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Transfiguration of Our Lord by Fr. Joel

 

In the first reading, Abraham was asked by God to leave his pagan country and go to aninvite God into your life 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

 

 

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The Beatitudes are True Sources of Happiness by Fr. Joel

Last week we read about the call of the disciples to journey with Jesus and to continue hbeatitudesis 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

A Voice Crying Out Loud for Repentance by Fr. Joel

a-voice-crying-outThe first reading of today talked about a shoot that sprouts from the stump of Jesse and a bud that blossom from his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him and he shall be given the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. He shall judge the world with justice and fairness. The wicked shall be condemned while the righteous shall be rewarded with eternal glory in his kingdom. His reign shall bring about peace, love, unity, and understanding even amongst wild animals and their preys in the jungle.
The Psalm said that ‘’justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever’’. Saint Paul in the second reading told the Romans that the scripture was written for instructions, encouragement, and to give hope to people. He said that scripture helps us to endure and be united in the worship of God and to proclaim his truth and mercy to the world.
In the gospel, John the Baptist called on the people to prepare for the coming of Jesus by repenting of their sins. John is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah about a voice crying in the desert for the people to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Jesus Christ is the shoot that sprouts from the stump of Jesse and the bud that blossom from Jesse’s roots. Therefore, he is the fulfillment of the prophecy in today’s first reading. Jesus Christ will bring peace, love, unity, and understanding into the world. He will judge all people with justice and fairness. Therefore, in order to escape his anger, we need to repent and bear good fruits in our lives.
John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees ‘’brood of vipers’’ and asked them to repent of their evil deeds and produce good fruits. He said to them, being a descendant of Abraham does not give them advantage over other people who are not. It cannot guarantee them salvation or heaven. But that everyone must have faith and work hard for their salvation and the kingdom of God. He acknowledged Jesus as being greater than him. John baptized with water while Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus will judge and separate the evil people from the good people like a winnowing fan does to chaff and the good seeds. The chaff will be burnt while the seeds stored in the barn. John asked the people to prepare to welcome Jesus in their lives and avoid judgment and his punishment.
As we prepare for the birthday and second coming of Jesus, let us repent of our sins. Advent season represents the voice crying out loud for us to repent and produce good fruits. Unfortunately, in our world today, we do not produce good fruits instead we are producing bad fruits every day. We have misplaced our values and priorities in life. George Carlin said that we have turned the order of things upside down. ‘’We have taller buildings but shorter temper, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too little. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We have learned how to make a living but not a life. We have added years to life but not life to years. We have been to the moon but we have trouble crossing the street to meet our neighbors. We have conquered outer space but not inner space. We have done larger things, but not better things.
We have learned to clean the air but polluted the soul. We have conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We have learned to rush but not to wait. We have built more computers to hold more information, produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.’’
Furthermore, instead of cutting short our temper and building good relationships with God and our neighbors, we are building taller walls against each other; instead of focusing on God and his holistic view of the world, we are viewing the world with the telescope of the devil. Instead of creating time to sleep and rest, we take drugs that complicate our system.
We have completely destroyed marriage and family life. We prefer keeping pets as companions instead of giving birth to more children. Instead of teaching children how to wash and clean up, we buy disposable plates and cups. Children can operate complicated computers but cannot clean their mess in the house. Our children can call the police on their parents to report abuses but they cannot pray to God and ask for his grace to be responsible. We teach our children to demand justice and freedom, but we do not teach them how to love, sacrifice, share, respect elders, and be merciful to those who offend them. We teach our children complicated science but we do not teach them about morals and religion. Many of us know when there are cheap sales in various stores, but we do not know the schedules for masses. We know the schedules for various sports and movies but we do not know the schedules for spiritual activities in the parish. Some of us remember the church only when we need help, but we cannot contribute to it.
Today the voice of God is calling on us all to repent and produce good fruits. Prepare the way for Jesus into our lives grand us salvation. Let us listen to God in the scripture and allow him to guide us to salvation. Make sure you are not blown away by the winnowing fan of Jesus on judgment day.

