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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

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Marriage as a Divine Institution by Fr. Joel

Wedding ringsToday we celebrate marriage and family as instituted by God himself. It is a holy union between a man and woman who are open to accepting and nurturing children. That is the plan of God for marriage and family. The family is the smallest but most important unit in society. It is the foundation and pillar of society. Therefore, it has to be cherished and protected by all means for the good of humanity and society.

In the first reading of today, God said, ‘’it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a suitable partner for him.’’ And of all that God created, none proved to be the suitable partner for man. So, God made man fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, God took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. God then used this rib to create a woman and brought her to the man, and the man said, ‘’this one, at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called ’woman’ for out of man this one has been taken.’’ This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.

In the gospel, the Pharisees asked Jesus whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. And Jesus referred them to the laws of Moses which permitted them to do so because of their stubbornness of heart. But, that right from the beginning of creation God made one man and one woman so that they can be joined together and become one flesh and no longer two. And that what God has joined together, no human being must separate. That is no divorce. And that whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery. These are the words of Jesus from the Bible directly. The church only teaches and enforces this teaching about marriage and she has no right or power to change it. Even though some people argue that the bible was written by human beings. That is true. Human beings wrote it but it is not human words, God gave them and they wrote it down. We know the story of how Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. They were not his commandments. He was simply a messenger of God.

So when people are questioning these laws, they are questioning God’s authority. The fundamental understanding of marriage is being questioned by modern society. Some people feel that the church should change these laws and allow them do what they want. For example to redefine marriage is to question God’s authority and plan on marriage and the family. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and he does not change. He is our creator and master of all things and civilizations. We are to conform to his teaching and not him to conform to our wishes or ways. For us to be truly happy as human beings, we need to obey his laws.

Marriage is a divine institution created by God for the good of human beings and society. It is the union of love and life-giving- love that brings forth life to the world. That is, in marriage, you are participating in God’s divine plan and creation of the world. Anything other than that is not marriage according to God’s plan and design for the world. Marriage is a life of sharing as in a community. It entails sacrifice and self-giving, collaboration, humility, sacrifice, suffering and service to each other. And so if you are selfish, greedy, unforgiving, and afraid of sacrifice and suffering, you are not a good partner in marriage. Many people are not happy in marriage and want to divorce because they are not willing to share and sacrifice. Both of you must work hard and contribute to make your marriage work and make your home a happy, peaceful and loving place for you and your children.

Jesus had high regard for marriage that is why he compared it with his relationship with the church. He is the head while the church is the body, and separating the two is disaster and death. Moreover, he had high regard for children who were considered like property in the Jewish culture. Jesus proposes them as our instructors to receive God’s kingdom. If you want to enter the kingdom of God, you must accept little children and be like them. Marriage is the place where children are born and nurtured. And it is the primary responsibility of parent to take good care of them. If you are not willing to accept children from God in your marriage, you are not following God’s will.

Please endeavor to do all it takes to maintain and sustain your marriage and family. Listen to God’s plan and will for marriage and the family and not some selfish human thinking. Listen to the truth that will make you happy and set you free now and on the last day. Choose today, either to marry and have a family according to God’s plan and will or according to you selfish desire. The choice is yours.

 TWENTY SEVENTH SUNDAY OF YEAR B, 2015

Come to Me You Who Labor and Are Over Burdened… by Fr. Joel

Yoke Matthew 11

COME TO ME YOU WHO LABOR AND ARE OVER BURDENED AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST, SAYS THE LORD JESUS. Matthew 11:28

Our human nature makes us want to take the easy way out in every situation. For instance, we want to make money without working for it, we want to pass our exams in school without reading hard, we want to have children without labor and responsibility, we want good health without exercise and good eating habit. All we want is to be happy and enjoy life without pain or sorrow. People want break- through in life without breaking any sweat, success without efforts. These are the reasons behind dishonesty, fraud, scam, and outright theft in our society today.

In the same way, some people think they can gain salvation without working for it (salvation by faith alone, instead of by faith and good works). Jesus did not promise us an easy life. Rather, he said we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him (matt. 6: 24). In other words, there is no free lunch in Christianity. No easy way to salvation. He said we shall be rejected and persecuted in the world. All of these are our experiences as Christians in our world today.

In today’s gospel, Jesus discloses his intimacy with the father. He claims that no one knows the father as he does. This tells us that only Jesus fully understands the will of the father, and only him, can fully reveal the father to anyone. He asks us to come to him with our burdens (sickness, poverty, frustration, sorrow, and sins). He encourages us to shoulder his yoke. A yoke is an instrument that allows heavy burdens to be carried or pulled without difficulty. This yoke is the teaching of Jesus makes our burdens easy. Jesus did not promise us less challenges in life, but he promised us assistance to face these challenges in our lives. He said if we follow his teaching these burdens will become easy for us. Remember that Jesus himself carried our burdens especially on the cross for our salvation. So he is asking us to learn from his gentleness and humility which make our burdens light and our yoke easy bear.

The demands of Christian life are much, and many of us are not prepared to make such sacrifices, so we need the grace of humility and gentleness of heart to succeed. Some preachers pick and choose isolated passages in the scripture that serve their world view. Then they turn blind eyes to those passages that do not support their views. Most of the teaching we hear from some of these preachers are not theological sound. They do not represent the true teaching of Jesus on many key issues. Many people would prefer prosperity preaching that promises success with little or no effort, Christianity without the cross. Jesus never promised his followers an easy life; however, he promised to be with us all the times. A lot of us are offended when preaching makes us uncomfortable and does not fit our world view. Unfortunately, that is what a good preaching does: it makes us uncomfortable because it addresses the wrongs and evils in our lives. It is meant to challenge us to change and improve our lives. Humility is instrumental to getting salvation but the wise and knowledgeable in terms of worldly standard do not know this because it is hidden from them. Their pride makes them blind to this secret of the kingdom of God.

Even though, living the Christian life is tough, Jesus promises us his support. He said he will make our burdens light and our yoke easy. Remember with God all things are possible. We can do all things in God who strengthens us. To get his grace to support us we must be humble and gentle.

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME