Jesus wants us to be as clever as serpents and as gentle as doves. In the first reading, Amos warned the rich and those who take advantage of the less privileged in our society. He said that the Lord will judge them and punish them for cheating the poor in our society.
The Psalm said we should praise the Lord who lifts up the poor. This means God is the defender and protector of the poor people. In the second reading St. Paul encouraged us to pray for one another especially for those in authority. This will enable us obtain peace and joy in society. Furthermore, he instructed us to ensure that everyone gets to know about the good news in order to be saved.
In the gospel we read the story of a dishonest steward who misused his master’s property and the master decided to terminate his work. Though, the master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently in planning for his future so that he will not be stranded and be without a place to go after he had been laid off. He is praised for being wise with worldly things.
But we children of light, Christians do not possess such kind of wisdom in spiritual matters. We do not prepare for the future especially spiritually for death. We do not prepare ourselves for heaven, our future and eternal home the way we prepare for our earth home. Today we are being called to be wise as this steward and prepare for the future, heaven, using our resources here on earth.
‘’Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.’’ This means we should be generous with our possessions so that we can gain more blessings from and be with God. If you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, worldly things, who will trust you with true wealth, eternal wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, the excess wealth you have which belong to others, who will give you what is yours, your inheritance in heaven? This means, if we cannot be generous with our material possessions, especially the excess which technically belongs to the poor, you will not get to heaven and see God. He said that no servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon. Therefore, use your resources to serve the Lord and the less privilege people around you.
Do we use money to further the kingdom of God? Do we try to see the good in people, their potentials? We should be prudent in managing our resources in order to get rewarded and gain salvation. We should use them to store up treasure for ourselves in heaven. As servants of God we should not be dishonest in our dealings with God and his people. Rather be sincere stewards and use whatever God has given you to serve him and humanity. We should use our resources and position to help others and gain rewards in heaven. Do not use your position and resources to oppress or take advantage of the less privileged in society. We have been called to be good stewards in our families and communities. Please ensure that you are an honest and a good steward before God in order to receive an excellent reward in heaven from him.
TWENTY FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THE PARABLE OF THE UNJUST STEWARD
Our God is full of compassion and mercy to his people. In the first reading God told Moses to go down from the mountain because the people had made for themselves a god, a molten calf to worship and offer sacrifice to it. By so doing, the people were rejecting the God that brought them out of the land of Egypt, the land of slavery and bondage. The Lord was angry with them and wanted to destroy them and make a great nation from Moses instead. But Moses on the other hand pleaded with the Lord not to destroy the people and reminded the Lord of his promise to the people, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make their descendants as many as the stars in sky. The Lord listened to Moses and demonstrated his mercy to them and he did not destroy the people.
The Psalm said, ‘’I will rise and go to my father.’’ It is a song of repentance to the Lord for our sins. In this song, we ask the Lord to forgive us and not to destroy us. In the second reading, St. Paul gave thanks to God for forgiving him and calling him into his ministry in spite of what he had done to the church (persecution). The Lord was merciful to him and gave him the opportunity to minister to his people. In the same way, Christ came to call us, sinners, to repentance and to participate in his mission of evangelization of the world.
In the Gospel, Christ was accused of eating with tax-collectors and sinners by the Pharisees and Scribes. This was a taboo then in the Jewish tradition for a rabbi to interact with sinner and tax-collectors. Jesus replied to them using the following parables. First, is the parable of the lost sheep in which the shepherd left 99 sheep to go in search of one missing sheep and when he found it he called his friends and neighbors to celebrate with him. Second, is the parable of the lost coin in which the woman who lost one out of ten coins, light her lamp and swept the floor of the house until she found it, then, she celebrated with her neighbors. Last, is the parable of the prodigal son who collected his own share of the father’s property and left for a distant country where he squandered everything and later became so hungry that he wanted to eat with pigs in order to survive. Then he realized his mistake and decided to go back to his father and ask for forgiveness and to be accepted not as a son but a slave instead. But on his return home, his father saw him from a far and ran to welcome him home. The father decided to celebrate his return in special way. The elder son was not happy with the father’s love, mercy, and lavish celebration of his younger brother who was wasteful and deserved to be punished. On top of that the father gave the younger son new clothes, shoes, and ring to symbolize that his position, rights and privileges as his son has been reinstated.
