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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

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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

We Rejoice & Celebrate the Coming of Christ by Fr. Joel

The third Sunday of advent, is traditionally called ‘’Gaudete Sunday’’ which means ‘’rejoice’’ or ‘’Rose Sunday’’ that is why we wear rose vestments for this mass. The rose color symbolizes the joy of the celebration today. It represents the lightening of the dark violet color of the rest of the penitential season of advent. This lightening has two significant, namely: Firstly, it is a sign that the coming of light, Jesus Christ into the world is very near; secondly, it signifies the joy that accompany the coming of this light, Jesus Christ.

It is because of this reasons that our readings are centered on the theme of ‘’Joy’’. This is to tell us that Christmas is near and so begin to celebrate with carols, music, drums, bells, and all the musical instruments. We praise God for his wonderful deeds to us. He brought us salvation through his son Jesus Christ.

The first reading said the deserts and unproductive lands will blossom with abundant flowers and fruits; sorrow and bitterness will be replaced with joy and gladness. This simply means that God will liberate us from the bondage of the devil and bless us with abundant gifts such as: opening the eyes of blind and ears of the deaf, making the lame to leap, losing the tongue of the dump. Therefore, let us rejoice and praise the Lord.

The Psalm said, ‘’ Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God’’. This is a song of thanksgiving to God for granting justice to the oppressed; food to the hungry; freedom to captives; healing to the sick; and protection to the orphans, widows, and strangers. In the second reading, Saint James encouraged us to be patient, persistent in prayer, and doing good works for the coming of the Lord is near. While waiting we should make sure that we are not found wanting when he comes.

The gospel reading demonstrated the fulfilment of the prophecy in the first reading. Jesus was anointed with the spirit to bring good news to the less privilege people.  Jesus started performing wonderful works and miracles for the people. He brought the people healing, joy, and freedom from captivity of the devil. John the Baptist sent the people to see and experience the joy brought them by Jesus. This was to enable them to be convinced and believed that Jesus is the true messiah. When the people met Jesus he showed them his wonderful deeds and confirmed to them that John came to prepare the way for him. Jesus demonstrated to them that he was indeed greater than John the Baptist.  These are reasons for our celebration during this Christmas.

Jesus brings to us good news and joy every day of our lives. We experience healing, miracles, and freedom from captivity of the devil. Jesus is a friend to the poor, sick, orphans, widows, and the oppressed in our society. We shall continue to receive these blessing from Jesus if we listen and follow him. In addition, during our baptism we were anointed with oil and the Holy Spirit so that we can bring the good news to others. Therefore during this Christmas period, we must not forget to bring the good news to other people especially the less privilege people in our society. We should share with the less privilege people our blessings. Let us give the poor gifts of food, clothing, money, toys, smiles, visits, outings, apologies, forgiveness, reunions, and above all the love of God.

Saint Teresa said: ‘’we can cure physical disease with medicine, but the only medicine for loneliness, despair, and depression is love. There are many in the world who are dying for food but many more are dying for lack of love’’. Therefore, this Christmas offers us great opportunities to reach out to those people in need and give them love, joy and peace of Christ Jesus. Think of what you shall give to others but not what you shall get from others. Remember not to celebrate Christmas with malice, anger, hatred, sin, bitterness, and jealousy, instead be joyful bring that joy to people that you come across. Follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ and bring the good news to the less privilege in our society at Christmas.

 

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT A (GAUDETE SUNDAY)

WE REJOICE AND CELEBRATE THE COMING OF CHRIST

 

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

Cry Out with Joy to God by Fr. Joel

 Today’s readings invite us to praise the Lord FOR his suffering, death and resurrection for crossmanour sins. In the first reading, we read how the Sanhedrin and high priest questioned the apostles for preaching about Jesus and blaming them for killing him. And Peter replied, ‘’we must obey God rather than men.’’ The apostles were bold in their presence and they rejoiced that they were suffering for the sake of Jesus. The psalm says, ‘’I will praise you, Lord for you have rescued me.’’ And in the gospel, Peter was asked three times and he responded three times that he loved the Lord more. And he was given the responsibility to feed the flock of God.

This is the third appearance of Jesus to his disciples. This time around it was at the sea of Tiberias where he called the first apostles and they left their work of fishing and followed him to become fishers of men. Out of frustration and disappointment because of what had happened to Jesus, the apostles when back to their old profession of fishing at the same sea they were used to. And Jesus decided to deny them any catch all through the night until he came at dawn and instructed them where to cast the net and the caught a huge number of fish. This story is very important and symbolic. This was to tell them that without him in their lives they can do nothing. They could not recognize him except John the beloved. This also shows that only when you love Jesus that you can recognize he and his will. They caught plenty fish because they obey his instruction. The number 153 represented the different kinds of fish found in that sea that time. And so this in turn represented the different races and nationality that we have in the world. That is why the church is universal. So stop fighting over space and position in the church, there is room for everyone.

Jesus was trying to tell them to go preach and catch all people for his kingdom. And despite the huge catch the net never got torn. That represents the unity of the church in spite of diversity and many people that are inside it and that no force on earth is capable of destroying the church. Three questions about love to Peter were very important and symbolic too. The amount of love was very important in making Peter the leader of the church because if you do not love something and you are given custody of it you will not be serious in doing so. Jesus wanted to be sure Peter had greater love for him before he would give him the responsibility of feeding his sheep. Deeper level of love entails greater level of commitment and sacrifice in your duty. Peter denied Jesus then because his level of love for him was low, therefore, Jesus wanted a higher level of love before he can entrust him with his sheep that he died on the cross for. Saying something three times in most cultures suggest the seriousness of the issue. Jesus asked three times to make sure Peter knows the seriousness of the matter. It was also to remind him of his denial of Jesus three times and meant for him counter them. This was like giving him second chance.  After this we saw how Peter became bold in speaker about Jesus without fear. A good example is in the second reading of today where he told the Sanhedrin that they would rather obey God rather than men. And he continued with this courageous leadership of the church till his crucifixion upside down on the cross for Jesus.

We should learn from this story how to praise the Lord for his goodness to us, to bear witness boldly to him at all times especially difficult times. Learn to share the gospel with everyone and welcome them into the kingdom of God for he is the father of all people. Learn to trust and obey the Lord especially during hard times in our lives because without him we can do nothing.

THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C