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From the Pulpit

Congregation of the Holy Spirit Fathers - Spiritans

Deacon Skip's Reflections


Sunday Reflections

Fr. Benoit Mukamba, CSSp., Pastor

Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe:
Christ’s Reign over the Universe.

SCRIPTURE: Daniel 7: 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1: 5-8; John 18: 33b – 37.

We celebrate today the kingship of Jesus Christ over the whole universe. Jesus inaugurated the manifestation of his universal rule when he was born of the Blessed Mother Mary. The Kingdom is in its process of overcoming evil and the world. Christ reigns in the consciousness of every person who believes in Him. The lifestyle of such a person who has accepted Jesus as one’s king reflects the values of the Kingdom of God.

From the days of Moses to the period of Samuel, the Seer and Judge, the People of Israel or the Israelites did not have a human king. They acknowledged God as their only King. Then Israel pressured Samuel to anoint a human king who would rule over Israel like other nations did. Samuel anointed Saul son of Kish from Benjamin as King over Israel (1 Samuel 10: 1).  After the successive reigns of Saul, David and Solomon, the kingdom experienced a split into South and North during the rule of Rehoboam.  Then, the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom, Israel around the year 722/721 BCE. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, succumbed to the Neo-Babylonian Empire in the year 587/586 BCE (Before Christian Era). The reality of the kingdom in Israel disappeared but its people continued to long and hope for one that would be divine and firm forever. Meanwhile, different empires succeeded each other depending on which one was strong. In the days of Jesus of Nazareth, the Roman Empire made the rule in the land of Israel. Jesus’ preaching about the Kingdom of God, met the aspirations and hopes of his compatriots who called him, rightly or wrongly, Son of David.

The detractors of Jesus used the symbol or imagery of the kingdom to accuse him to Pilate, official the Roman Empire as being a rebel to the establishment. Jesus preached frequently on the Kingdom of God. The concept of the Kingdom of God went beyond any earthly territory. It encompassed the entire universe beyond time and space. Prophet Daniel envisioned such a universal rule and ruler, the Son of Man. The Book of Revelation assures us that the sacrifice of Jesus incorporated us in the Kingdom where we become agents of bringing about the fulfillment of the Kingdom yet to be fully manifested. In the conversation between Jesus and Pilate, Jesus made a point to distinguish the dimension of his rule. “If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to Jews.” (John 18:36). But Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth; that God is one and reigns over the whole universe. Pilate’s question about the truth shows that he was on the side of those who did not accept Jesus’ testimony. Jesus’ presence meant the actualization of the kingdom of God. And those who believe in him embrace the kingdom. This kingdom is a reign of peace, love and joy. Members of the Kingdom follow Jesus’ way of life. It is imperative for every one of us to reflect on the core values that dominate us, guide our choices and daily actions.

The Church proposes this great feast of Christ King of the Universe in order to remind us that God will have the last say just as he had the first Word that created the universe.

Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time-Year-B: Readiness for the End

SCRIPTURE: Daniel 12: 1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10: 11 – 14, 18; Mark 13: 24-32.

The Gospel speaks of cosmic destruction to come; the sun will be darkened; the moon will not give light; the stars will be falling from the sky. The Book of Daniel speaks about a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began, a time of judgment and exaltation. Space exploration and science inform us of such a possibility. Our scientific and astronomical world show constant concerns over the eventual happenings of situations such as described in the Bible. The trends of observable natural calamities and space events call for studies and research on the earth and in space.

NASA and other space agencies have been working at detecting and averting such a threat against the mother Earth. We read from recent news that “NASA is in final preparations to launch the world’s first planetary defense mission. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) is scheduled to launch on 23 November and is a joint mission with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. DART is designed to collide with the asteroid Dimorphos and change its orbit as a test for spotting an asteroid on collision course with Earth and deflecting its path.” (NASA NEWS Nov.10, 2021)

NASA participated in the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, which began Oct. 31, and ran through Friday, Nov. 12. The COP26 summit brings parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. NASA’s unique vantage point from space provides critical information to advance understanding of our changing planet, while highlighting NASA’s free and open data policy, which the agency strongly encourages all partners to follow. “NASA’s Earth-observing satellites and instruments provide the United States and the world with an unparalleled understanding of our home planet.” (

The passages of Scripture chosen for this Sunday do not only spell doom and dust but inspire hope and joy for the wise, the just and believers in the Risen Lord. The day of the Lord shall be a moment of judgment and condemnation for the unjust and evildoers. But it will be a day of the resurrection and union with God for the wise, just and believers in the Word of God. The exact timing of the event of the Lord remains unknown to humans and escapes their observation. The most important thing for us humans is to lead lives pleasing to God. We are called to revere God and work for the wellbeing of our fellow human beings in wisdom and fairness.

We firmly believe that Jesus ascended to heaven; he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. All flesh will come to life, some for the resurrection to a life of eternal happiness in Heaven and others to a life of eternal damnation in Hell. There will be “new heavens and a new earth” for the saved. It will be the definitive Reign of Christ (cf. Revelation. 21 and 1 Peter 3, 10-13).

With this hope it is possible to understand how - from the beginning of the Church to the present day - Christians, eager to see the glorious face of Christ again, have always waited for Parousia. Some even believed they see it happen in their own lifetime. Hence, with an imminent expectation of the glorious coming of the Lord, the whole Church prays with the final words of the Bible: Maranatha: "Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22, 20).

Saint Peter wrote to all Christians in reference to today’s readings thus, “What we await are new heavens and new earth where, according to his promise, the justice of God will reside. So, beloved, while waiting for this, make every effort to be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in his sight. Consider that our Lord’s patience is directed toward salvation.” (2 Peter 3: 13 – 15a).

Therefore, beloved, while we may do nothing or very little to oversee or avert cosmic disaster; we are capable of living at peace with God and fellow humans. We are capable of caring for nature so that it may sustain our lives.

Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B:  The Fundamental Law.

SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 6: 2-6; Psalm 18; Hebrews 7: 23-28; Mark 12 : 28b-34.

Out of his love, God created the world. He made mankind in his own image and likeness. God saw that all was very good (Genesis 1: 27-31). Then the human adventure ran into serious troubles. God came to their rescue. Out of his love, God sent his only begotten Son to redeem mankind (John 3: 16). The book of Deuteronomy (meaning second law) that we heard in the first reading of today’s liturgy is the same Law of Moses presented in a series of eloquent discourses, oracles and exhortations. The writer brings to life Moses and his message that encourages the Israelites to stay loyal, obedient and reverent to God who entered into Covenant with them. The terms of the Covenant (the Law) are tools and guidelines that guarantee mankind’s freedom and prosperity. “Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” Dt. 6: 3. The Law of God is not repressive but an expression of God’s concern for mankind. God’s Covenant is an alliance of love. For this reason, God sent his only begotten Son in the fullness of time, born of a woman like all of us, as the eternal High Priest.

God brought something new to the Hebrew High Priesthood so that the new and eternal High Priest, Jesus remains always capable of saving those who approach God through him. The Hebrew Christians needed to know the value of the New High Priesthood. The New High Priest is undefiled, sinless and eternal. His ministry is far better than the Temple’s High Priesthood. The New High Priest shares the same nature with God and is capable of sympathizing with us because he is the Son of man. The New High Priest did not need animals for sacrifice but he offered himself on the altar of the Last Supper and on the Cross at Calvary. He continues to nourish us out of the same sacrifice as we fulfill his command, “Do this in memory of me” (1 Cor 11: 25; Mark 14: 22-24; Matt 26: 26-28).

The Scribe who questions Jesus in today’s Gospel passage knew the Law very well. His approval of Jesus’ answer testifies to his good understanding of the Law. But his knowledge of the Law is just a good step toward the Kingdom. To know about God is not enough. We are called to love God and serve him as well. By the way, Satan knew God better than any of us here; after all, Satan used to be known as Lucifer, an angel of light. Satan does neither love nor serve God. He does not belong to the Kingdom.

While the Scribes searched for the overriding and fundamental law from which all other laws derive, Jesus pointed to the Law of love. The primordial law of God is LOVE. For God, he is love (1 John 4: 16b). All the laws of Moses flow from God who is Love. The Love that we have received from God has ramifications towards God’s creatures. God’s love flows into us transforming us into streams of waters that give life to all creatures along the flow and adding more waters to tributaries. From tributaries into large rivers that flow into the sea. The sea never fills up just like human love that never overflows God. Hence, our love for the neighbor might be compared to a river while God would be compared to a sea, destination of all rivers. The one who has been loved by God receives the mission to love as Christ loves us. Love is not a mere feeling but an act of the will that accepts the other as other, for the good of the other. “The way we came to know love was that he (Jesus) laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1John 3: 16).

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B:  Restoration and sign of Fulfillment.

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 31: 7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 5: 1-6; Mark 10: 46-52. 

A long-lasting undesirable condition such as illness, pain, disability, sinful practice or relation, economic or sociological down trends may cast a shadow over our faith in the Almighty God. These conditions may be experienced at a personal and/or societal level. They indicate the presence of evil in our lives. Such experience may shed doubt in human faith and hope for a better future. God can sometimes seem to be absent or disinterested in dealing with the evil of the world or again, incapable of putting evil to an end. But, in the return of Israel from the Babylonian Exile and the healing of the blind man, God reasserts his supremacy and goodness. While the return from exile brought the lame and blind, the presence of Jesus inaugurates the fulfilment with the blind and lames being made whole again.

The story from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah celebrates the marvelous work of mercy as God brought back the Israelites to their own land. The Israelites had longed for many decades to be free to return to Zion, but the kings of Babylon wouldn’t let them go. Their hopes were waning as days and years went by. Their confidence in God was also fading. In his goodness, God kept sending prophets to them to kindle the fire of faith and hope. When God’s time came, he freed them in a way that they never expected. Those in whom the fire of faith and hope was still burning welcomed the call to return to the Promised Land. People of all classes and abilities were restored to their own land. They recovered their freedom of life and worshipping the living God.

The blind man Bartimaeus lived in a land that hoped in God’s final restoration of Israel to Himself. He shared such a hope. Upon hearing that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he knew Heaven had smiled on him. He made his first move by asking for pity or mercy. Such a move is the first step in the prayer of petition manifesting his trusting humility to God. Bartimaeus acknowledges the kingship of Jesus in relation to King David. King David was a beloved of God (1Samuel 13; 14; 18; Acts 13:22). Israel grew to know David as the son of God. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was calling him, he threw aside his cloak, sprang up and came to Jesus. His cloak! This cloak provided him comfort, protected him from weather conditions and above all it gave him the look of a needy person. This cloak might have been the only clothing for the night and day. Bartimaeus might have been using the same cloak for hiding his revenues from begging.

He threw it away, freeing himself from the old way of life and entrusting himself to Jesus’ mercy. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. This question is very important to you and me. Jesus did not presume the need of Bartimaeus as most of us would do. Often, we think people standing by road junctions begging just want a dollar or five. We think they are lazy people who take advantage of hardworking foxes like us; or they are drug users who want to misuse our charities. We do not address their deepest longings. Jesus shows us a model to follow. Jesus might have referred Bartimaeus to Judas, his finance guy or to any other disciple to dismiss the blind beggar. He gave Bartimaeus the opportunity to express his heart’s desire. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

Bartimaeus had many options to choose, easier options expected of him. Beside himself, his income might have been profiting many other people. Now that he sees, nobody was going to give him money or assistance for nothing. This gift of sight came with challenges. Now he will have to work and lead a different life. The beginning must have been difficult, but the healed man was filled with hope and courage for a better life. He embraced the new life with enthusiasm. Without Jesus requesting to follow him, Bartimaeus chose the way of Jesus.

