gives life to our bodies. Baptism makes us a new creation and children of God. By virtue of our baptism, we are to live the life of the spirit of God that was given to us during baptism. But unfortunately, we do not allow that spirit given to us during baptism to be active and grow in our lives. We are dead in the spirit and are in the graves like Lazarus. We need Jesus to raise us up from our graves. However, we cannot be brought back to life unless we believe that Jesus is the resurrection and life. We must believe that Jesus is the Lord and savior of the world.
Many people give all kinds of excuses for not believing, participating or coming to Church. Some say they stopped coming to Church because someone spoke or did something in a way they did not like. Some others stopped believing or coming to Church because the message from the pulpit was against their opinion. For some people, is because they do not like the music or the liturgy is not lively but boring for them. Some other people, it is because when they were sick or in difficulties, no one came to visit and help them. Other people will use the rain fall today as a reason not to come to church. Other reasons include wrong use of TV, social media, party, travels and so on. We give worldly things much of our time and little or no time to God, our creator. All of these have contributed in killing the spirit of God in us. We have become like dead bodies in the graves.
You got angry because of these reasons and you stopped participating in church activities. But you are receiving worse treatments at your work place but you did not stop going to work because you are afraid of losing your job and pay. When you are sick or having some issues that will prevent you from going to work, you will call in and report. You did not wait for your boss to call you and find out what happened to you. No one comes to visit you or gives extra money to solve that problem, yet you did not quit the job. If things are not done your way in church, you will revolt and stop participating. At school, you were offended by both teachers and students but you never stopped going to school. Some of us were bullied in school but we stayed until we graduated. You could not afford to miss your classes, but we can miss mass or church activities. We will never be late for work or appointment with immigration or IRS, but we can be late coming to church. Our appointments with God we can ignore.
Who are we deceiving? Who is going to judge us? When shall we grow up and be matured in our faith? Why can’t we be sincere with ourselves? When we behave that way, it means we are dead in spirit and we need to allow Jesus to raise us up from our graves. Please note that the church is not a social club or political party where things must be done to please you alone. There is a limit in which we can make changes in the church, because it is the church of Christ and he gave rules for his church. What have you done for the church? For example, if you think the choir is not singing well, why not join them to help improve it. Stop sitting down like a spectator and running commentaries without doing something to improve our parish communities. Come to church and contribute your quarter to make it be a better place and stop complaining. Please let us appreciate and support those making great sacrifices in order to keep our parish going.
Wake up from your grave and be an active member of this parish. Put your talents and resources into the service of God and God will bless you the more. The Lord has promised to settle us in the promised-land, but we must be in the spirit before we can reach there. If you are inactive or dead, you cannot reach your destiny. You must cooperate with the grace of God in order to get to your final destination/heaven. Please wake up from you graves and receive the spirit of God that will transform you into an active member of his kingdom.
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT 2017
GOD HAS THE POWER TO BRING BACK THE DEAD FROM THE GRAVE TO LIFE
In the first reading, we heard how the people of Israel quarreled and tested the Lord and questioned if he was in their midst or not. This was because they were thirsty in the desert after leaving Egypt on their way to the promise Land. They blamed Moses for bringing them out of Egypt and suffer thirst in the desert. However, the Lord ordered Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water came out for the people to drink. The Psalm said that if today you hear his voice harden not your hearts. This is a call to obey God’s laws and worship him for he is our rock and salvation. In the second reading Saint Paul said that we have been justified by faith and we have received love and peace from Christ through the Holy Spirit. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. That is the greatest form of love for Jesus to die for us.
In the gospel, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus asked her for water to drink but she did not give him because he was a Jew. The Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. Jews will not use the same cups and bowls that Samaritans used. These two parties despised one another to the extent that they do not interact for whatever reasons. But Jesus came and broke this negative behavior and asked for water from a Samaritan woman. When she refused he said to her, if only knew who asked you for water, you would have asked him to give you living water. The living water, if you drink, you will never be thirsty again. The woman was wondering how Jesus was going to get water since he did not have any bucket to get water from the well that was very deep. She did not understand the kind of water Jesus was referring to. Then Jesus explained to her saying, ‘’everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst again because it gives eternal life.’’ Now the woman became interested in the living water so that she will not have to come back to the well to get water again.
