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
The third Sunday of advent, is traditionally called ‘’Gaudete Sunday’’ which means ‘’rejoice’’ or ‘’Rose Sunday’’ that is why we wear rose vestments for this mass. The rose color symbolizes the joy of the celebration today. It represents the lightening of the dark violet color of the rest of the penitential season of advent. This lightening has two significant, namely: Firstly, it is a sign that the coming of light, Jesus Christ into the world is very near; secondly, it signifies the joy that accompany the coming of this light, Jesus Christ.
It is because of this reasons that our readings are centered on the theme of ‘’Joy’’. This is to tell us that Christmas is near and so begin to celebrate with carols, music, drums, bells, and all the musical instruments. We praise God for his wonderful deeds to us. He brought us salvation through his son Jesus Christ.
The first reading said the deserts and unproductive lands will blossom with abundant flowers and fruits; sorrow and bitterness will be replaced with joy and gladness. This simply means that God will liberate us from the bondage of the devil and bless us with abundant gifts such as: opening the eyes of blind and ears of the deaf, making the lame to leap, losing the tongue of the dump. Therefore, let us rejoice and praise the Lord.
The Psalm said, ‘’ Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God’’. This is a song of thanksgiving to God for granting justice to the oppressed; food to the hungry; freedom to captives; healing to the sick; and protection to the orphans, widows, and strangers. In the second reading, Saint James encouraged us to be patient, persistent in prayer, and doing good works for the coming of the Lord is near. While waiting we should make sure that we are not found wanting when he comes.
The gospel reading demonstrated the fulfilment of the prophecy in the first reading. Jesus was anointed with the spirit to bring good news to the less privilege people. Jesus started performing wonderful works and miracles for the people. He brought the people healing, joy, and freedom from captivity of the devil. John the Baptist sent the people to see and experience the joy brought them by Jesus. This was to enable them to be convinced and believed that Jesus is the true messiah. When the people met Jesus he showed them his wonderful deeds and confirmed to them that John came to prepare the way for him. Jesus demonstrated to them that he was indeed greater than John the Baptist. These are reasons for our celebration during this Christmas.
Jesus brings to us good news and joy every day of our lives. We experience healing, miracles, and freedom from captivity of the devil. Jesus is a friend to the poor, sick, orphans, widows, and the oppressed in our society. We shall continue to receive these blessing from Jesus if we listen and follow him. In addition, during our baptism we were anointed with oil and the Holy Spirit so that we can bring the good news to others. Therefore during this Christmas period, we must not forget to bring the good news to other people especially the less privilege people in our society. We should share with the less privilege people our blessings. Let us give the poor gifts of food, clothing, money, toys, smiles, visits, outings, apologies, forgiveness, reunions, and above all the love of God.
Saint Teresa said: ‘’we can cure physical disease with medicine, but the only medicine for loneliness, despair, and depression is love. There are many in the world who are dying for food but many more are dying for lack of love’’. Therefore, this Christmas offers us great opportunities to reach out to those people in need and give them love, joy and peace of Christ Jesus. Think of what you shall give to others but not what you shall get from others. Remember not to celebrate Christmas with malice, anger, hatred, sin, bitterness, and jealousy, instead be joyful bring that joy to people that you come across. Follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ and bring the good news to the less privilege in our society at Christmas.
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT A (GAUDETE SUNDAY)
WE REJOICE AND CELEBRATE THE COMING OF CHRIST
We human beings have the natural tendency to be selfish-not willing to share with others our resources. Just like some
children often do refuse to share even with the person who had given them a gift. That is how many of us are. We find it difficult to share even with God who had given us all the gifts that we have.
In the first reading of today, Joshua demonstrated unwillingness to share and jealousy that the spirit of God was given to some elders who were not present at the tent of meeting where the spirit of prophecy descended on the 72 elders. He requested that Moses should stop them from prophesying. In the same way John was not ready to share ministry of healing with others and had requested that Jesus should stop those people who were healing in his name but were not following him. Both Jesus and Moses responded by encouraging the people to appreciate God’s generosity to others. God can give his gift to anyone he wishes to. God is not selfish like us humans rather he is very generous to everyone.
Moses said that he wished that everyone had the spirit of prophesy. That would be good for the people of God. Our desire should be that everyone receives blessings and spiritual gifts from God. Surely, God has blessed us abundantly but a few selfish and greedy people are denying majority of the people their rights and access to these blessings and to participate in ministry. How can you reconcile the fact that a few people are extremely rich while the majority of the people are living in poverty. This is so because the rich are hoarding these resources and are not willing to share with others. Most rich people got their wealth through evil means such as stealing, cheating, denying people their proper wages and so on in the name of business and being smart. We are given these resources and talents by God as stewards to share and serve others. What we do not know is that by sharing with others we gain more blessing and become qualified to enter the kingdom of God. Hence the saying that blessed is the hand that gives than the hand that takes.
