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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

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God Does Not Love Sin But … by Fr. Joel

GOD DOES NOT LOVE SIN BUT LOVES THE SINNER AWAYman praying

In today’s readings we see God demonstrating his love for his people in spite of their unfaithfulness. For instance, in the first reading he assured the people of Israel of his love and protection. And in the gospel we see a much more dramatic demonstration of unconditional forgiveness and love through the father to the son who had offended him.

The son collected his own share of inheritance, wealth and left to a distance land and squandered everything in the life sin. When he had finished everything that he had, he became so hungry that he went to work in a swine (pig) farm and wanted to feed himself from the swine’s food. What a disgrace, that the son of a very wealthy father descending so low to the point of wanting to eat with animals. He who exalts himself will be humbled while he who humbles himself will be exalted says Jesus. And of all animals it was swine’s food he wanted to eat. Remember that swine is one of those animal God forbid his people to eat in the Old Testament.

That is what happens if you throw away your dignity and waste your resources in the life of sin. Most times when you did not work hard for and you achieve something on a platter of gold, you tend to be careless and wasteful. That is the situation of this prodigal son.

This son took advantage of his father’s generosity, had no foresight, he was after worldly pleasure and happiness, he was not responsible, and did not want to carry his cross. He just wanted to enjoy life but he ended up suffering instead. That is why Christ said that anyone who wants to enjoy this worldly life to the detriment his soul will lose it, but anyone who suffers and loses his this earthly life for his sake will gain eternal reward.

After suffering and wasting his wealth and life, he came back to his senses and thought of how his father’s servants have more than enough to eat while he is dying of hunger. That is what happens when we are suffering we remember all the good things and opportunities that we have wasted. The good thing is that he admitted his fault, judge, and even condemned himself by saying that he had sinned against God and his father and no longer worthy of being his father’s son. And he wished his father could accept him as one his servants.

He was bold enough and decided to return to the father and apologize to him and with the hope of being accepted as one of the servants. But to his amazement, while he was still far away, his father caught sight of him coming and he ran to him in order to welcome him back home. And his father decided to celebrate his return home in a very special way that made the first son angry. Instead of him being punished for his wrong deed he was celebrated for coming back home. What a kind and merciful father! He was given new clothes (sign of renewal and new beginning in their relationship), shoes (sign of being a legitimate son and not a slave as he wanted), and a ring (sign and seal of their covenant relationship as father and son). And on top of that the calf they have been fattening for years was slaughtered for the celebration. All these was to demonstrate the father’s unconditional love and forgiveness to his son that was lost but is now found, who died and is now back to life.

That is how God is to us, he loves us in spite of our unfaithfulness and is ready to forgive and celebrate our repentance from our sins without any condition attach. When we repent of our sins, we are made clean and new creation by God himself. We regain our lost glory and dignity. Therefore, do not be afraid of coming back to God and his church because he is full of mercy and compassion. Just as the prodigal son was celebrated for returning home that is how the angels, saints, and God in heaven celebrate our repentance.

Many of us are like the prodigal son. We have gone far away from God because of our sins. We have squandered our blessings and destroyed our dignity as children of God. In our effort to seek worldly pleasure and happiness we have brought upon ourselves misery, depression, loneliness, addictions of all kinds, lack of love and peace, and all kinds of evil into our lives. We need to learn from the prodigal son and come back to the father to receive forgiveness and love. We need to reconcile with our families, friends, neighbors, church, and God.

This year and the period of lent are moments in which we are called to come back to Lord and receive his forgiveness and love. Please take advantage of these beautiful opportunities. And as you receive unconditional forgiveness from the Lord, please endeavor to forgive those who wrong us as well. Our forgiveness will not be completed if we do not forgive others who have offended us. Remember what we say always in the prayer Jesus taught us “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’’ Please do not be like the elder son who was angry that the younger son was forgiven and celebrated for coming back home. We must be like the father who forgives without any condition attached.

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR C

 

God’s Love is Infinite by Fr. Joel

Abraham Lincoln was asked during the civil war, ‘’if the war is over, and when the south has been subdued and conquered,infine love and has come back into the union, how are you going to treat these rebellious southerners, what are you going to do to them?’’ And he answered: ‘’ I am going to treat them as if they had never been away.’’ That is exactly the attitude of our God when we repent of our sins; he treats us as if we have never committed any sins.

Today is the fourth Sunday of lent and it is called ‘’Laetare Sunday’’ a Latin word which means ‘’Rejoice’’. Hence the antiphon of today says, ‘’Rejoice, Jerusalem; be glad for her all you who love her….’’ On Laetare Sunday the Lenten discipline is relaxed. The organ and other instruments may be used, and there may be flowers on the altar; the priest may wear rose colored vestments. On a day like this, the Pope will bless a golden rose. He will explain the meaning: The rose is beautiful, but it has thorns. The beauty of redemption will not come without the thorns and pain of the cross.

So, we are rejoicing because of God’s infinite love and mercy to us. In spite of our sins, he loves us and forgives us. ‘’For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life.’’ (Jn 3:16). Today we rejoice because our catechumens are getting closer to their baptism and full communion in the church. We rejoice because God never seems to learn his lesson, despite our stubbornness and sins, he keeps loving us, forgiving our sins, and will never give up on us. He never learned his lesson in creation: He created everything good and gave to our first parents, and they paid him with disobedience. He did not learn his lesson when he delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and did many great things for them, and they pay him back with rebellion. Even today, we who are the new Israel, we are rebellious and sinful, yet he loves us and grants us forgiveness. We have abandon God for the sake of secularism and civilization and we are turning things upside down. As a result, we are committing all kinds of atrocities such as abortion, same sex marriage, divorce, euthanasia, violence, suicide, murder, and all kinds of injustices and hatred to one another.  Yet God’s love is boundless and he is ready to forgive us.  Indeed, his mercy and love is infinite. So we have every reason to rejoice today. Do not just be happy but repent and receive his love and mercy.

The first reading is woeful and the gospel is up lifting. The first reading shows the anger and punishment of God while the gospel shows his love and mercy. We are people of the gospel, people of the New Testament and our God is merciful. Therefore, we must be happy, grateful to him, and take advantage of this opportunity and repent of our sins and receive his forgiveness. His forgiveness is freely given-you do not have to earn it. God loves and forgives us- Do you forgive others? God’s love is infinite- do you have limit to your love for others? Love begets love-do you receive love and not give others love?

 

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B

 

Jesus Cleansing the Temple by Fr. Joel

Today we read about Jesus chasing people away from the temple for doing business there. The question cleanse the templeis if Jesus did that, why do we have festivals or funds raisings in the church? Yes we do have fund raising in the church, but the difference is that those people at the time of Jesus were doing it for personal gains and not for the temple, while ours is done with the intention of raising funds for the church and not for any personal interest. And no one is cheating or stealing from anyone as it was during the time of Jesus.

The first commandment says we should not have any other god except the one and true God. And the second says we should not call his name in vain. The third one is on keeping the Sabbath holy. Then from the fourth to the tenth is about the respect and love of others, beginning with our parents. These commandments instruct us to respect the person of God, his name, his temple, and the people he created. In Jewish tradition, if you respect a person, you will also respect his/her name and everything that is related to that person, for example, spouse, parents, children, house, etc.

That is what these commandments are asking us to do to our God-to love and respect his person and everything that is related to him. The temple is a place where we worship God. It is often called his house or his dwelling place. And all those who come in there to worship him are his children, so, they should be loved and respected because they are related to him. No one would be happy if anything related to him/her is abused by someone else. We like to be loved and respected and this love to be extended to every one of our relations and property.

Now we can see why Jesus was angry and drove people out of the temple. The people turn the temple into a business place where they were cheating and stealing from people who came to worship God for their personal interest. They disrespected God, his temple, and the people of God.

Jesus is still angry with us because we too are doing the same things those people did during his time on earth. Many of us do not love and respect God, his temple, and his people. When we refuse to obey his commandments, we are disrespecting him. If you refuse to come to church, or come late to church for no just reason, or come to church and you are rushing to get out for no good reason, or if you come and you do not pay attention, or you make noise to distract people praying in his temple, you are disrespecting God. When you do not dress decently, or eat and drink too much, or you do not take care of yourself or abuse your body, you are disrespecting the temple of God. If you do not recognize the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist/church, you are disrespecting God. If you help someone and you expect something in return, you are doing business not kindness. When you do contract or job for the church and you charge for excessive pay, you are cheating God. If you refuse to contribute for development and maintenance of church facilities and ministries, you are stealing from God and his temple. When you do not have time to pray or volunteer to participate in the work and ministries of the church, you mean to God. When you do not respect your neighbor, you are disrespecting God.

We need to clean all of these bad attitudes in our live so that our bodies/ temples of God will be purified and be dwelling places for him. The season of lent is good time to clean up this mess in our lives. Pray for forgiveness and ask for the grace to stay clean and holy for God to remain in your life; fast from sin and learn to love other people.

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B