In the cause of this conversation, Jesus told the woman about her past sins and how she was married to several men in the past. Then the women started sensing that Jesus was a divine person. Jesus encouraged the woman to worship the true God in truth and in spirit. He revealed to her that he was the true expected messiah. Then the woman ran to the town and called people to come see the messiah. As the people came, they saw and heard Jesus speak and they believed him. As a result, they asked him to stay for some days with them and he did.
We see a connection between the first reading and the gospel in the theme of water. God gave the people water from a rock in the desert to quench their thirst. While in the gospel Jesus gave living water that quenched our thirst forever. Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. By giving living water, he has fulfilled God plan for his people so that they will not be thirsty again. This symbolizes the love of God for his people. He does not want us to perish. He provides us with our needs and protects us from danger. Just like Saint Augustine would say, ‘’our hearts are restless until we find rest in the Lord.’’ We shall constantly be thirsty of water in our lives until we drink the living water from Jesus. We shall never be satisfied with worldly things until we accept Christ as our savior. Only Christ can satisfy our thirst and hunger for true peace and love. We shall never find meaning in our lives until we accept Christ and allow him to rule over us. It is the living water that is capable of washing us clean and empowering us to do great things for God and humanity.
Our society is full of vanity and emptiness, unless we allow Christ into our lives before we can have true love and peace. Many people think is by the amount of money or material things they have that they can become happy in this life. That is very wrong. Nothing in this world can give us true joy and peace unless we drink from the living water of Jesus. We can drink from this living water through reading the scripture, worshipping God in truth and in spirit, accepting the sacraments, detaching ourselves from worldly possessions and pleasures, sharing our resources with the need around us, and repentance of our sins. This period of lent offers us the opportunity to seek and receive this living water from Jesus. It is only Christ who can quench the thirst for companionship, love, peace, and joy. Many people are lonely, empty, depressed, sick, isolated, hopeless, and discouraged in life. All we need is Jesus in our lives in order to be revived again. Do not go anywhere else looking for happiness, comfort and peace, but go to Jesus and he will give you living water. When you believe in Jesus and follow his teaching, you will surely be nourished and strengthen by him and you will have peace and joy in your life.
In this gospel story Jesus destroyed the walls of hatred and discrimination between the Jews and the Samaritans. He introduced to them love and peaceful living as children of one father. In this story Jesus showed respect for the women and how to treat them fairly. In spite of her past sins, he did not judge nor condemned the woman but healed her and offered her love and forgiveness. Jesus cleansed of her sins and corrected her misconception about God and his religion. True worship is in truth and in spirit but not in a particular place. Today, we are called to repent of our sins and receive living water from Jesus. We are called to break down the walls of hatred, discrimination, racism, and division that separate us but build bridges of unity and love in our society. We are called to live the life of humility, mercy, love, and unity. We are called to give each other living water to quench our thirst and hunger for love, peace, and unity in our society. We are called to serve God and our neighbor in truth and in spirit.
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT 2017
JESUS, THE SOURCE OF LIVING WATER
In the first reading, Abraham was asked by God to leave his pagan country and go to an unknown land in order to receive God’s blessings. Abraham obeyed and he was richly blessed by the Lord. And through Abraham many people are being blessed. Saint Paul in the second reading encouraged Timothy to be strong in bearing hardships as he witness to the gospel of Christ. The Gospel today is the story of the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus at the mountain before three of his disciples. Jesus became transformed and he was shining brightly like the sun. Moses and Elijah appeared and the voice of God was heard from the clouds. Moses represented the law, Elijah represented the prophets, and Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.