The second reading talked about how the rich will cry because of their ill-gotten wealth which shall count against them on judgment day. Worldly riches will fade, be stolen, and become rotten, but spiritual riches will last forever. So, use material riches to get spiritual riches by sharing your resources with others. Store for yourself treasures in heaven where there are no thieves or rot that will destroy them. If you do not belong to a community or ministry, it means you are selfish with your gifts. If you do not have friends or visit or communicating with people, it means you are selfish. If you cannot forgive or reconcile with those who wrong you, it means you are selfish. Sometimes we are depressed because we do not want to share with others. By sharing your resources you gain peace and more blessings.
Jesus talked about allowing those healing in his name to be, for whoever is not against us, is for us. This suggests that we should welcome and allow others to share and participate in our community and the ministry of Jesus. He also urges his disciples never to mislead the little ones among them, for if they do, they will be punished. Sometimes we judge and condemn other as not qualified to belong or participate in our community, ministry or group. We have a responsibility toward children and vulnerable members of society; to share with them, lead and provide them mentorship so that they do not deviate from the right path. Furthermore, that we should avoid whatever leads us into sin in order to qualify to enter heaven. This means cutting off relationships, habits, and thoughts that lead us into sin and away from sharing our lives with others. For what shall be our gain if we gain the whole world and ruin our souls at the end?
TWENTY SIX SUNDAY YEAR B 2015
Food is a basic necessity in the lives of all living beings. Without food we will starve and eventually die. It is because of this reason that we work hard every day to get food to nourish our bodies. This food that we work so hard to get is only for our physical bodies. Last week, Jesus said we should not only work for perishable food, but for food that will last forever. That is, the bread of life, Jesus Christ himself.
In the first reading of today, we saw how Elijah was the only one who stood by God and against the prophets of Baal in a contest on whose God is supreme. He won the contest, but had to flee because Ahab and Jezebel wanted to kill him after he had killed all the prophets of Baal. Elijah was lonely, isolated and hungry in the desert. But God provided food for him as he did to the people of Israel in the desert to enable him travel for forty days and forty nights to meet the Lord the mountain.
The second reading gave us a list of behaviors that we must give up and behaviors that we must imbibe in order to be truly happy in life, namely: bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, malice, and jealousy must be removed in our lives; and be replaced with kindness, forgiveness and love for one another.
The gospel is about Jesus telling the people that he is the bread of life, our spiritual food; food that gives us strength for our spiritual journey and enables us to overcome any challenges that we might encounter on the way. But the question is do we recognize him as the bread of life? How desperate are we for this spiritual food? What effort do we make to get this food? How often do we pray to God especial at difficult times? (Prayers such as: novena, rosary, adoration, meditation, divine mercy, psalms etc.). We spend plenty time preparing for our careers and other worldly things but how much time do we spend on spiritual things? (Say: the sacraments, worship, Bible reading, and ACTS retreats). When we are lonely, isolated, depressed like Elijah, what do we do? (For example, go take alcohol and drugs, clubbing and partying?).We need to party with Jesus to obtain food for our spiritual life. We make a lot of effort to obtain food to sustain our physical lives, what effort are we making to sustain our spiritual lives? Why are you starving your spiritual life? What effort are you making to be in communion with God and his church? We need each other for mutual support, comfort and strength. Many people are afraid of opening up for fear of betrayal, loss of dignity, disrespect and all kinds of insecurity. We need to respond to the needs of one another by being empathetic, sympathetic, trust worthy, loving, caring and providing support to others. True peace and happiness can only be attend when we overcome our ego, resentment, selfishness, hatred, fears and open ourselves to God and one another. It is only by being in communion with God and his church that we can achieve true peace and love.
The Bible says that God will protect us from all evil and provide for our needs, but only when we are in communion with him. Jesus said he came to give us life in full, but you must belong to his kingdom in order to graze and grow to your full potential in life. The Church is the kingdom of God on earth where we can graze and grow to full potential. The church provides you the right nourishment you need to grow well. If you are outside the church or not in communion with the Lord, you become a wanderer, dissatisfied, depressed, dejected, unhappy and restless person. Come to the Lord and he will feed you with real food and real drink to sustain your soul and get eternal life. Jesus said, ‘’Come to me all you who are weary and over burden in life and I will give you rest’’. Any one or family that is united with the Lord receives nourishment that makes them live in peace and without crisis or division. The church is our true home where we can get all the comfort, love, and peace that we need in this life. If you are not in communion with God and his church, you are homeless and you will have no peace.
Some people ask me why I am happy and smiling always. My answer is- I am at home, in communion with God and his church; I have a good shepherd who feeds me with good food, protects me from all harm. So why should I be worried. I am happy not because I have plenty of money or the best car or best clothes or house. I am happy because I do not need to be perfect in order to be loved by a perfect God. Despite my imperfection he has called me to be his priest. That is the best gift and honor a man will ever receive from God. I am happy not because I have a well-paying job, but because I have been employed by God to work for him and to represent him, my creator. What a great privilege! The best moment in my life is when I am in the church celebrating the liturgy with the people of God. Standing at the pulpit to proclaim the word God, and at the altar to raise the chalice of salvation, gives me great joy and fulfillment. My source of joy is from God and his people. So, if you want to happy, be in communion with God and his people. And you will get all the nourishment and strength that you need to be happy in this life. Taste and see that Lord is truly good.