All these readings and parables demonstrated the compassion and mercy of God to his people. He does not judge nor condemn the sinners but celebrates their return and repentance to him. Likewise the angels and saints in heaven they celebrate each time we repent of our sins. If this is how our God is why do we delay coming back to him and repent of our sins? No matter how many or terrible our sins are, the Lord is ready to forgive us and use us for his mission here on earth. All we need do is to make up our minds and return/repent. There are no any jail terms or death sentence on us if we come back to him, instead we shall receive joy and peace. We will be release from the shackles of the devil and be made clean of our iniquities.
We are guilty of so many sins just like the people of Israel. For example, pride, idolatry, doubt, persecuting others, Ignorant, in fact we are lost like the prodigal son and have gone far away from God. Living in sin is slavery to the devil. Remember the devil was an angel who disobeyed God and is undergoing punishment. Therefore, he is looking for disciples to join him in the kingdom of darkness. Please do not succumb to his tricks or temptations. Stand strong and resist him by all means. Let us take advantage of the compassion and mercy of the Lord and gain our freedom from the devil so that we can enjoy peace and love from God the father. Also remember to pray and come for forgiveness of your sins and pray for others just as Moses did, forgive others just like God does to sinners. The sacrament of reconciliation is there to help us come back to God. Please know that repentance and forgiveness are the secrets of happy life in a family and a community.
Please learn and know how to confess your sins to the priest. Wait for appropriate time to go for confession. Do not feel guilty whenever you remember past sins that you did not confess because they were forgiven already at your last confession. Never make reference to the sins that you confessed last time because they have been forgiven and are not to be remembered. Begin to count your sins for next confession from the moment you leave the confessional. Be honest, specific and call your sins by their names and not by numbers or symbols. Confession time is not time for long counselling or for story telling because others are waiting to confess as well.
TWENTY FOURTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
GOD IS COMPASSIONATE AND MERCIFUL TO HIS CHILDREN
In the first reading, the Lord said he will gather all nations to come and see his glory. This he will achieve by his open invitation to everyone and by using us, his disciples to reach out to those who have not heard or seen his glory and bring them like offerings to the Lord and the Lord will use them as well for his work and to manifest his glory in the world. The Psalm instructs us to go out to the entire world and tell the good news. This mean everyone is invited into the kingdom of God. And no one should be an obstacle to anyone else’s opportunity to enter the kingdom of God. We are all invited and instructed to invite others to come into the kingdom of God. We can do this by proclaiming the good news to the world by our words and deeds.
Second reading talks about discipline of the Lord. It says for whom the Lord loves he disciplines. Endure your trials as discipline. The word discipline has the same root with the word disciple. A disciple is one who is being disciplined or undergoing some training for a goal. Therefore, discipline should not be seen as a punishment or a curse, rather as a source of strength and stamina that brings about great achievements and successes in the life of the disciples. As a result of discipline, we can grow in righteousness. Discipline is a training and attitude that helps us to achieve our goals in life and salvation. When you discipline yourself you will be organized, successful and as a result experience peace, joy, and happiness here on earth and eventually in heaven with the Lord.
The gospel teaches us to enter through the narrow gate, the kingdom of God. Only those who have disciplined themselves can enter this gate. If you are not disciplined, the gate of heaven will not be open for you to enter. The key to success and any achievement is discipline and hard work. To achieve heaven we must discipline ourselves by listening and keeping to the teachings of our Lord. If you do not discipline yourself and work hard, you will surely regret it in future. Therefore, if we do not discipline ourselves and pass through the narrow/difficult gate, we shall be rejected on the last day. And we will see others come from behind, pass us, and achieve salvation while we will be thrown to the place where there is wailing and grinding of teeth with the devil.
Therefore, the criteria for entering heaven are discipline, hard work, and entering through the narrow or difficult gate. This means having faith in God, listening to, and doing the will of God in your life and avoiding evil. Everyone has been invited to enter the kingdom through this narrow gate. There are no short cuts or any other ways other than that. No one has advantage over others because of race, color, nationality, family background or gifts but everyone has the opportunity to get to heaven if they follow through the narrow gate. But only your faith and good works will take you to the kingdom of God.