Shortly before going to Jerusalem to suffer and die, Jesus took three of his disciples up the mountain to pray and be with God the father. At this time the disciples were doubtful of Jesus because he had said to them that he was going to suffer and die in the hands of the leaders of the Jews. The disciples could not understand why Jesus would suffer and die since he was the messiah. Therefore, Jesus took them up the mountain to encounter God and his glory. While at the mountain, they saw a glimpse of his glory and it was very beautiful. As a result Peter wanted to make some tents for them to stay back at the mountain and continue to enjoy the beautiful experience. This experience strengthens the faith of the disciples in Jesus as the real messiah. They also learn that his suffering and death were necessary for the salvation of the world. The voice of God confirmed to them that Jesus is his beloved son in whom he is well pleased.
The transfiguration of Jesus at the mountain prepared Jesus and his disciples for his suffering and death of in Jerusalem. It became clear to the disciples how important the suffering and death of Jesus on cross were to the salvation of the world. Therefore, as Christians, we must not only have faith in Jesus but we must also work hard for our salvation. Carrying the cross is part of our experiences as Christians. We must go out of our comfort zones and away from evil like Abraham did in order to receive God’s blessings. We must embark on a spiritual journey with faith carrying our crosses and following the footsteps of Jesus to a destination known by God. It is only through the cross that we can gain salvation. We must allow God to guide and mold us according to his will before we can be qualify to enter his kingdom.
As we continue with our Lenten observances: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, let us be encouraged to persevere against temptations and hardships. We are encouraged today never to give up our struggles against the devil. If we are faithful in our Lenten observances, we shall obtain the graces we need to overcome evil and experience the glory of God.
The mountain symbolizes a place of encounter with the Lord. Lent is a moment in which we encounter the Lord in our lives. The disciples of Jesus encounter God on the mountain and their faith was strengthened. This encounter prepared them for the suffering and death of Jesus in Jerusalem. They were also challenged to do greater things for God. The encounter of the transfiguration of Jesus teaches us the importance of the cross, suffering, and sacrifice in our lives as Christians. Without suffering and sacrifice no success and victory can be achieved. There are no short cuts or easy ways to success and the kingdom of God. We must be ready to endure hardships and tribulations before we can receive the crowd of glory.
In order to experience transformation in our lives, we need to get out of our comfort zones and work hard for it. To experience positive change in our lives, we must climb the mountain of transfiguration. To prolong the experience of a beautiful encounter with the Lord, we must build befitting tents for the Lord in your lives. To encounter divine power in our lives, we must open up our hearts and invite God into our lives. To be transformed in our lives, we must listen to and obey God’s instructions. To experience God’s glory we must avoid the life of sin but begin to live the life of holiness. To enjoy the glory of God, we must be ready to carry our crosses and journey with Jesus to Calvary. This season of lent gives us the opportunity to be united with Jesus in his suffering and death so that we can share in his resurrection and glory. We are called to pray, fast, detach from worldly pleasures, and be kind to one another during the season of lent. We are called to embrace the cross because it is the key to our salvation. If we choose sweet, easy, and pleasant ways of life, we shall all perish, but if we choose the tough, hard, and unpleasant way of life as suggested by Jesus, we shall survive and inherit the kingdom of God.
SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT 2017
THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
In the first reading we heard how the devil tempted Eve, the first woman God created from the rib of Adam, her husband. Eve fell into the temptation and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree and gave some to her husband. The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom as the devil had told her. As soon as they ate the fruit of this tree, their eyes became opened and they realized they were naked. This means that they felt the sense of guilt. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans 5:12-19 made reference to this sin of Adam and Eve. He said that through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death. Since all men and women are descendants of Adam, they have inherited sin and death as well.
