In the first reading, Abraham was asked by God to leave his pagan country and go to an 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
In the first reading we heard how the devil tempted Eve, the first woman 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
The 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
‘’Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a 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
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.
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
The doctrine of the most Holy Trinity is a very basic truth of our faith as Christians. It explains the nature of our God: three persons in one God. This is not easy to understand because it is a mystery. A mystery is anything that remains unexplained or unknown to the human person.
However, the church has made some attempts to explain it but not exhaustively. St. Augustine of Hippo in his effort to understand this mystery of the Holy Trinity went to a lonely place by the river side to meditate. While there he saw a small boy fetching water from the river into a small hole, and he asked the boy ‘’what are you doing boy?’’ the boy answered him saying: ‘’I am trying to empty this river into this hole’’ Augustine said to him, ‘’that is not possible because the hole is too small to contain the water from the river’’. And the boy also said to him, ‘’what you are trying to understand is not possible because you brain is too small to comprehend God as he really is’’. Another way to explain the Trinity is to use water. Get ice and put in a pot and begin to heat it, you will notice a gradual change of this ice from solid to liquid and then to steam while it is still the same water. Again, we can use music to give some explanation when three distinct musical notes are played and then three harmonious codes. Three persons are represented by the distinct notes and then one God by the harmonious codes.
The big lessons for us to learn from the Trinity are: love, unity, service, and community life. Right from creation the three persons of the Trinity have been involved in the work of love and salvation for human beings. We are being encouraged to emulate the love of the persons of the Trinity in our everyday life and relationships. To show that we are true children of God, we must be like him. We have been created equally by God to live together as brothers and sisters of the same father. Therefore, we must have faith in God, and trust and share with one another the things he has given us in this world. Let us avoid discrimination and looking down on another for we are children of the same father.
This is what the church is teaching today on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. And every teaching of the church is from the Bible. The creed, Gloria, sacraments mass etc are all from the scripture. The teaching authority of church tries to give us the correct teaching of the Bible that is coming from the apostles. The Catholic Church has a syllabus of teaching of a three year cycle to enables us read through the entire Bible without picking and leaving some part of it. We priests and religious teachers follow this syllabus given to us by the teaching authority of the church to teach you accordingly. We do not teach you from our personal thinking or understanding but from the understanding of the church who is the custodian of knowledge and truth about God and his church. Every priest and religious teacher in the church has been well trained, certified and qualified to carry out such duties. So as Catholic Christians we should be proud and happy that those teaching us are qualified and are doing so with guidance from the teaching authority of the church made up of experts in scriptural and theological studies. And this is coming from the teachings of Jesus handed over to the apostle and then down to our present age.