SECOND SUNDAY OD ADVENT CYCLE A
A VOICE CRYING OUT LOUD FOR REPENTANCE

Giving Thanks by Fr. Joel

‘’Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept aguy-at-dawn gift from your servant.’’ Naaman said this after receiving healing from leprosy by God. Naaman demonstrated profound faith, humility, and thanksgiving to God for the healing he received from him. He was humbled by God’s healing power in his life. The prophet, Elisha showed faith in God by giving Naaman instruction to go bathe in the river for his healing. The prophet refused to receive the gifts from Naaman as a sign of his humility. He did not want to take the glory that belongs to God.
The Psalm says, ‘’the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.’’ This is a song of thanksgiving to God for his wonderful deeds to his people. St. Paul in the second reading demonstrated humility and strong faith in God. In spite of his suffering for the sake of Christ, he remained faithful and gave thanks to him for the salvation Christ brought to the world. In the Gospel, ten lepers asked for healing and were healed but only the Samaritan came back to give thanks to God.
The themes of thanksgiving, faith and humility came up very strongly in the readings of today. To give thanks to God means humility and faith in God. The characters involved here have given us beautiful examples to learn from. Our world is full of pride, unfaithfulness, greed, selfishness, hatred, division, and violent destruction of lives and property. As a result there is depression and lack of peace in our world. God has blessed us with many wonderful gifts in this world. Let us be humble and give thanks to God for everything that we have comes from him. The Lord has been faithful to us, so let us be humble and faithful to him as well. Let us not be carried away by our gifts and achievements and forget that without God we could not achieve anything that we have. So, be humble and give him the glory that is his due.
We experience God’s power and miracles everyday of our lives. Therefore, we need to give him thanks for all of them. Our lives, health, energy, time, seasons, jobs, parents, children, neighbors, and other resources that we have come from God, so, let us give him thanks for all these gifts. Our faith is a gift from God so, let us appreciate him. We go to sleep and wake up afterward, that is a miracle from God, let us give him thanks. We get sunshine, rainfall, the air that we breathe and other beautiful gifts of nature from God, let us give him thanks.
Let us learn from St. Paul be humble, faithful, and give thanks to the Lord in spite of our daily challenges in life. We may suffer imprisonment and hardships in this world but we should be happy that our Lord Jesus has set us free and given us salvation by his suffering and death on the cross. For if we suffer and die with Christ, we shall rise and live with him; if we endure to the end, we shall receive a crown of glory with him; but if we deny him, he will deny us too; even though we are unfaithful, he is faithful.
St. Paul encourages us to remain faithful to God no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. God is always faithful, merciful, and compassionate to us. We need humility and call on him in times of need for help. If we ask in faith we shall receive his blessings and we should give him thanks for all the wonderful things he has done to us. It is important that we give thanks because God is pleased whenever we do so. God is displeased at ingratitude from us. Therefore, let us learn and teach our children how to give thanks for any favor received from God and from people. Any thanksgiving for favors received by us opens the door for more blessings to come our way. In fact, the best way to ask for more favors is to give thanks for past favors received. But ingratitude will close up the doors so that no more favors will come our way again. Therefore, let us give God the glory and thanks for all the many blessing we have received from him in our lives.

TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
GIVING THANKS TO GOD FOR HIS GOODNESS TO US

Obeying God’s Law from the Heart, Not Mere Observance by Fr. Joel

Last weekend, we were called upon to decide to either serve the living God or some other gods; whether to be with Christ orfrom the heart to leave him like some of the disciples did after he said they must eat his body and drink his blood.

Today, our Lord Jesus is concerned about the health of our spirit; what makes our souls sick and makes a person unclean. He said that the root cause of uncleanliness in a person is not from outside but from the heart. And that we need to wash clean ourselves from the inside; to make sure our hearts and minds are clean. The heart and mind are the control centers in each of us; the source of all thoughts, desires, decisions and values. So once you are sick from there, you become unclean and sick. Jesus also warned against the disregard for God’s law and clinging to human laws and traditions.

In the first reading, Moses instructed the people of Israel to observe the commandments of God as it is and not to add to it or subtract from it. The Psalm said that whoever observes these commandments of God shall never be disturbed, which means you shall have peace and joy that comes from God alone. The second reading encourages us to be doers of the word and not hearers only.

God gave the people of Israel his laws through Moses as we can find in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. But with time, their leaders created more laws to regulate certain aspect of their lives. This could be referred to as, ‘’man-made laws’’ for instance, the law of washing hands up to the elbow before eating. This was a mere ritual washing and not for hygiene purpose, just like the Muslims do before their prayers.

Furthermore, as time went on, the religious leaders, the Scribes and the Pharisees started to respect these man-made laws and traditions more than the laws given by God to them. These man-made laws were mere external observances and not for internal disposition of the people. That is to say, not purify the heart and mind. For example, a person is considered good if he/she is able to carry out these external observances like washing of hands before eating. Even if the person is guilty of sins such as adultery, stealing, malice, deceit and so on, in as much as it is not seen or known by people, the person is considered good. This means disobeying God’s laws which make you clean from within, but obeying man-made laws and traditions that make look good from the outside. That is a misplacement of priorities.

Even today the Church has enacted some laws to regulate certain aspects of our lives and activities. However, these laws must not supersede the laws giving by God because God’s laws are superior to man-made laws. Human beings cannot tamper with God’s laws. You take them as they are or leave them.

Our civil society too has enacted some laws to regulate our activities and to maintain peace and order in society. Nevertheless, these laws must not be place above God’s laws. Human made laws are important but they must not be in conflict with God’s laws. Any man-made laws that are in conflict with God’s laws are misleading us; encouraging us to disobey God but encouraging us to obey man-made laws and traditions.

Today, we see how human beings are creating and promoting laws that are in conflict with God’s laws. And they want people to respect these laws more than God’s laws. Today, we want to follow our desires and do what we want instead of what God wants us to do. In our world today, we are seeking happiness and joy in worldly things such as money, food, drink, pleasure etc. All of these will rather give us misery and pain. Obeying God’s laws is the only way that we can be truly happy and peaceful in our lives. Many of us are like the Scribes and Pharisees. We are mere external observers of rules, but never clean from within. Many of us are just sacramental Catholic, but not true disciples of Lord. We have all the sacraments but are not truly converted from the heart. Many cradle Catholic take their faith for granted; they are always cold and do not allow the spirit of God to flourish in them. The sacraments, prayers, retreats and rituals worship that we have are only channels of grace that lead us to an encounter God and enable us establish a relationship with him. Church laws and regulations are meant to assist us obey God’s laws but not to disobey them. But because we do not open up our hearts and minds for the spirit of God to enter and use us, we remain cold as if nothing has happened to us. If you have an encounter with God, there is no way you will remain cold or the same; you must be on fire by the Holy Spirit to do great things for God and his people. Those who have allowed the spirit into their lives, you will see them doing deeds of kindness, mercy and all kinds of good works for people and in the Church.

Therefore, I challenge you today to be open to the spirit of God and allow him use you for the glory of his name. And when you allow the spirit of God into your life then you will experience true peace and happiness. Stop being a slave to the devil and be converted from your heart and serve the living God. As a true child of God you do not live in sin, rather a child of God in the spirit, loving and dong good to people and God our creator.

    22 SUNDAY 2015