In the gospel of today, Jesus was tempted after his forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert. However, he did not fall for the temptations of the devil. Jesus was tempted in three different areas of life. Namely: the devil asked him to turn stones into bread and eat if he is the son of God. To this temptation, Jesus answered thus, “man shall not live by bread alone but by the word of God’’. This was a test on self-control regarding eating and drinking. It also included the temptation to misuse power to get food and being selfish with food.
The second temptation was for Jesus to throw down himself from the top of the temple and that the Lord would protect him. To this test, Jesus answered, “You should not tempt the Lord your God”. This test is about seeking attention, praise, and approval from humans instead of God; It includes taking unnecessary risks in life, laziness, looking for short cuts or easy ways in life, and over dependence on others and God to provide us our needs. The third temptation was for Jesus to fall at the feet of the devil and worship him and all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor would be given to him. To this test, Jesus answered, “You shall worship only the Lord your God alone”. This test is about idol/Mormon worship, materialism, seeking worldly power, fame and authority.
The period of lent encourages us to work hard and overcome temptations like Jesus did. Just like we have inherited sin and death from the first Adam, we have also the opportunity to inherit the grace to overcome sin and death from the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Learn from Jesus how to over the devil during temptation. Jesus defeated the devil by using prayer, scripture and fasting. By praying more during lent, we shall be able to over the temptation of worshiping idols or Mormon and cultivate the habit of humility and service to one another. By fasting during lent, we shall be able to control our addition to food and drink and avoid gluttony and drunkenness. By giving alms during lent, we shall be able to control the spirit of materialism, greed, selfishness, and the desire for worldly powers and glories.
Temptation is real and inevitable in our lives as Christians. But through faithful observance of the Lenten season, we shall be empowered to win the battle against the devil. If we pray, fast, read scripture, and give alms to the poor, we shall overcome temptations. Remember that temptations are not obstacles to our progress in life. But they are opportunities to grow and become stronger on our journey and struggles toward perfection. No student will be given a certification of graduation from any school without being tested to evaluated on a certain strength and ability of the student in a giving field. In the same light, for us to become successful and perfect Christians, we must be tested and we must prove to be worthy of our status as children of God. The devil is the chief examination officer for Christians. However, the devil can only tempt us but cannot force us to do what he wants. We have the will power to reject his wishes and overcome his temptations just like Jesus did. Jesus did not succumb to his temptations because of his prayer, fasting, and use of scripture to counter the devil. Let us emulate Jesus during temptations.
We are being challenged every day of our lives by the devil to do one evil or the other. We must be strong in faith and use our knowledge of scripture to defend ourselves against the devil. Each time we decided to stand for God but against the devil, we are choosing life and the kingdom of God. But any time we yield to the devil’s temptation, we are choosing death in the kingdom of the evil one. Just like Eve saw the forbidden tree pleasing and good to eat, that is how devil’s temptation is to us. The devil presents to us very good looking and attractive things to tempt us. Therefore, we must be careful with very good looking and attractive things around us. They could be temptations from the devil. Do not be carried away by your desire for very attractive things. This is because you could fall into the devil’s temptation. In our daily lives, we are surrounded by so many temptations of pleasure, power, fame, wealth and beauty. The devil tempts us in the areas of our weakness. Make sure you are on guard and protect yourself from yielding to his tricks in those areas. We must be like Jesus and put God first above everything. Then use our faith and the scripture to assess anything that is attractive to us.
The period of lent is designed to help us practice how to avoid falling into the temptations of the devil. Therefore, learn to use prayer, fasting, alms giving, and the scriptures to overcome temptation in your life.
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT 2017
OVERCOMIMG THE TEMPTATION OF THE DEVIL
The Lord demands holiness of life from every Christian. Holiness is our vocation as 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.
SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, A
BE HOLY AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS HOLY
In the first reading, prophet Isaiah said that the Lord asked his people to share their resources 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.
FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
THE CHALLENGES OF BEING DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST
Last week we read about the call of the disciples to journey with Jesus and to continue his mission after he is gone. We too have been called to do the same as the disciples of Jesus. Today we are being called to practice living out the beatitudes. The beatitudes were delivered by Jesus to his disciples on the mountain. This is soon after calling the disciples to follow him so that he will make them fishers of men and women. These beatitudes are not different from the Ten Commandments received by the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. They are the rules for true discipleship and supreme happiness in life. It is only those who live according to them that can be truly happy in life, says Jesus.
The antiphon of today said: ‘’save us, o Lord our God. And gather us from the nations, to give thanks to your Holy name and make it our glory to praise you.’’
The first reading said: Seek the Lord, seek justice, and seek humility. These are qualities expected of a true disciple of Jesus Christ and they are qualities that can bring true happiness in their lives.
The Psalm said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of God is theirs. It means realizing how poor we are in spiritual matters and desiring them from God. Poverty in spirit encourages humbly serve God and our neighbors. This is an attitude expected of true disciples of Jesus and when we possess such attitude were shall be truly happy in life.
In the second reading, Saint Paul said: God chose the foolish, weak, lowly, and despised of the world to shame the wise, strong, and the privilege people of the world. This means that worldly possessions and achievements are not capable of giving us true and lasting joy but heavenly riches are capable of doing so for us.
The gospel clearly explained the beatitudes as given by Jesus. It explain how seeking humility, justice, mercy, love, purity of heart, service to others, making sacrifice for the sake of God and our neighbors and so on are very rewarding to true disciples who are able to do so. Unfortunately, many people thing that worldly possessions and achievements are capable of giving lasting joy. But that is not true because worldly things can only give surface level happiness. We need to live our lives according to the beatitudes in order to experience true and lasting happiness in life. To be blessed means to be supremely happy in life. That is the kind of happiness Jesus promised his disciples if they practice the beatitudes.
The Ten Commandments are summarized into two commandments namely: love the Lord your God with all your strength and mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself. That is exactly what the beatitudes are demanding from true disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus is emphasizing the benefits of being true disciples and practicing the beatitudes so that we can be encouraged to so. Therefore if you want to be a true disciple, truly happy and gain salvation please practice the beatitudes.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
THE BEATITUDES ARE TRUE SOURCES OF HAPPINESS
Epiphany means the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Mathew 2:1-12). The Gentiles includes all non-Jewish people. Jesus was born among the Jewish people and his birth was revealed to other nations through the Magi. The Magi are three kings that represented the different parts of the world, who came to visit the new born king, Jesus. The Lord revealed to the Magi through a star that led them to the Baby Jesus. This means God revealed himself to the whole world, even though Jesus was born in Israel. Jesus is a universal king of the world. He is king of every race and nation. Therefore, no particular people can claim monopoly of him. He is for everybody in every nation.
The three kings came with gifts to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and to worship him. On the other hand Herod was angry at the birth of Jesus and wanted to kill him. Up to this day there are many who still hate Jesus and his church. That is being demonstrated in the persecution of Christians all over the world. Furthermore, the chief priests and leaders of the Jews were indifferent to the birth of Jesus Christ. This is still happening in our time. Many people are indifferent to Jesus Christ and are concern more about worldly things. Many of us are guilty of this because we place certain things in our lives above Jesus. This feast is a call to every one of us to celebrate the birth of Jesus as the universal king of all nations.
God created us differently and gave us different talents for a reason. Everything he created is good and beautiful. That is God’s creativity and it is wonderful. This is a fact that cannot be denied by anyone. Even identical twins have some differences in them. Our differences are not to be seen as sources of division and hatred for one another, but as sources of strength and beauty that come from God. These differences and talents should be used to build one strong family of God. Therefore, anyone who hates or dislikes others because they are different is just wasting God’s time and resources because no amount of effort or hatred would change our differences and make us to look the same. Our differences are God’s design and plan for the world. Therefore, let us accept it, appreciate it, and cherish our differences and love one another as children of God.