My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus stands before each one of us asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” Take a moment of silence and reflect what answer to give to Jesus. What is the deepest longing of your soul? What have you always wished to be freed of? What have you always longed to receive from God? As you return home, I recommend you to voice to God your request to Jesus in the secrecy of your room. Take time to listen to Jesus’ response. Today might be the day of your encounter with Jesus. Who knows whether God has smiled on you today just as he did for Bartimaeus.  Approach him with trusting humility.

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B: The Challenge of Discipleship

SCRIPTURE: Wisdom 7: 7-11; Psalm 90; Hebrews 4: 12-13; Mark 10: 17-30.

Responding to the call of Jesus may encounter obstacles when it comes to changing something in our life.  The best things that we cherish may stand in the way to our salvation. The Word of God, described as sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, distinguishes reflections and thoughts and the heart, discloses the deepest longings of our hearts. The Word of God unveils the hidden cave of sin in human souls. It exposes the treasures in the interior of a human person.

The story of the rich man narrates such a reality when he met the Lord Jesus. He had a desire to inherit eternal life. “You know the commandments”, said Jesus. “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth”, replied the man. This rich man seems to have been a very decent man; possibly like any or even more than most of us here. But, the Word of God, the Lord Jesus penetrated his soul and with compassion, he revealed to the man one thing that he lacked, that is, detachment from his wealth. Jesus invited him to do just that one thing that lacked in order to enter eternal life. The man refused to make the most determinative step of his life. He must have worked so hard to acquire his wealth. His entire heart had been invested in making money. Wealth was the only thing that defined him and gave him esteem before fellow human beings. He couldn’t give it up.

This story reminds me of my days in Uganda, East-Africa, where I served as an intern. A certain Saturday morning, during our pastoral round of sick people, we visited a polygamous man who had fallen away from the Catholic faith asked to be reconciled with the Church. The Pastor asked him to separate himself from his two other wives and remain with his Church wedded wife. But the man refused to detach himself from his other wives, choosing to dye in sin. Just like in the case of the rich man, his relationships prevented him from entering eternal life.

In the life of each one of us here present, there might be just one thing pretty dear to us that hampers us from eternal life. What is it for you? The Lord invites you and me to transcend our obstacles to eternal life and happiness in the present moment.

In the present context of the Archdiocesan strategic plan, Beacons of Light, you might be worried about the Church building or the name of our Church disappearing. The priests also are concerned about losing their beloved parishes. Should all these worries and concerns separate us from being disciples of Jesus? No, the present challenge provides us with an opportunity to strengthen our discipleship. We will commit ourselves to following Jesus and making new disciples for the Lord.

Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B:  Marriage

SCRIPTURE: Genesis 2: 18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2: 9-11; Mark 10: 2-16.

A young girl attending Mass with her mother listened attentively to the story of God creating a woman from the rib of a man. She was fascinated but disappointed by the realization that God created the woman in second position. She dwelt on the story waiting for the moment to question her mom to the point that the rest of the mass became a mere long silence. Why did God do that to us that we are second to males? Mother answered,” my daughter God indeed created man first, and then He thought things better and made us. That’s why we are smarter than men”.

The second account of creation in Genesis gives an explanation of the affinity that exists between woman and man. It presents marriage between woman and man as a reality naturally intended by the creator God. It explains in a mythical form the reason for which a man leaves his parents to bond with his wife. The expression “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” reinforces the acknowledgement that man and woman share the same humanity and are complementary to each other. Man and woman do not only share a common humanity but are also consecrated to testify to the love of God for his people. Christ Jesus who shares in their humanity sets them apart to manifest Christ’s love for the Church. Jesus was so committed to the Church that he accepted death on the cross. Man and woman are both redeemed by the blood of Jesus. They enjoy equal dignity before God and society. None of them is lesser than another. They complement each other in their differences.

The Lord Jesus saw in this story of creation the intention of his Father God for the holy matrimony. Marriage was intended to be unbreakable, blessed with the gifts of children and happiness. Marriage becomes a school of holiness for its members and a testimony of God’s love to the world. While married life contains tremendous good things, it also presents many challenges to the members of the family. Marriage demands generosity and unselfishness. Members of the family offer opportunities of purification to each other in their interactions. They grow together in faith, hope and charity. With God in their midst, married couples and their offspring help one another and remain united.

Divorce is symptomatic to sin and leaves bitter souls behind it. Divorce creates deep wounds in the members of a family. We ought to acknowledge that sometimes separation of couples becomes inevitable to save lives. Such separation must intervene as a last resort after exhausting all the possibilities to save the matrimonial bond.

Marriage is more than a social practice; it is a special call from God. It requires a better discernment to reach at entering into marriage. To paraphrase the Lord Jesus, marriage is not for everyone but to those granted it. Some people have no ability to marry while others renounce it for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19: 10-12).

Let us that God may bless and strengthen every human family; heal the wounds of divorces and separations; and call more to the sacrament of holy matrimony. May God bring consolation and happiness to widows and widowers as they cherish the good memories of the benefits of their former marriages.

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B:  The Freedom of the Spirit

Scripture: Numbers 11: 25-29; Psalm 19; James 5: 1-6; Mark 9: 38-43, 47-48.

In the Word of God that we have just heard, Moses and Jesus acknowledge the freedom of the Spirit of God and his generosity in distributing his spiritual gifts lavishly to his people. We live in a world where Christianity bears multiple forms. In days long past, Catholic families were composed of members who shared the same catholic faith. In today’s Christian world, mixed marriages, non-Catholic members of the same family live together and worship differently in various Christian denominations. The Council Fathers at Vatican II recognized the common denominator among all the disciples of the Lord Jesus. The Fathers decreed on Ecumenism (Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio, Nov. 21, 1964) in order to help us interact with other Christians as children of the same God and recipients of the same Spirit.

