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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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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

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

 

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

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