God created us differently for a purpose. He did not make any mistakes. The story of creation tells us that everything he created was good. And in creating us he did not give anyone everything that they need in this life, instead, he gave each one of us some things and denied us some other things. That is why, in order for us to be completely happy in this life, we have to depend on each other to get those things that we do not have. Therefore, we were created to complement each other before we can succeed and survive in this world.
Lack of appreciation for our differences breeds hatred, discrimination, racism, and war in our world. It is only when we begin to appreciate our differences that we will overcome our selfishness and begin to live in peace with one another. Everyone of is special and has somethings to contribute for the building of God’s kingdom. Let us tolerate and love one another and live as members of one big family of God
There are different ways of discriminating against people of different races. Some people think is only the majority or rich or powerful people who can discriminate against other people. No, even the minorities and less privilege people can discriminate against other people as well. Any form of segregation and showing of differences is racism. For instance, if you suppress and discriminate against other people because they are different from you, is discrimination. When you deny people their rights and privileges because they are different from you, is racism. When you see others as less or second class citizens because they are different from you, is racism. If you avoid people and bear grudges against them because they are different from you, is racism. If you decide to form groups of you own type of people only and refuse to mingle with others, is discrimination. When you speak in a language that is not known to everyone in a group, is discrimination.
Today as we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord to different people at different times, which means God’s love for all peoples and nations, we should learn to appreciate our diversity and love one another. Let us appreciate our different talents and use them to enrich our community and society. Let everyone bring what they have and share with others and our community will become a wonderful place for everyone. For instance, we have different priests and deacons with different talents, that is a blessing to our community; we have different choirs that sing at different masses and ceremonies, that is a blessing to our parish; we have different international communities here with different cultures and ways of doing things, that is also a blessing; we have different ministries for different services, that is another blessing in this parish; we have different people volunteering to offer different services, that is also a great blessing for our parish community. All of these contribute in very wonderful ways toward enriching and making our parish community great.
Unfortunately, some other people get upset when things are done differently or not their own ways. It is fruitless, however, to think that things would always be done the same way or your own way, because it is not possible. Our world is full of diversity, the earlier we recognize and appreciate that and use it for good the better for us. Here in this parish, in attempt to recognize and appreciate our diversity, we celebrate the feast of epiphany as our multicultural day. It is an effort to show appreciation for our diversity and to use it as source of strength and means of evangelization in our community and to the larger society. The rainbow, God designed it with different colors which suggest diversity in the world. Therefore, we are like the rainbow with different colors and diversity, what a beauty of God’s creation we are?
As a person, I like our diversity because I do not see our differences as distinctions or segregations but as different parts that are meant to complement each other to accomplish a great mission of God here on earth. For instance, I was not conscious of the fact that I was the only black person in the parish office, not until someone commented on face book at our staff picture from my country Nigeria saying, ‘’father you are the only black person among white people.’’ I see that as a compliment. And I have never felt that I am different from others in the office or parish. Another thing I really appreciated was when one the students in our school said to her classmate, look father has the same hair like you. For me that was identifying, complimenting and appreciating how God created others differently. This is how we should comment and appreciate our diversity and use it for the common good of our community and society. Another day, I was wearing my traditional clothe and a woman walked up to me and said she liked the dress because it was beautiful.
Every person, in spite of our differences, is very special and important in our parish community and society. Therefore, let us appreciate one another and work together to accomplish God’s mission in our lives. The mission of God is to love everyone without discrimination. Let us glorify the Lord with our colors and diversity because we are created in his image and likeness.
Just as the star guided the three wise men to where the baby Jesus was, that is how he has guided and brought us together in spite of our diversity to meet Jesus in this parish community. We are call upon to help guide others through our words and deeds to come meet Jesus. Let us use our diversity to reveal Jesus to others by the way we love and serve each other as children of God. The three wise men represented the then known world: Asia, Africa, and Europe, in the same way, our parish community which is made up of different international communities, represents the different cultures of the world today. The word catholic means universal; therefore, our parish is a universal parish because we have different cultures and nationalities that represent all the different parts of the world here. Our parish is truly the image of the Catholic Church. In this parish everyone is welcomed and accepted as a
member of one big family of God. Please feel free and be at home. Let us celebrate our diversity and use it to glorify God. Let us share our cultures, colors, food, and gifts with one another to demonstrate our love for each other and to reveal the baby Jesus to everyone.
Homily given by Fr. Joel Bako (pictured to the right) on Epiphany, January 8, 2017 at Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church in Irving, TX.
There are many dogmas (Church’s teachings or declarations) about the Virgin Mary. For instance; ‘’Immaculate Conception’’, which means she was conceived without sin and redeemed from inheriting original sin; ‘’Assumption into heaven’’, which means her body never experienced corruption here on earth; ‘’Mediatrix of all graces’’ because of her intercessory role to humanity; ‘’the queen ship of Mary’’, which means the Queen of all the saints in heaven; and then ‘’the holy mother of God’’ that we celebrate today. These are some of the different ways in which the Church honors Mary. The Church honors her because of her unique and profound role in the history of our salvation.
Many people would ask why we honor her. Some would say that we worship her. That is not true. Why do we call her mother of God? John 1:1… says: ‘’in the beginning there was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God and all things came through him, and without him nothing came to be….. And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…that is the incarnation’’ It is this word that took flesh in the womb of Mary. If that word is God then Mary is the mother of God since she gave birth to him. We can as well say that of all children their mothers are older than them except Jesus because he was before her as God and her creator. And so if God who created all things chose her and made her his mother, who are we not to give her that honor due to her?
In our creed we do say: ‘’ I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, born of the father before all ages. God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
BEGOTTEN NOT MADE—Means he was not created like us humans but was divine and only took a human nature to be with us. He is one in being with the father
CONSUBSATANTIAL WITH THE FATHER—means- he is of the same substance or being with the father. That is why he told the disciple that to have seen him is to have seen the father because they are of the same being and substance. Philippians 2:6 say: Though he was God but he did not count his equality with the father….. Rather he emptied or humbled him, and took the form of a slave, coming in human form. All these goes to confirm the fact that Jesus is truly God. Therefore, Mary is the mother of God and we should honor her accordingly.
In Luke 1: 48, Mary said ‘’from now hence forth all generation shall call me blessed because the Lord has done great things for me’’. So, we are simply fulfilling this prophecy as we honor her. Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist said to her ‘’blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of womb, Jesus. Whom am I that the mother of my Lord should visit me?’’
Some people question why we venerate images and pray asking for interception of the saints. We honor and revere our heroes in the civil society, and we name streets and buildings after them; we sometimes make their images to immortalized them and for remembrance. We make them our role models. So what is wrong if we do the same thing to the heroes of our faith and religion? We keep pictures and images of our family members, friends and dear ones. Why can’t we do the same to our spiritual family members and friends?
We go to mortal human beings and ask for prayers or intercessions. We also believe that when people lived good lives here on earth and they died, that they will go to heaven to be with God. You cannot be where God is unless you are like him in holiness. Therefore, if people here on earth can intercede for us, and God will listen and answer their prayers for us, why won’t God listen to those (saints) in heaven with him? The book of wisdom 3:1-9 says: ‘’the souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace….God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself….They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever’’. This explains to us the power and position of the saints in heaven. Therefore, praying and asking for their intercession is not out of place.
If you believe that Jesus is God and born by Mary, why can’t you honor her? If you honor and respect you own parents why can’t you honor and respect the mother of God? If you believe that ‘’with God all things are possible’’, why are you not believing the virginity of Mary ( immaculate conception) and the fact that she never had any other child but Jesus even though she was married to, and lived with Joseph? Why do you think that God himself will dwell in a human being like Mary and yet she would be unclean? The angel said she was full of grace, meaning that, she was redeemed and made pure without sin.