The Spirit cannot be confined to the regularly appointed offices. God is free to choose who should serve his community and act in God’s name. Its freedom to blow where it wills is a pointer to the day when all God’s people will prophecy – an aspiration which Christian faith can see fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-13), in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10: 17, 44-48) and in the Church at Corinth (1 Cor 12 – 13).

Peter was stunned at the manifestation of the Holy Spirit at the house of Cornelius in the Acts of the Apostles. Joshua asked Moses to stop Medad and Eldad from prophesying while John wanted Jesus to forbid a man using the name of Jesus in performing exorcism.

The story of the appointment of seventy-two elders to assist Moses is elevated by the reception of the Spirit of prophecy. Moses and Jesus objected to the requests of their disciples because they understood that it was the same Spirit at work in those who were outside their groups and fellowships.

The story of the Gospel reminds us of the freedom of the Spirit of the Son and of the Father. The discernment of the Spirit is important for us to discover and acknowledge the action of the Living Spirit of God in different peoples, even those who do not belong to our ecclesial community.

It warns against clerical pride that ignores to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit working in the lay members of the Church. Both the ordained and lay members of the Church were baptized in the Spirit of the Risen Lord. Clergy and laity have the opportunity to let their spiritual gifts blossom and serve the Body of Christ, the Church.

We are called to rid ourselves of dimensions of our lives that cause us to be in bad relationships with God. We have habits, relationships, inclinations and actions that diminish the quality of our union with God. We are invited to live in the Spirit of Christ. Practicing justice is one of the forms of living in the Spirit. St. James’ exhortation to uphold social justice is a warning to the rich/employers against exploiting their employees or neglecting charity toward the poor and less fortunate of the society.

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time; Year-B
God’s privilege to Israel: The Law.

SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8; Psalm 15; James 1: 17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

It is said that for one to succeed in business, the individual or company would better know and use one’s own competitive advantages. In spiritual life, our objective is to become holy through fidelity to God’s covenant. God, in his bounty, grants every human being gifts, talents or privileges to enable us to attain holiness. Each one of us would better know and use one’s own talents, gifts, and privileges. God’s privilege to Israel was the “Law”. This divine treasure must be preserved without alteration. It is the strength of Israel and its distinguishing character among the nations. Since, Israel received the Law which is God’s Word; they were to live under the guidance of God’s Word.

Through the centuries of Israelite history, new rules and decrees were created to protect the nation from illnesses and diseases. They were meant to keep the bodies in good health in order to adore God without hindrances. As it said of the mind, “Mens sana in corpore sano” The hygienic rules established by medical society cannot lead someone to eternal life. They do not bring holiness to human beings but help only to keep people safe from bodily illness. The trouble with Israelites was that the priest and the medicine man were embodied in one person.

The challenge of the Pharisees and the Scribes to Jesus over the washing of hands discloses clearly that they had lost their orientation and objective of their ministry as teachers of the Law and their role as peoples’ guides toward holiness. They failed to distinguish the essentials from the peripherals. While it is important to stay healthy; however, the role of the spiritual leader is to enchant people to live in holiness and enable them to envision what is beyond the current condition of life. Keeping God’s Covenant is most essential to us for a better life here and life after death. The Lord Jesus expands the question beyond the washing of hands to the eating of different types of food. No one can be unholy by eating snails, snakes, or dogs. But it is sinful to steal a neighbor’s pet and enjoy it as your delicacy. You are not unholy because of not wearing masks but you can sin by knowingly exposing others to your infection.

Apostle James gives us practical ways to be faithful to God’s Law; “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only, care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1: 21b-22, 27). As Christians, we are privileged to have received the revelation of God in his incarnate son, Emmanuel, Jesus Christ. On the day of our baptism the Word was implanted in us. We listen to his Word and partake of the sacrament; Christ empowers us to live holy lives filled with the hope for the glorious resurrection.

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year-B
Choice to believe. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”

SCRIPTURE: Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-18b; Psalm 34; Ephesians 5: 21-32; John 6: 60-69.

Today’s word of God invites us to make a choice to believe in divine revelation and commit ourselves in an interpersonal relationship of love with God.

Human life is punctuated with challenges and choices that we must make in our daily living. This morning, some of you had to decide whether to rest at home or come to Church. Some had to be literally dragged out of their beds in order to come to Church. In the first reading, Joshua the successor to Moses challenged the people of Israel to choose to believe in Yahweh, the God of Moses or put their trust in pagan gods. As for Joshua, he renewed his covenant with Yahweh, the savior of Israel. He and his family chose to serve the Lord. In a similar way, Peter and the disciples chose to follow the Lord Jesus. They renewed their belief in the revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth. They committed themselves to Jesus. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Both choices, for Joshua and the disciples, were life-changing decisions for them.

Today’s gathering brings us face to face with choices to make, to remain in the Catholic Church or not; to believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist or not? Should you be an engaged member of the Church or a simple-Sunday-Church goer?

As for you, dear brother and sister listening to me, you might be facing major choices to make in your life. Allow the Word of Christ to illuminate your mind so that you may choose what gives you true life. If your marriage is being challenged, the letter to the Ephesians enlightens you on how to find joy in the marriage covenant. It is not about what your spouse must give to you, but your self-sacrifice for your spouse just as Christ gave himself totally for the sake of the Church.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

SCRIPTURE: 1 Kings 19: 4-9; Psalm 34; Ephesians 4: 30-5:2; John 6: 41-51.

The first reading presents Prophet Elijah wrestling with a very serious crisis in his vocation as a prophet of Yahweh. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had driven him to flight for his own life. In his desperation Elijah prayed that he might die, but God sent his angel with food to sustain him on his journey to Horeb, the mountain of God. This food is a type of Holy Communion considered as nourishment for the journey of faith to God.

This story serves as a background for the discourse on the Bread from Heaven proclaimed in the Gospel according to John. In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares himself as the bread of life and the living bread that came down from heaven. This bread is Jesus’ flesh for the life of the world. Jesus made this declaration to a murmuring people; they knew Jesus and his family.

During my pastorate in Houston, Texas, a mother brought two of her kids to me for their first Holy Communion interview as it was the custom of the parish created to spare the catechists from any blame for lack of readiness of any child. The most determinative question was this, “If you came up to receive Holy Communion and found that its taste was not good; what would you do with it?” The bigger kid said he would spit it and throw it in the trash cane. The younger child responded that she would swallow it no matter its taste because it is Jesus”. So, I advised the mother to allow its bigger child to learn more and grow in faith.

First, we need to note that there are two levels in Jesus’ being, the natural or historical and the heavenly or the divine being, an understanding which we apply also to the Eucharist. There is a paradox between science and faith, empirical knowledge and a leap of faith or religious knowledge. Faith is not just an abstract, notional insight; it involves participating in eternal life. Faith comes to us as a gift from God that requires a free decision from the human person.

Second, just as Elijah was fed for the journey, we are gathered around this Eucharistic table to share and partake of the food from heaven that Jesus left us. We need the faith of the younger kid in our story in order for us to realize that God is here, in the bread, which is familiar to our sight, God is here. Jesus stands ready to nourish us for the journey toward the Father, God, and our final destiny.

Thirdly, as we are fed for the journey, we are called by our way of life to resemble the one who has nourished us; because we become what we eat, Jesus the Christ. The Eucharist we share is more than what we can see, more than bread and wine, it is the real presence of the Lord Jesus. Being people of faith, our language might sound crazy to the unbelievers, but we remain convinced that we are handling the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year-B:  Fidelity to the Prophetic Mission.

SCRIPTURE: Amos 7: 12-15; Psalm 85; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6: 7-13.

The Scripture passages from the prophet Amos and the Evangelist Mark have been fitting chosen for today’s liturgy to teach us about fidelity to the mission received from the Lord. A prophet and a disciple are both messengers of God dispatched to proclaim God’s word. Their message is transformative of people’s life and proves God’s compassion and care to his people.

The first reading places before us two contrasted conceptions of being a minister of God, one exhibited by Amaziah, priest of the royal temple in Bethel, and the other embodied by Amos, a prophet from Judah. Amaziah understood religion and his own role at the temple in civil terms. For him, the role of religion and temple cult existed to promote loyalty to the king and patriotism. Amaziah understood his personal obligation as an enchanter of the status quo, thus rulers and the powerful of the land felt good about their handling of personal and state affairs, while Amaziah maintained his position and benefits at the temple. His attack against Amos revealed his psychological projection. Amaziah exposed his feeling of being threatened by Amos’ preaching. “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying” ( Amos 7: 12). Bethel was the king’s sanctuary and temple of the Northern kingdom of Israel, a sort of our national cathedral in DC. Amaziah played a role like one of a chaplain at a Washington National Prayer Breakfast. Such a chaplain wouldn’t anger or challenge leaders about their conduct of the national business and tell them about the worst conditions of the people they govern. He or she is a minister of a ‘feel-good religion’.

Prophet Amos, on the contrary, didn’t come to Bethel to earn his living; he came as one compelled by God to announce a liberating message that aims at changing people’s lifestyle. He proclaimed a message that puts an end to social injustices and calls the oppressors to be aware of the humanity of the oppressed. He invited the evildoers to change their lives and treat the weak members of the society justly and with dignity as children of God. Amos, definitely, recognized his mission as dangerous to himself but stood firm in carrying out God’s purpose of sending him. Though Amaziah opposed Amos, he acknowledged him as a visionary and prophet of God.

The Apostles received a twofold duty when Jesus sent them. They were to preach repentance for people’s sins and disclose God’s compassion and care through their ministry of healing and deliverance. Jesus reminded them that they were neither sent to make their living nor were they going with stuff for temporal security. The Apostles were commanded to focus on the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and the rest God will provide. A prophet and a disciple may experience failure and rejection but their fidelity to the mission will bring people to know that God’s messenger was in their midst.

At the end of today’s Mass, the priest or deacon will send us off to proclaim the Gospel with our lives. What does the word we just heard mean to each one of us? As we return to our ordinary living after worshipping God, we are sent in the spirit of Amos, the Apostles and Jesus himself. Our religion is the power of God to transform our lives and that of our neighbors. We cannot practice a ‘feel-good religion’ or hold a ‘please-all-attitude’ when things are going wrong. In our encounters with others should manifest God’s compassion and transforming power.

Let us pray that we may be changed by the power of the Gospel we have heard and the effects of the sacrament we have received; that we may become agents of change for eternal life with the Lord Jesus.

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B:  Fear and Faith

Scripture: Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 8: 7,9,13-15; Mark 5: 21-43.

The Lord calling Jairus, the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” astonished his listeners. Again, Jesus went on remarking that the child wasn’t dead but asleep. This last utterance earned him ridicule from the mourners.

Jairus had all the reasons to be extremely concerned about the life of his little girl. A child means a lot to the parents; and the death of an only child can be a very devastating loss. The Gospel does not tell us whether the girl was an only child of her parents. Jairus stood to do everything possible to save the life of his daughter. Even though we read that the Lord left immediately with the synagogue official, the crowd wouldn’t let him move quickly.

Meanwhile, a sick lady was determined to make her way to Jesus. Her faith led to just touching Jesus’ cloth. Her illness must have been embarrassing and made her unclean to be close to other people. But her faith gave her courage to go forward. She touched Jesus’ cloth and got healed. Jesus, wanting to bring her witness of faith to the knowledge of his disciples, asked who had touched him. The healing of the woman suffering from a hemorrhage might have strengthened the faith of Jairus in the slow-moving teacher and healer, Jesus.

Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, bringing her back to life in a show of power over death. Death that had filled Jairus with fear. Fear erodes human trust in the power and goodness of God. Fear weakens faith and brings death in our world. It is in this perspective that the first reading of today’s Mass comes to help regain the godliness in each one of us. The reading from the book of Wisdom reflects on the three-first chapters of Genesis. In both accounts of creation humans apparently were made immortal, enjoying the friendship and closeness of God until sin came through Satan (in the appearance of Serpent). Sin brought separation between humans and God. Hence, death came into our world. Any threats to our life became the scariest reality that makes us fear to death. Franklin Roosevelt comes handy when he says, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance” (FDR’s Inaugural speech 1933).

The resuscitation of the daughter of Jairus strengthens our faith in the indestructible power of life. And the resurrection of Jesus unveils the truth that our bodily death does not mean the annihilation of our being but rather a passing into incorruptible living. With Paul the Apostle can we say, “If God is for us, who can be against us? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, (…), will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 31-39). This is the kind of faith to which we are called as Christians. Nothing will separate us from the love of God. In 2 Tim 1:7 we read:

“God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self-control. With faith we can see the possibility of experiencing what seems impossible”.

We pray that God may grant us the faith of Jairus to challenge our deep-seated fears and that of the woman with hemorrhage to brave all obstacles to trusting in the love and power of God.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year-B:  Walking by Faith.

SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 17: 22-24; Psalm 92; 2Corinthians 5: 6-10; Mark 4: 26-34.

Faith informs us of the existence of realities not-yet-seen. Faith helps us to see through what is visible (Jesus of Nazareth) the reality that cannot be seen (God). That means faith gives us insight into the matters of God who is invisible. It gives us the conviction of the existence of things yet to come and the assurance of the promises of God. Empowered by faith, we journey through life braving obstacles, hardships and frustrations to attain a glorious destination. Faith assures us the glorious destiny.

William Henry Gates II, a lawyer and philanthropist saw his son drop from his second year at Harvard University from where he expected him to graduate and become a lawyer. To his greatest surprise, his son announced to him that he was going to work on making software. What kind of soft, did you say son? Gates Sr. retorted.

Indeed, what the younger Gates was planning to make was going to be something intangible and invisible that has been inexistent in human history. It was smaller than the mustard seed of Jesus’ story. The younger Gates III and his friend Allen became the founders of Microsoft at the age of 20. In the early days, his products could not sell, and many users copied the software freely to one another. Through hard work, sleepless nights and frustrations, the younger Gates pursued the development of Microsoft software. He deeply believed in the future value and usefulness of the software under development. Today 46 years later, Gates’ software is purchased and used by one and a half billion people. This is how it is with the Kingdom of God.

Jesus chose to tell this parable of the farmer and the mustard seed to his disciples to teach them a great lesson of partnership with God, patience, and perseverance. They had worked so hard and the hope for transformation had not yet happened. Though the beginning of a mustard seed and the work of farming are modest and require time and patience, its final height is awesome. The work of God grows from a tender shoot to a majestic cedar (Ezekiel 17: 22-23); from a basket of seed to tones of harvested produce and from a tiny seed to a large tree. It is also like a mustard seed, though a tiny, small seed grows into a large bush that becomes a home to birds. While the farmer sees only a seed but works trustfully hoping to see a tree, God is at work with him. The farmer does not manage and understand every detail in the process of growth and transformation of the seed into a tree, but he works by faith and not by sight. God’s Kingdom is like the work of farming; work of cooperation between man and God.

So, it has been with the mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Lord Jesus throughout the Christian centuries. At first, the Christian community was neglected by the enemies of the Lord Jesus. But the disciples remain steadfast and devoted to the Risen Lord believing in his promise, “I will be with you until the end of the ages” Matthew 28:20. Then, they laughed at them. Later, when they started noticing the effects of the disciples’ teaching, the enemies of the Lord turned hostile to the Church. With the invisible working presence of the Risen Lord, the disciples were empowered to enable the Church to grow, and the reign of God overtakes many nations.

As it is said, a journey of a hundred mile begins with one step in the right direction. So, it is for us, if we want to be a vibrant and mission-oriented community, every one of us is called to do something in the direction of the Kingdom: invite a friend or neighbor to worship with us, show a sign of welcome and joy to newcomers, show compassion to poor and concern to the sick members, be helpful to the elderly, respect and protect the younger ones and vulnerable. Briefly, let your gift received from the Holy Spirit shine and the Christ radiate in our community.

Corpus Christi Sunday, Year-B: Atonement and Real Presence.

SCRIPTURE:  Exodus 24: 3-8; Psalm 116; Hebrews 9: 11-15; Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26.

The origin of the feast is attributed to the devotion of Saint Juliana of Liege, France (1193-1258). She felt the Blessed Sacrament deserved reverence and recognition. When we celebrate the Last Supper on Holy Thursday we commemorate triple realities namely Eucharist, priesthood, and ministry of service. Overall, the Holy Week liturgy overshadows the primacy of the Eucharist. Saint Juliana received a vision to promote reverence to the Eucharist. The first Corpus Christi was celebrated in 1246 in the diocese of Liege, France. It was providential for the former archbishop of Liege becoming pope Urban IV to give Corpus Christi the universal platform in the Church on September 8, 1264. Saint Thomas Aquinas, the marvelous doctor, shared her sentiments and faith in the Eucharist; he left us poetic lines that the Church cherishes to this day in the hymn “Tatum ergo sacramentum”.