TWENTY FIRST-SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THE NARROW GATE IS THE ONLY WAY TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
In the first reading, we are told that the people of Israel had faith in God to fulfill his promises to them and deliver them from their enemies. The Psalm said that blessed are the people the Lord has chosen to be his own. The second reading said that faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. And reference was made to Abraham who demonstrated his faith by obedience to the call to go out to an unknown place to receive his inheritance. He journeyed into the unknown in a foreign land but with great hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise in his life. Even though himself and Sarah, his wife, had past the age of child birth and Sarah was sterile, he trusted in the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to him anyway.
The fulfilment of God’s promised to give him numerous descendants as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the sea shore started with the birth of Isaac, their only son. And shortly afterward his faith was tested again, he was asked to offer his only son, Isaac, the fulfilment of God’s promise, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Abraham again, full of faith agreed and went to offer Isaac as requested by the Lord. He trusted God could still fulfil his promise anyway.
In the gospel, Jesus said to his disciples not to be afraid anymore for their father is willing to give them the kingdom. He urged them to give away their possessions as alms to others and acquire great treasures in heaven that cannot be destroyed or stolen by thieves because where your treasure is that is where your heart will be.
Get ready and be awake as servants waiting for the coming of their master to open the door for him. Those servants who are found ready and awake to open the door for the master shall receive a beautiful reward and enter the kingdom of God. This means we should prepare for the second coming of the Lord at any time by being pure and holy in our words and deeds. Keep doing good works as good stewards and bear good fruits in your lives for when the Lord comes he shall reward you greatly. Do not be discouraged and distracted by anything for he will surely come but at a time you do not know.
Remain strong in faith and work hard so that you are not found wanting on the arrival of the master and thrown in a place together with the evil one where there is everlasting pain. He also said for those of us who know more about his teaching and refuse to live accordingly, we shall be more severely punish than others who knew little or nothing about it.
Many of us take things for granted, thinking we still have plenty time left to live on earth. We all know that death can come or strike at any time at our door steps. Some of us rebel against God and refuse to live good lives because God has not given us what we wanted or some misfortunes have befallen us. We need to know that God is a mystery, difficult to understand by humans. His ways are different from ours. He has a way of doing things that is beyond our understanding. He has a way of answering our prayers either positively or negatively for our own good but we cannot understand it. Sometimes he allows us to go through pain and suffering just as he did to his son Jesus Christ on the cross. Why he does that is known to him alone. Therefore, no matter what situation we find ourselves let us not give up on him but remain vigilant and strong in faith because he is capable of fulfilling his promises to us as he did to Abraham.
Let us not give room for the devil to use us and lead us astray from God’s will. Just keep doing God’s will always and his promises shall be fulfilled in your life. Avoid all kinds of evils such as: malice, greed, jealousy, selfishness, cheating and wickedness and show love to your neighbors. Begin now to live the kind of life that you will like death to find you living, a life that will merit you heaven. Love God with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
NINETEEN SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
BE VIGILANT AND STRONG IN FAITH
Last week we reflected on the story of the Good Samaritan which reminded us to see those in need as our neighbors and assist them. This week we are reflecting on the story of Martha and Mary, the two sisters that received Jesus in their house as guest. We are called upon today to keep a balance between our activities and prayers. Martha was involved in activities while Mary was seated and listening to Jesus. Both actions are needed and required for us to become good Christians/disciples.
In the first reading we saw how Abraham welcomed three men who were passing by his house. He insisted that they stop by for him to entertain them before they proceeded on their journey. As a result of his beautiful and kind gesture, he got the promise of a child as a blessing from God. In the second, St. Paul rejoiced over the opportunity given him to suffer while rendering service to God and his people. He saw himself as an instrument of God’s mercy, goodness, and teaching to the people. While in the gospel, Martha asked Jesus and said, ‘’Lord do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? And Jesus replied her saying, ‘’ Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it must not be taken from her.’’ This sounds ridiculous to Martha and many of us today. Why should Jesus say that to her?