LESSIONS TO LEARN FROM MARY
• Her humility before God and her husband Joseph.
• Her generosity in giving herself and her son for the serving of mankind.
• Her purity of heart that attracted God’s favor to her.
• Her obedience and submissiveness to the will of God.
• Her faith in God despite a difficult message from an angel.
• Her gratefulness to God as expressed in her song of joy to God for doing great things to her.
• Her desire for justice to be done to the oppressed and poor.
• Above all she is a model for all Christians. Let us emulate her as we enter the new- year. Let us ponder on the word of God to get wisdom and knowledge to live a better Christian life this New Year.
• Let us consecrate ourselves to her for her maternal protection and intercession this new- year. Let us pray and work for peace, love, and unity in our society.
• Let us resolve to be better Christians in the new- year and do not carry unnecessary luggage into the New Year.
• I wish you a happy and prosperous new year.
THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
Both Mary and Joseph were honored by God and were given great responsibilities to contribute in the history of our salvation. They became the parents of the savior of the world. They came from very humble backgrounds, full of humility and sense of dignity and reverence for God. Hence they accepted to do his will in spite of the challenges that accompany doing that.
In the first reading Prophet Isaiah said that God will give his people a sign: ‘’the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.’’ This prophecy is fulfilled in the gospel passage of today. The gospel reading gives us the story of how the birth of Jesus came about. Mary was betrothed to Joseph. According to their tradition, that was an official engagement. But before they could come to live together, Mary conceived through the Holy Spirit. Mary, in spite of the lack of understanding and the fear of what could happen to her afterward accepted with great humility the will of God to be conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Joseph was disturbed and disappointed about Mary’s pregnancy. However, Joseph being a good man did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, instead he wanted to divorce her quietly. While still thinking on what to do with this issue, the angel of Lord came to Joseph in a dream and encouraged him to take Mary as his wife. This is because the pregnancy of Mary was of the Holy Spirit. It was God’s design and the child will be called Jesus, the savior of the world.
With this explanation by the angel, Joseph took Mary as his wife and became the foster father of Jesus. This also made Jesus a legitimate heir to the thrown of David since Joseph was descendant his. Joseph accepted the will of God and provided for Mary and Jesus as a responsible husband and father. Joseph demonstrated great sense of responsibility, love, and respect for the dignity and privacy of the woman and family issues. Joseph is a true man of honor.
Christmas is a celebration of the fulfilment of God’s promise to his people. God gave his son to the world through Mary and Joseph in order to save the world. We thank and praise God in the psalm for giving us the king of glory, Jesus Christ, as our savior. As we celebrate Christmas, let us learn some very important lessons from the Holy Family of Nazareth. Mary and Joseph accepted the will of God in their lives. Let us learn from them to accept God’s will in our lives as well. Joseph did not want to disgrace Mary in public. Please let us learn from him how to respect the dignity and privacy of our spouses, friends, and family life. We have lost the sense of dignity and decency in our society today. Many of us are quick to take marital, family, and friend’s issues to the public courts or call in the police. Worse still, some of us discuss very private issues on public social media. It is not everything that we should discuss in a public forum. Please save you, your spouse, family members, and friends the public embarrassment.
In the second reading, Saint Paul encouraged us to receive the grace of God and become his messengers and spread the gospel to the whole world. Christmas season offers us the opportunity to do so. At Christmas we have the opportunity to honor family members, friends and neighbors. This includes: giving instructions, corrections, songs, gifts, time, calls, and text messages; telling the truth, visiting one another especially the less privilege in hospitals, nursing home, prisoners and the poor in our society. Remember proclaiming the gospel is not compromising the gospel. We must proclaim the truth as it is and bear witness to it in our lives. Let us proclaim Jesus to the whole world with our joyful songs and celebrations. Merry Christmas!!!
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT (A)
JOSEPH A MAN OF HONOR AND MARY WOMAN OF HONOR