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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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Overcoming the Temptations of the Devil by Fr. Joel

In the first reading we heard how the devil tempted Eve, the first womanfruit of temptation God created from the rib of Adam, her husband. Eve fell into the temptation and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree and gave some to her husband. The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom as the devil had told her. As soon as they ate the fruit of this tree, their eyes became opened and they realized they were naked. This means that they felt the sense of guilt. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans 5:12-19 made reference to this sin of Adam and Eve. He said that through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death. Since all men and women are descendants of Adam, they have inherited sin and death as well.
In the gospel of today, Jesus was tempted after his forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert. However, he did not fall for the temptations of the devil. Jesus was tempted in three different areas of life. Namely: the devil asked him to turn stones into bread and eat if he is the son of God. To this temptation, Jesus answered thus, “man shall not live by bread alone but by the word of God’’. This was a test on self-control regarding eating and drinking. It also included the temptation to misuse power to get food and being selfish with food.
The second temptation was for Jesus to throw down himself from the top of the temple and that the Lord would protect him. To this test, Jesus answered, “You should not tempt the Lord your God”. This test is about seeking attention, praise, and approval from humans instead of God; It includes taking unnecessary risks in life, laziness, looking for short cuts or easy ways in life, and over dependence on others and God to provide us our needs. The third temptation was for Jesus to fall at the feet of the devil and worship him and all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor would be given to him. To this test, Jesus answered, “You shall worship only the Lord your God alone”. This test is about idol/Mormon worship, materialism, seeking worldly power, fame and authority.
The period of lent encourages us to work hard and overcome temptations like Jesus did. Just like we have inherited sin and death from the first Adam, we have also the opportunity to inherit the grace to overcome sin and death from the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Learn from Jesus how to over the devil during temptation. Jesus defeated the devil by using prayer, scripture and fasting. By praying more during lent, we shall be able to over the temptation of worshiping idols or Mormon and cultivate the habit of humility and service to one another. By fasting during lent, we shall be able to control our addition to food and drink and avoid gluttony and drunkenness. By giving alms during lent, we shall be able to control the spirit of materialism, greed, selfishness, and the desire for worldly powers and glories.
Temptation is real and inevitable in our lives as Christians. But through faithful observance of the Lenten season, we shall be empowered to win the battle against the devil. If we pray, fast, read scripture, and give alms to the poor, we shall overcome temptations. Remember that temptations are not obstacles to our progress in life. But they are opportunities to grow and become stronger on our journey and struggles toward perfection. No student will be given a certification of graduation from any school without being tested to evaluated on a certain strength and ability of the student in a giving field. In the same light, for us to become successful and perfect Christians, we must be tested and we must prove to be worthy of our status as children of God. The devil is the chief examination officer for Christians. However, the devil can only tempt us but cannot force us to do what he wants. We have the will power to reject his wishes and overcome his temptations just like Jesus did. Jesus did not succumb to his temptations because of his prayer, fasting, and use of scripture to counter the devil. Let us emulate Jesus during temptations.
We are being challenged every day of our lives by the devil to do one evil or the other. We must be strong in faith and use our knowledge of scripture to defend ourselves against the devil. Each time we decided to stand for God but against the devil, we are choosing life and the kingdom of God. But any time we yield to the devil’s temptation, we are choosing death in the kingdom of the evil one. Just like Eve saw the forbidden tree pleasing and good to eat, that is how devil’s temptation is to us. The devil presents to us very good looking and attractive things to tempt us. Therefore, we must be careful with very good looking and attractive things around us. They could be temptations from the devil. Do not be carried away by your desire for very attractive things. This is because you could fall into the devil’s temptation. In our daily lives, we are surrounded by so many temptations of pleasure, power, fame, wealth and beauty. The devil tempts us in the areas of our weakness. Make sure you are on guard and protect yourself from yielding to his tricks in those areas. We must be like Jesus and put God first above everything. Then use our faith and the scripture to assess anything that is attractive to us.
The period of lent is designed to help us practice how to avoid falling into the temptations of the devil. Therefore, learn to use prayer, fasting, alms giving, and the scriptures to overcome temptation in your life.