The story of Moses that we have heard from the first reading teaches us that God entered into a covenant with Israel. The blood of sacrificed animals show the severity of this alliance, with blood understood as a symbol of life and a sign of total commitment on the part of the people to God. The Epistle to the Hebrews points out the superlative value of the priesthood of Jesus Christ that obtains us eternal redemption because he entered the sanctuary with his own blood. The Jewish high priest used to enter the sanctuary in Jerusalem on the Day of Atonement to offer sacrifice for the people and for himself with the blood of animals. Christ entering the sanctuary means offering himself as sacrifice for human redemption once for all ages. In short, the second reading invites us to appreciate the dimension of the Eucharist as Atonement. As such, the blood of Christ wipes away our sins and makes us adopted children of God.

From the Letter to Hebrews 2: 14- 17

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (NIV).

Hence, the Eucharist is a sacrament of healing.

The Gospel places the Passover of the Israelites as the context in which the Last Supper of Christ took place. This context shows the correlation between the Last Supper of the Israelites in Egypt and the one of Jesus Christ with his disciples in Jerusalem in their significance. During the Last Supper Jesus presents himself as the High Priest and the sacrificial victim; he presides over the Passover meal and surprisingly he gives his flesh and blood under the visible species of bread and wine to his disciples as an everlasting covenant. He transformed the supper into a sacrificial ceremony. The disciples ate and drank of it. They shared in the body and blood of Jesus that atoned for their sins. Their sharing in the body and blood of Jesus made them sharers in the eternal inheritance, as sons and daughters of God. Saint John the Evangelist has clear expression in the verses below:

So Jesus told them, “Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you don’t have life in yourselves.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I’ll raise him to life on the last day, because my flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink.  The person who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the father, so the one who feeds on me will also live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not the kind that your ancestors ate. They died, but the one who eats this bread will live forever. “ He said this while teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
John 6: 52 – 59.

Beloved, see how blessed we are as we partake of the precious body and blood of our Lord in the Eucharist. We are thankful to Jesus for the gift of himself to us and for us. We are truly thankful when we become aware of how blessed we are. The body and blood of Christ give us life to live in a manner pleasing to God our Father. That is why the Eucharist is said to be the source and summit of the Christian life. For Christ present in the Eucharist comes to encounter us and unite with us. In sharing the one body and blood of Christ, we are transformed into a community. In the Eucharist, Christ embarks with us on his mission of bringing the Good News to the whole world. The dismissal at the Eucharist celebration reminds of this mission.

Let us pray that Christ may open our eyes of faith to see him present in the Eucharist that gathers us, be thankful to him and accept to set out on the mission every day of our lives.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year-B:  The Lord is God, No Other.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 28: 16-20; Romans 8: 14-17; Psalms 33; Deuteronomy 4 :32-34, 39-40.

God has no other desire than to save his people.  In God’s will to save us, he chose to make himself known to us so that we may know him, love him, and serve him in return. John the Apostle expresses it so nicely, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Perdition is a human choice and consequence of one’s own lack of faith in the only son of God. By sending his son into the world, the son became the manifestation of God’s love. The Son, Jesus, before ascending to the Father promised to remain present among the disciples until the end of ages and gave the Spirit to the Church so that they may bring the good news and make more disciples of Jesus in the world.

Last weekend we celebrated the manifestations of the Spirit in its gifts empowering the disciples for the mission. Today, we celebrate the full revelation of God in his three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. After celebrating Easter and Pentecost, the solemnity of the most holy Trinity brings us together to acknowledge and reaffirm our faith in the One God. The oneness of God is revealed in the Creator Father, in our Savior Jesus and in the sanctifying Spirit. In the days of Moses, the Creator God came to the help of the Israelites, embraced them, and saved them from Pharaoh and all their enemies encountered on their journey to Cana. The Creator chose to be the savior of one nation. In Jesus Christ, we see God’s love and salvation for all peoples. The sanctifying Spirit seals our right of inheritance with God by giving us the power to live as children of God. The Epistle to the Romans reminds us that we received the Spirit of power making us adopted children of God and worthy of calling God, Abba, Father.

Moses exhorts Israel to abide by the only God who proved them his love by signs and wonders performed in Egypt and during their journey to the Promised Land. In Jesus, we see that compassion and mercy extended to the whole world. Through the Spirit’s works of healing, guidance, faith, hope and charity, we witness God’s compassion and mercy. Hence, we are to observe his commandments as a sign of our fidelity to God.

God’s compassion and mercy do not leave us indifferent but move us to respond to our fellow human beings with the same feelings and thoughts that are in Jesus Christ. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us …” (1John 4:11-12). Love should define us in all our relationships, words and works. The unity of the Holy Trinity invites us into oneness too with God and one another, as we all share the same Spirit of the Father and of the Son. We draw our relational nature from God who created us in his own image and likeness. We are by nature ‘beings-with’; we crave for relationship with fellow humans, with nature and above all with God. Our relatedness helps us to experience unity. Only a relationship of love can make unity happen because in love there is a constant giving and receiving without reservation. May God’s grace help us to receive his unconditional love and communicate it to others.

Pentecost Sunday, Year-B:  The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

SCRIPTURE: Acts 2: 1-11; Psalm 104; 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23.

It is important to note that the grace which we celebrate today springs out from the paschal mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ. The story of the Acts of the Apostles locates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish feast of Harvests or the fiftieth day that is today. The Evangelist John places it on the evening of the day of the resurrection that is the first day. The essential point is that the giving of the Holy Spirit is the outcome of the work of the risen Lord. These different narratives of the coming of the Holy Spirit help us to understand that the outpouring of the Spirit wasn’t a single event. Also, we take time to realize the empowerment of the Spirit of God in us. The Church’s celebration of baptism for infants separately from their confirmation bears witness to the time and growth factors in the awareness of the presence and effectiveness of the grace of the Holy Spirit received.