As Christians we are encouraged to practice the virtue of hospitality and be charitable to our neighbors especially those in need. Abraham gave us a perfect example in the first reading of today. And he was rewarded for that. Martha did good job as well by providing service to Jesus during his visit to their house. This represents and encompasses all the corporal works of mercy that we are encouraged to practice such as: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, providing home to the homeless, visiting the prisoners and the sick, and burying the dead. Mary on the other hand sat down listening to his words. Her action represented the dimension of prayer and contemplation in our lives as Christians. It is important for us to sit and listen to Jesus just as you are doing right now reflecting and savoring the sweetness of his words and his company in our lives as Mary did. This dimension encompasses all the spiritual works of mercy that we are encouraged to practice such as: admonishing sinners, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubt, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrong patiently, forgiving all injuries, and praying for both the living and the dead.
Both Martha and Mary; service and contemplation are two dimension that constitute true discipleship and are inseparable in the life of a Christian. They are meant to be integrated and not to be contrasted in our Christian lives. These dimensions enable us to practice the commandment of love to God in prayer and contemplation, and love of neighbor as ourselves in doing service to them. Therefore, Jesus’ reply to Martha’s question was to caution her not to be distracted from her service and to allow Mary to do what she was doing because it was equally important. When he said Mary chose the better part is to emphases the importance of seeking God’s will first in prayers before embarking on any service that we may want to do. You have to listen to your master’s or teacher’s instruction first before you can carry out the assignment or task given you to do. If you do not do the work according to his instructions you will not get the desired reward or credit for it.
Jesus said only one thing is needed but Martha worry about so many things. That one thing and most important thing is our salvation or going to heaven and be with the Lord. So everything we do as Christian should be geared toward salvation and heaven which is our final destination and ultimate goal. And do not do so in order to impress people rather do them so that God who sees and knows every human mind and intention will reward you accordingly. This one thing is seeking the kingdom of God first and placing God above all things in your life. And do not be distracted by any other thing else especially worldly things. Psalm 27:4 says: ‘’I ask the Lord, one thing I seek, to live in the house of the Lord.’’ In another way we could say listening to the word is much more important than preparing a banquet. Just as it is said that it is better to go where people are mourning than to go where people are celebrating; there you gain more spiritually and have the opportunity to reflect over your life. We also need to be careful not to be carried away by too much work and forget to prayer to the God that gives strength for the work. Have a blessed week.
SIXTEEN SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
Forty days after the resurrection of Jesus he ascended to heaven. Forty days is significant number in the scripture. Moses went up to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promise land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of the Lord. And for forty days after the resurrection Jesus appeared several times to his disciples to prove to them that he was truly raised from the dead and to prepare them for the mission of bearing witness to the world.
The departure of Jesus was like an end and a beginning at the same for the disciples. It was the end because that was the last time they will see him physically. It was the beginning because they will begin to experience him in a different way going forth. Jesus promised to be there for his disciples always to the end of time. As he ascended into heaven, he promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would empower them and teach them more on how to preach and be his witnesses to the world. Therefore, his departure did not leave them in sorrow but in joy because they were filled with the expectation of the coming of the Holy Spirit that will give them strength.
Through the Holy Spirit, the Lord empowers us to bear witness to the world. The risen Lord is in heaven on his throne reigning over the earth and heaven as king. There, he intercedes for us and empowers us with the help of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to him in the world. This is so that the world will hear from us the message of his gospel and be saved from condemnation.
How can we become effective witnesses of Christ Jesus? When we receive the Holy Spirit it will empower us to be his witnesses to the world. The gospel is the power of God that releases people from the burden of the devil and brings healing and restoration to us all. We are his ambassadors in the world, to represent him and bear his witness. That is the great commissioning given to us as his disciples. And all who believe in him share in this responsibility of spreading the good news. We are to wait on and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit that will empower us to be able to be his witnesses to in the world. We are to bring joy, love, and peace to the world as his disciples. When we receive power from the Holy Spirit we shall bear his witness to the world. We have to dispose and open ourselves for the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and strengthen us to do his will. Have faith in him and allow him to come into your life and take possession of you and use you for his work in his kingdom.
We are depressed, sick, unhappy, confuse, and in difficulty because we have not allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives. We rely on human wisdom so much today in our world that is why we cannot be happy and peaceful. Seek the will of God and allow him access into your life to take charge and your life will be wonderful. Discard your pride, selfishness and evil desires and allow God a space in your life and see how happy you will be.