NINETHEEN SUNDAY 2015
A certain business corporation announced that it was moving its offices abroad. And the board chairman said only important staff would be transfer to the new office, but secretaries and others would not. When the secretaries and the others read this announcement that they were not important employees, they decided to call attention to their importance by not answering phones. This company suffered losses because of this demonstration. And immediately the board chairman made a public apology.
In bearing witness to Christ there is no one who is not important. We are all important workers/witnesses in the Lord’s vineyard. A witness is someone who has seen, experienced or has knowledge of something and can make a statement or give testimony about it to others. The disciples of Jesus witnessed his suffering, death, and resurrection; however, they were doubtful of the resurrection. Jesus went an extra-length to explain to them that he was real by appearing to them, showing his wounds, eating with them, asking them to touch him, and using the scripture to explain to them that his death and resurrection were a fulfillment of the Old Testament-what the law and the prophets said about him, so that they would believe him.
As soon as they were convinced of his resurrection, they wasted no time to go out to share and bear witness to the world. This was a miracle and good news to the disciples. So they could not keep it to themselves, they were excited to tell the story to the world. That is exactly what the Church is called to do: to bear witness to Jesus’ resurrection to the whole world; to call people to repentance and forgiveness of sins; and to call people to come and encounter Jesus. Everyone is called to do all of these. It is not the work of the priest, religious and deacons alone. By virtue of our Baptism, we are all called to bear witness to Christ in different ways. We bear witness as clergy, religious, laity and in the various ministries of the church. The ministries include service to you family, altar servers, Eucharistic ministers, proclaimers, altar guilt, St. Vincent the Paul, choir, religious education teachers, ushers, prison ministry, pastoral and finance council, and so on.
You cannot bear witness to what you have not seen nor experienced nor have knowledge of. It is your encounter with and the knowledge of the Lord that you share with people. Once you are convinced of your faith then you will be duty-bound to bear witness or share with others. But how do you experience, know him, and have faith in him? You have to accept his invitation to encounter him in the Bible, sacraments, worship and fellowship, service to others and so on. Then you will have the experience of him and be able to share with others. You begin sharing of your experience in your family, to friends, neighbors and colleagues at work.
It is our mandate to invite other people to repentance, fellowship and encounter with Jesus. We are called to share the joy of the resurrection/gospel with others. It is our duty to testify to the world our faith experiences. We have been called to live out our Baptismal promises in the world. As Christians, we are to let the light we received at the Easter vigil shine forth for people to see and know that we are children of light.
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, 2015
Today we celebrate the baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This Sunday marks the end of Christmas season, and the beginning of the ordinary season in the Church’s calendar. As we all know, Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation of our Lord in the person of Jesus Christ. That is, God’s self-revelation to humanity. This revelation was to the Jews first, and second, to the gentile (non-Jews), which we celebrated as epiphany, and then today at the baptism, to repentant sinners. This also means, from 25th of December till this day, we have been celebrating God’s revelation to humanity.
Baptism is the washing and cleansing of individuals, and empowering them for mission. Christ wanted to fulfil this ritual for righteousness sake, and not because he was a sinner, before the beginning of his public ministry. At his baptism, the heavens were opened, a voice spoke, and a dove descended on him. All of this happened in order to introduce him, identify him, confirm him and anoint him as the savior of the world. By his baptism, he identified with our humanity and was able to carry the burdens of our sins.
This baptism was very important to Jesus because: 1. It was a moment of decision to begin his public ministry, and submit to the will of God the father. 2. It was to infuse his divine essence into the water and ceremony of baptism to enable it to have the power to wash us clean from our sins. 3. It was a moment of approval, introduction, and assurance of his identity and mission. 4. It was a moment of conviction. 5. It was a time to equip and empower him by the Holy Spirit to begin his mission.
The implication of his baptism to us is as follows: It gives us new life in Christ Jesus; makes us sharers in his mission (priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles); it enables us to renew our baptismal promises to God, which is to reject doing evil, but accept doing good always; it opens the gates of heaven for us to enter; it empowers us for ministry in the kingdom of God; through it, we are welcomed and accepted into the kingdom of God.
Therefore, by virtue of our baptism, we have been made children of God and sharers in his mission to proclaiming the good news to the world. As we celebrate his baptism today, it reminds us of our baptism and that we are his children. Children have rights as well as responsibilities in the family. The father loves and cares for them. They too should appreciate and contribute to the welfare of the family. We share in the love and mission of our father. Baptism empowers us for this mission to love, forgive, heal, console, support one another, and to proclaim his good news.
Just as Jesus was empowered for mission at his baptism, we too have been empowered to carry on with his mission. Therefore, go spread the good news to the whole world.
THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD