The first reading of today talked about God’s mercy and compassion to his people. It said that God overlooks people’s sins that they may repent and receive his mercy and compassion. God rebukes offenders and reminds them of their sins so that they can come back to him. God loves all the things that he has created. Psalm said, ‘’I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.’’ It is a song of thanksgiving to the Lord for his mercy and compassion to his people.
In the second reading, Saint Paul assured the Thessalonians of his prayers for them so that the purpose and will of God will be done in their lives always. Furthermore, he cautioned them not to panic regarding any false teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ that is not coming from true ministers of God. These are very important lessons for us as well. We should learn to pray for one another so that God’s will shall be done in our lives. In addition, we should be careful of false prophets and their false teachings so that we are not deceived by them and then lose our salvation.
In the Gospel, Jesus showed mercy and compassion to Zacchaeus, a sinner. Zacchaeus was a rich tax collector who cheated people in his job. He wanted to see Jesus but could not because he was a short man. Therefore, he climbed up a tree to be able to see Jesus. When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and asked Zacchaeus to climb down the tree. Jesus followed Zacchaeus to his house and said to him salvation has come to your house today. The people were surprised that Jesus went to the house of a sinner. However, Jesus came to the world to call sinners to repentance. With this gesture from Jesus, Zacchaeus repented of his sins and promised to give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back those he cheated four times more. All the readings of today are centered on the theme of God’s mercy and compassion.
Unfortunately, instead of taking advantage of God’s mercy and compassion and repenting of our sins, we are promoting and committing more sins day by day. We see God as a terror. We see his commandments as oppressive rules for us to follow. We want the kind of freedom our secular world is offering us to do as we want to. We talk about justice and freedom for all but we are denying the most vulnerable freedom and justice. The abortion of unborn children and adoption of children by same sex couples are injustices done to innocent children. We deny them their rights and freedom to a better life because of our selfish desires. The minorities and less powerful in our society are denied opportunity to prosper like others. We cheat and extort from the less privilege in our society. We segregate and discriminate against those who are different from us. In the name of civilization we commit and support all kinds of evil and atrocities. True civilization can only be attain when the less privilege and most vulnerable are protected. True civilization, freedom, and justice can only be achieved when the the same opportunities to develop and live a better life are given to everyone in society. Every one of us is guilty in one way or the other. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Therefore, we are like Zacchaeus, short because of our sins and as a result we are unable see Jesus. Our sins serve as stumbling blocks between us and Jesus. Sin stops us from being in communion with the Lord. We need to climb up a tree like Zacchaeus in order to be able to see Jesus. The tree we need to climb is the sacrament of reconciliation. In this sacrament we ask God for forgiveness and receive his mercy and love. We need to repair the damages we have caused others and ourselves too. We need to apologize to those we have cheated and mistreated and pay back to them for what we have done them. Our prayers and sacrifices will not be accepted if we do not repent and correct our mistakes. The Lord said that we must keep aside our offerings and sacrifices and go make peace with those we have wronged first before we can offer him worthy sacrifices. He also said in ‘’the Lord’s Prayer’’ that we should forgive other just as we want him to be forgive us. Therefore, repentance and forgiveness is very important for every Christian to be able to relate well with God and one another.
Please do not be afraid for God is willing, at any time, to show us his mercy and love. All we need to do is to make effort just as Zacchaeus did and salvation will come into our lives. Our sins are excess luggages that are not need for our spiritual journey. Therefore, we need to get rid of our sins as soon as possible to have an easy and smooth journey. Christ came to the world and died on the cross because of our sins. Let us go to him to receive his mercy and love. Do not allow the devil hold you hostage in his kingdom of darkness. Instead come to Jesus and enjoy freedom, light, and peace in his kingdom.
It is honorable and a blessing, as Christians, to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others as well. Forgiveness is a difficult thing to do, but is very important in our lives as Christians. Lack of forgiveness means carrying a great burden and is a disaster to a Christian. It robs us of our joy and peace. It breeds hatred, division, and violence in our society. Therefore, we need to forgive in order to receive forgiveness as well. We need to forgive in order to experience peace and joy in our society. Therefore, let us repent of our sins and forgive those who have wronged us. Let us emulate Zacchaeus who made effort to see Jesus and after encountering the mercy and love of Jesus, he repented and repaired the damages he had caused himself and his victims of corruption.
Lastly, as we prepare to vote, please pray and ask God to guide you to vote those who will promote peace and love but not those who will promote evil in our society. We may not have perfect candidates but, at least, vote for those who will promote better life and lesser evils in our society.
THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
OUR GOD IS MERCIFUL, COMPASSIONATE AND LOVING
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
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