Our world is full of all kinds of distractions: noise, pleasure, power, freedom, additions and so on. That is making us confused and leads us to destruction. We need to have faith in God and allow him to use us for his mission and glory in the world. His ascension is to allow the Holy Spirit to come take control of us and empower us to do his will here on earth. We must be willing and ready for the spirit to manifest in our lives and enable us do his will. Therefore, prepare yourself for the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower you for his mission. At baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and it was strengthen during confirmation. Now, you must open up to the Holy Spirit to empower you do his will on earth.
Today’s readings invite us to praise the Lord FOR his suffering, death and resurrection for our 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 WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND HAVE BELIEVED
In the first reading we are told that many signs and wonders were performed 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
GOD DOES NOT LOVE SIN BUT LOVES THE SINNER AWAY
In today’s readings we see God demonstrating his love for his people in spite of their unfaithfulness. For instance, in the first reading he assured the people of Israel of his love and protection. And in the gospel we see a much more dramatic demonstration of unconditional forgiveness and love through the father to the son who had offended him.
The son collected his own share of inheritance, wealth and left to a distance land and squandered everything in the life sin. When he had finished everything that he had, he became so hungry that he went to work in a swine (pig) farm and wanted to feed himself from the swine’s food. What a disgrace, that the son of a very wealthy father descending so low to the point of wanting to eat with animals. He who exalts himself will be humbled while he who humbles himself will be exalted says Jesus. And of all animals it was swine’s food he wanted to eat. Remember that swine is one of those animal God forbid his people to eat in the Old Testament.
That is what happens if you throw away your dignity and waste your resources in the life of sin. Most times when you did not work hard for and you achieve something on a platter of gold, you tend to be careless and wasteful. That is the situation of this prodigal son.
This son took advantage of his father’s generosity, had no foresight, he was after worldly pleasure and happiness, he was not responsible, and did not want to carry his cross. He just wanted to enjoy life but he ended up suffering instead. That is why Christ said that anyone who wants to enjoy this worldly life to the detriment his soul will lose it, but anyone who suffers and loses his this earthly life for his sake will gain eternal reward.
After suffering and wasting his wealth and life, he came back to his senses and thought of how his father’s servants have more than enough to eat while he is dying of hunger. That is what happens when we are suffering we remember all the good things and opportunities that we have wasted. The good thing is that he admitted his fault, judge, and even condemned himself by saying that he had sinned against God and his father and no longer worthy of being his father’s son. And he wished his father could accept him as one his servants.
He was bold enough and decided to return to the father and apologize to him and with the hope of being accepted as one of the servants. But to his amazement, while he was still far away, his father caught sight of him coming and he ran to him in order to welcome him back home. And his father decided to celebrate his return home in a very special way that made the first son angry. Instead of him being punished for his wrong deed he was celebrated for coming back home. What a kind and merciful father! He was given new clothes (sign of renewal and new beginning in their relationship), shoes (sign of being a legitimate son and not a slave as he wanted), and a ring (sign and seal of their covenant relationship as father and son). And on top of that the calf they have been fattening for years was slaughtered for the celebration. All these was to demonstrate the father’s unconditional love and forgiveness to his son that was lost but is now found, who died and is now back to life.
That is how God is to us, he loves us in spite of our unfaithfulness and is ready to forgive and celebrate our repentance from our sins without any condition attach. When we repent of our sins, we are made clean and new creation by God himself. We regain our lost glory and dignity. Therefore, do not be afraid of coming back to God and his church because he is full of mercy and compassion. Just as the prodigal son was celebrated for returning home that is how the angels, saints, and God in heaven celebrate our repentance.
Many of us are like the prodigal son. We have gone far away from God because of our sins. We have squandered our blessings and destroyed our dignity as children of God. In our effort to seek worldly pleasure and happiness we have brought upon ourselves misery, depression, loneliness, addictions of all kinds, lack of love and peace, and all kinds of evil into our lives. We need to learn from the prodigal son and come back to the father to receive forgiveness and love. We need to reconcile with our families, friends, neighbors, church, and God.