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT 2017
OVERCOMIMG THE TEMPTATION OF THE DEVIL

Be Holy as your Heavenly Father is Holy by Fr. Joel

The Lord demands holiness of life from every Christian. Holiness is our vocation ascalled-to-be-holy Christians. The readings of today gave us the means by which to become holy or perfect as our heavenly father is. The means is unconditional love for everyone including our enemies.
In the first reading, the Lord said: be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy; love your neighbors as yourself; bear no grudge or hatred against anyone and do not revenge or retaliate any wrong done to you, instead love generously. The Psalm said that the Lord is kind and merciful. It is a song of thanksgiving to the Lord for his love and compassion to his people. We are expected to be kind and merciful to others.
Saint Paul in the second reading said that we are temples of God and the holy spirit of God dwells in us. He discouraged us from destroying God’s temple to avoid punishment from God. He encouraged us to seek and to live according to the wisdom of God but not the wisdom of the world. The wisdom of the world is foolishness in the sight of God. Therefore, we should not accept and live by it.
In the gospel, Jesus gave rules for his disciples to follow in order to be perfect as our heavenly father is. He discouraged hatred for our enemies and retaliation for wrong done to us. Instead, he encouraged us to love and be generous with our time and resources especial to those in need. He asked us not only to love our loved ones but to also love our enemies. This is very difficult teaching. But it means our love as Christians must not be conditional. We are to love as God does. God loves everyone including the good and the bad people alike. Our love should surpass that of the unbelievers. Our love should be all inclusive with no conditions attached.
To be holy like God means seeking and living according to God’s wisdom; which includes being merciful, generous, compassion, loving, and forgiving to everyone including our enemies. Anyone who is in need is our neighbor and deserves love and assistance from us. Unfortunately, many people prefer worldly wisdom than the wisdom of God. We see living according to God’s wisdom as weakness and cowardice, but acquiring power and material possessions as a mark of strength and success. Worldly wisdom, possessions, and successes are temporal and cannot give deep and lasting peace or joy to us. Instead, they bring into our lives terrible miseries, unhappiness, depression and frustration in our lives. Worldly wisdom leads to pride, greed, anger, hatred, violence and destruction of lives and property.
The Lord asked us to pray for and bless our enemies. Jesus and Steven, the first martyr after Jesu, prayed for their persecutors before their death. As Christians, we are called to pray for our persecutors/enemies for God to bring peace and conversion to their hearts. As Christians, we have been called to promote love and peace by all means. This is very difficult teaching; however, the Lord wants us to practice living according these rules in order to become holy as he is. The world sees living according to these values as foolishness, weakness, senseless, and cowardice. That is why we see Christians being persecuted in different parts of the world as a result of promoting these values. Those who are powerful and rich in the worldly sense do not appreciate these values. These values restrain them from using their power and wealth the way they want to and especially against the weak and poor people of the world.
However, this teaching does not mean being passive and surrender to injustices and abuses. Turning the other check should not be interpreted literally. We must understand the cultural and social context in which this was said. At that time, it was forbidden to use the left hand for anything good or positive. The left hand was used for negative or unclean things. Therefore, to slap a slave or inferior person you need to use your right hand and slap the person on the right cheek. Superior person do this to their slaves alone. But if the slave turns the other cheek, it means offering the left cheek for the slapped. The superior person cannot slap the slave on the left cheek because it will mean throwing away his dignity. By turning the other cheek, the slave is challenging and telling the superior that he is not a slave but someone with equal dignity with the superior. Then the superior person is force to stop abusing the slave. Remember the Jewish people were like slave under the Roman Empire.
Therefore, this saying is teaching us to be strong and stand up against any form of injustice and abuse in our society that threatens lives. For example, abortion, domestic violence, discrimination, bullying and many other forms of injustices in our society are to be challenged by Christians. It does mean you should not submit to injustice and abuse by anyone. Therefore, in the face of any evil or danger that threatens your life you can escape it or avoid it or run away from it, challenge it or embark on self-defense. You are to protect lives and property from being stolen or destroyed by evil people. Note that there is difference between challenging and retaliating unjustly attacks of the enemy.
For instance, Jesus forcefully drove doing illegal sales and cheating at temple. He challenged an unjust slapped by the guard during his trial before the high priest. He avoided being thrown over the cliff to die. He also encouraged his disciples to sell their cloaks and buy swords for self-defense and protection. Saint Paul also protested being flogged and put into prison as a Roman citizen. These are some examples of defense against unjust attacks and abuses. We are called to promote reconciliation, love and peace in our society and at the same time to resist any form of injustice and abuse to our lives. It is our right to defend and protect our lives and properties from the enemy by using legitimate means and authorities like the lawyer, police, fire fighters and the military. Remember, we are not to attack or seek revenge against any wrongs but to forgive all wrongs done to us. And we are called to be vigilant and challenge any attacks on our lives and properties.

SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, A
BE HOLY AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS HOLY

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

Solemnity of Mary by Fr. Joel

There are many dogmas (Church’s teachings or declarations) about the Virgin Mary. For instance; ‘’Immaculate ConceptMary, Mother of God.jpgion’’, which means she was conceived without sin and redeemed from inheriting original sin; ‘’Assumption into heaven’’, which means her body never experienced corruption here on earth; ‘’Mediatrix of all graces’’ because of her intercessory role to humanity; ‘’the queen ship of Mary’’, which means the Queen of all the saints in heaven; and then ‘’the holy mother of God’’ that we celebrate today. These are some of the different ways in which the Church honors Mary. The Church honors her because of her unique and profound role in the history of our salvation.
Many people would ask why we honor her. Some would say that we worship her. That is not true. Why do we call her mother of God? John 1:1… says: ‘’in the beginning there was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God and all things came through him, and without him nothing came to be….. And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…that is the incarnation’’ It is this word that took flesh in the womb of Mary. If that word is God then Mary is the mother of God since she gave birth to him. We can as well say that of all children their mothers are older than them except Jesus because he was before her as God and her creator. And so if God who created all things chose her and made her his mother, who are we not to give her that honor due to her?
In our creed we do say: ‘’ I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, born of the father before all ages. God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
BEGOTTEN NOT MADE—Means he was not created like us humans but was divine and only took a human nature to be with us. He is one in being with the father
CONSUBSATANTIAL WITH THE FATHER—means- he is of the same substance or being with the father. That is why he told the disciple that to have seen him is to have seen the father because they are of the same being and substance. Philippians 2:6 say: Though he was God but he did not count his equality with the father….. Rather he emptied or humbled him, and took the form of a slave, coming in human form. All these goes to confirm the fact that Jesus is truly God. Therefore, Mary is the mother of God and we should honor her accordingly.
In Luke 1: 48, Mary said ‘’from now hence forth all generation shall call me blessed because the Lord has done great things for me’’. So, we are simply fulfilling this prophecy as we honor her. Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist said to her ‘’blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of womb, Jesus. Whom am I that the mother of my Lord should visit me?’’
Some people question why we venerate images and pray asking for interception of the saints. We honor and revere our heroes in the civil society, and we name streets and buildings after them; we sometimes make their images to immortalized them and for remembrance. We make them our role models. So what is wrong if we do the same thing to the heroes of our faith and religion? We keep pictures and images of our family members, friends and dear ones. Why can’t we do the same to our spiritual family members and friends?
We go to mortal human beings and ask for prayers or intercessions. We also believe that when people lived good lives here on earth and they died, that they will go to heaven to be with God. You cannot be where God is unless you are like him in holiness. Therefore, if people here on earth can intercede for us, and God will listen and answer their prayers for us, why won’t God listen to those (saints) in heaven with him? The book of wisdom 3:1-9 says: ‘’the souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace….God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself….They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever’’. This explains to us the power and position of the saints in heaven. Therefore, praying and asking for their intercession is not out of place.
If you believe that Jesus is God and born by Mary, why can’t you honor her? If you honor and respect you own parents why can’t you honor and respect the mother of God? If you believe that ‘’with God all things are possible’’, why are you not believing the virginity of Mary ( immaculate conception) and the fact that she never had any other child but Jesus even though she was married to, and lived with Joseph? Why do you think that God himself will dwell in a human being like Mary and yet she would be unclean? The angel said she was full of grace, meaning that, she was redeemed and made pure without sin.
LESSIONS TO LEARN FROM MARY
• Her humility before God and her husband Joseph.
• Her generosity in giving herself and her son for the serving of mankind.
• Her purity of heart that attracted God’s favor to her.
• Her obedience and submissiveness to the will of God.
• Her faith in God despite a difficult message from an angel.
• Her gratefulness to God as expressed in her song of joy to God for doing great things to her.
• Her desire for justice to be done to the oppressed and poor.
• Above all she is a model for all Christians. Let us emulate her as we enter the new- year. Let us ponder on the word of God to get wisdom and knowledge to live a better Christian life this New Year.
• Let us consecrate ourselves to her for her maternal protection and intercession this new- year. Let us pray and work for peace, love, and unity in our society.
• Let us resolve to be better Christians in the new- year and do not carry unnecessary luggage into the New Year.
• I wish you a happy and prosperous new year.

THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD

Man & Woman of Honor by Fr. Joel

Both Mary and Joseph were honored by God and were given great responsibilities tofamily-of-honor 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

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

Our God is Merciful, Compassionate and Loving by Fr. Joel

The first reading of today talked about God’s mercy and compassion to his people. Itreet 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

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

Faith that can Uproot Mountains by Fr. Joel

 

It is not the quantity of faith but the quality that is very important for a Christian to be successful and powerful in spiritual warfare.mountain

The first reading of today encouraged us to remain strong and faithful to God even at the times of misfortunes and calamities. It says that only the just can be patient and faithful to wait for the Lord’s time and the fulfilment of his promises in their lives. The Psalm says, ‘’if today you hear his voice, harden not your heart,’’ which means believing in the words of God and acting according to them. St. Paul tells us that the spirit of God is not that of fear but of strength, faith, charity, and self-discipline, which enables us to bear witness to him without fear even at difficult times.

In the gospel, the apostles asked for their faith to be increased and Jesus replied them saying that if they have faith as small as a mustard seed, they can move and uproot trees and mountains. This means if there is as small but solid, compact, and unbroken faith as the mustard’s seed it will be more effective than having an increased faith. Jesus was telling them that it is not the quantity but the quality of their faith that matters. With a strong and in-depth faith we can do great things for God. A faith in God that is strong and qualitative is capable of making us keep his commandments. Quality faith in God leads to quality works for God. Hence, St. James said that we cannot be saved by faith alone, but by faith and good works. That is, a faith that is firm and solid as a mustard seed is capable of enabling Christians do wonderful things for God. These great things are not in the sense of worldly greatness but heavenly greatness. For instance, a quality faith is capable of making us endure hardships gracefully and be fulfilled in life. But someone without faith that is deep enough will not be able to endure hardships without going through severe pain and depression. Such people can easily fall away and deviate from the path of the Lord.

Unfortunately today many people in our world do not have quality faith in the Lord. Our faith is shallow and that is why we fall cheaply as preys to the devil’s manipulation. Many people measure and count God’s blessing in terms of material things. Today many people want to be recognized as successful and great people in a worldly sense in order to boost their ego. This kind of greatness does not give us lasting joy and fulfilment in life. For example, good professionals in any field do not derive joy from their pay or material benefits of their job but from doing quality job. They have passion and faith for their job, which gives them joy and real satisfaction. In the same way worldly things cannot give us eternal peace and salvation. But only quality faith in God can guarantee us peace and salvation. Only those who have passion for their job or faith in God can find fulfilment in this life and here after. Therefore, quality faith is the major ingredient that is needed to bring us joy and satisfaction in our lives as Christians. It is the singular factor that enables us to become authentic, joyful, and productive children of God. It is quality faith that enables us to carry our crosses daily and follow Jesus as he commanded us. Quality faith is required for us to get healing from God. Good faith is necessary for our growth to maturity in the Christian life.  With faith, God can do great things in our lives. In-depth faith is required for the manifestation of our spiritual gifts and to be able to use it for service in God’s kingdom.

Remember that quality faith should not be express to impress people but to demonstrate real and genuine love for God and his people. Quality faith is to be used to glorify God but not human persons. Quality faith enables us to hear his words and keep them; to be strong, courageous, self-disciplined, to bear witness to him in the world, to endure hardships, and be fulfilled in life. It is not the size of our faith but the quality of it that matters in our life as a Christian. ‘’Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord’’ (Jer. 17: 7).

TWENTY SEVEN SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

FAITH THAT CAN UPROOT MOUNTAINS