This year and the period of lent are moments in which we are called to come back to Lord and receive his forgiveness and love. Please take advantage of these beautiful opportunities. And as you receive unconditional forgiveness from the Lord, please endeavor to forgive those who wrong us as well. Our forgiveness will not be completed if we do not forgive others who have offended us. Remember what we say always in the prayer Jesus taught us “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’’ Please do not be like the elder son who was angry that the younger son was forgiven and celebrated for coming back home. We must be like the father who forgives without any condition attached.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR C
A story is told of a man who passed out and was taken to both heaven and hell. After some time he came back to life and started to tell people what he saw over there. He said he saw people in hell given all kinds of food to eat using very long spoons. But because of the length of the spoons they could not eat the food and they were looking very hungry. While in heaven, the people were given the same kinds of food and spoons and they were able to feed themselves and looked very healthy. This is because instead of each person struggling to feed him/her with the long spoons, which was not possible anyway, they decided to be feeding each other. Each person would use the spoon to feed another person and that person does the same to him/her. At the end of the day each person is fed to his/her satisfaction. Since the people in heaven were not selfish and loved each other, they were able to feed themselves, while those in hell could not because they were selfish and lack love for each other. Lack of love is manifested in selfishness to each other.
Today in our second reading St. Paul talked about how love is very relevant to our human community. Love is patient and kind. It is not jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, quick to anger, and celebrate at the misfortune of others, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believe all things, and hope in all things.
All kinds of vices and evils exist in our world today because of selfishness and lack of love. This is demonstrated in individualism, materialism, capitalism, hedonism, gossip, cheating, blackmail, discrimination, injustice and rejection of the truth in our society.
The people, as we read, in the first reading and the gospel demonstrated their rejection of the prophet and Jesus because they told the truth and the people did not want to listen. The people were selfish and lack love for one another, and were not ready to change. Therefore, they attacked them in order to suppress the truth. The people were selfish and did not want to share with others the blessings of God. So, when Christ made reference to how God had blessed others like the Naaman, the Syrian, and the widow at Zarephath in Sidon, they were enraged and wanted to do away with him. All these happened because of the lack of love. God’s love is for all people and not for a selected few. Nobody has the monopoly of the kingdom of God. Anything that we are and are doing, if there is no love it is useless according to St Paul. Love is the greatest of all gifts and virtues any human being can have. God himself is love and anyone who wants to be like him must make love their target in life. You cannot claim to love God when you do not love your neighbor according to John. You cannot claim to be a Christian when you dislike other people. You cannot claim to receive Christ in the Eucharist and at the same time hate your neighbor. For example, refusing to receive communion from certain people and refusing to share the same pew with some people, are clear demonstration of lack of love for others; therefore, you are not supposed to receive Christ who is love himself.
There are other ways that we demonstrate lack of love for one another in our daily lives. We see this in the way we refuse to forgive one another, we refuse to share our resources, in the way we seek divorce in our marriage instead of seeking reconciliation, in the way we demand for justice instead of showing mercy, in the way we isolate one another, refuse to visit or make phone calls to others, discriminate against others, and the way we attack each other. Love is all that we need to be happy in this life and in the next. No one who is selfish and lack love that is a happy person, such people are always miserable in life. We were created to live as community and in love but not in isolation. We need each other to succeed, be happy and to survive this life. Therefore, you must belong to a family and community where there is love for one another, that is, a family that support you spiritually, materially, psychologically, emotionally, and other. That is where we gain our strength and weapon to success and survival in life. Life in heaven is where all the angels and saints live together glorifying the Lord forever with love and no selfishness. Our goal and expectation is to join the saints in this one great community of God. And for us to succeed in joining them, we need to begin to practice those kind virtues and love here and now in this world.
Good Christians should make their love of God and neighbor their number one priority. The gospel is all about love; therefore, we should endeavor to spread it to all people. We have been call and commissioned like Jeremiah and Jesus to preach this gospel of love to the world. Begin with your family and do not give excuses because God has called and empowered us right from our mother’s wombs like Jeremiah. In the face of challenges and difficulty to do so, call on God to assist you with the necessary graces that you need to carry out this divine mandate. Let us allow ourselves to be agents of the good news. Let people see in us the joy of the gospel radiating. A true Christian is a happy person not because of material or world things but because of the grace and love God in him/her. Therefore, if you want to be truly happy give God your time, invest in his business and your interest will be immeasurable. Please try the Lord and see how he will surprise you with love and abundant blessing beyond your imagination.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C