The manifestation of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day is the beginning of the Kerygma that is the proclamation of the faith by the Apostles and disciples. The Spirit of the Risen Lord is a spirit of power; it gathers the disciples together, moves the natural elements and empowers humans to speak and understand God’s Word. “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared tongues as of fire,…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim … each one heard them speaking in his own languages of the mighty acts of God” Acts 2: 1-11). The signs of the event of the outpouring of the Spirit have come to fulfillment in our days; the Gospel has been proclaimed to all peoples and heard in their own languages. The Bible has been partly or entirely translated in more than 3,324 languages. Many nations and peoples have been won to the Lord and the missionary work gone on.

The Spirit descended upon many disciples gathered there. The story of the Acts does not mention any exception leaving us to believe that all the disciples received each one’s own measure of the Spirit. The Pentecost Event marks the birth of the Church confident in the presence of the risen Lord and strengthened by the unfolding of the Holy Spirit. This Church would go forth proclaiming the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The outpouring of the Spirit bestows particular gifts to each person in accordance with God’s will and the individual natural predispositions. The spiritual gifts are for some benefits.

Today’s Gospel makes it clear that the coming of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise of the Lord Jesus, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth” (John 14: 15-17). By associating the gift of the Holy Spirit to Easter, the evangelist emphasizes that the Spirit is the gift of the Risen Lord that conveys the benefits of his passion, death and resurrection. The Spirit becomes the guiding principle of the Christian. She/he lives by the Spirit of Christ, the living Spirit and the Holy Spirit of God. The believer no longer walks in the fear of the Law but rather lives in the freedom of the Spirit through which the Father raised Jesus from the dead.

On the evening of the day of Easter, the risen Christ breathed the Spirit in the disciples making them a new creation empowered by the Holy Spirit so that they may live according to the promptings of the same Spirit. With the gift of the Spirit come peace and the forgiveness and retention of sins. Believers do not feel afraid but may experience guilt in the event of sin. They need forgiveness from their heavenly Father and restoration of their relationships with God, fellow humans and nature. It is the Holy Spirit that makes us detect sin in ourselves and around us. The same Spirit makes us yearn for forgiveness and restoration of relationships.

Let us earnestly ask the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit that will enable us to live in the Spirit and become a missionary Church.

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord: Ascension and Mission.

HOLY SCRIPTURE: Acts 1: 1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1: 17-23; Mark 16: 15-20.

The Ascension of the Lord celebrates Jesus' entry into the heavenly realm after his earthly life. The Son of God entered our world through the mystery of the Incarnation. He concluded his human life through the Paschal mystery that is his passion, death, resurrection and return to the Eternal Father. The Apostles’ Creed declares that Jesus “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father almighty.” Hence, Ascension memorizes here on earth what takes place in heaven as Lord Jesus enters and takes possession of his glorious throne.

It is impossible for us to pin down chronologically what happens in heaven. The scripture passages of today’s Mass describe what happened in the life of the Apostles simultaneously with what was occurring with the Risen Lord for a period of time, let’s say, forty days after Easter. During this period, the Apostles experienced the appearances and disappearances of the Risen Lord. They received instructions and clarification of the Scriptures during their encounters with the Risen Jesus. Finally, Jesus gave the disciples a final command to bring the good news to the entire world. He assured them his accompaniment in their ministries. Very importantly, the Apostles knew by then what to do with their lives marked by the events of Jesus of Nazareth. “They went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the work through accompanying signs” (Mark 16: 20).

Today's Gospel ends with the great commissioning of the disciples. Life has suddenly changed for the disciples, so it has with us today, with the Lord's commandment: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am always with you, until the end of my age. This commandment is the mission of the Church. Christ's assurance of his presence makes the Church his new way of being with us, his body. That is why we are the Body of Christ. As the Body of Christ, we must continue his mission. Christ does not only give us a mission without giving us the means. Next Sunday, we will celebrate the Church's reception of the Empowering Spirit, the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that propels us and guides us in the work of evangelization. We are sent to win people for Christ as an individual member of the Church, as a parish church, as a diocesan church and as a universal church.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, we have been commissioned and received the empowerment to share the Good News of our salvation. Let us have the courage to approach our fellow brothers and sisters inviting them to believe in Jesus and be baptized for the salvation of their souls. Let us be bold to tell the story of how Jesus has transformed our life and the reason for our hope. Tell the story of how sin and death are no longer a threat to you for Christ has defeated both of them. Jesus’ Ascension is a proof of his victory.

Fifth Sunday of Easter Year-B:  Communion.

HOLY SCRIPTURE: Acts 9: 26-31; Psalm 22; 1John 3: 18-24; John 15: 1-8.

Today’s Gospel passage presents our Lord Jesus Christ as the vine and indeed the true vine. We, His followers, are the branches of the vine. Cut off from the vine, branches simply dry up and die because the life-giving and keeping milky sap can no longer flow from the vine into the branches. By this parable or imagery, Jesus draws our attention to the necessity of a strong bond between a disciple and Him and the Church. Such a relationship is both personal and communal. The best and most familiar term to describe our relationship with Christ and the Church is “Communion”.

We normally talk of the meal at the Last Supper, the Eucharist as communion. The Church is understood as Communion of the faithful in the Lord. The word “communion” simply means a connection or relationship, especially one in which something is shared or communicated. Communion implies a shared feeling of emotional or spiritual closeness. As Church, we are a communion because we share the same faith, same doctrine, and the same practices. We are one in faith, hope and love. We share the life of the Risen Lord. Every person who responds to the call of Jesus seeks to enter into communion with the Church.

Like Paul sought communion with the Apostles during his visit to Jerusalem after his conversion so does every person who has received the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. However, some receiving communities may act in contradiction to their own mission. The first reading (Acts 9: 26-31) illustrates the reactions and concerns of the Church in Jerusalem, fear and suspicions toward Saul/Paul. Reactions, that we, too, may experience; but we could overcome our selfish interests with an open spirit and a heart of hospitality.

Like Barnabas, we are called to facilitate entries in the communion; we are agents of bringing about communion by welcoming, accepting, and involving new converts and new neighbors arriving from our other parishes, into belonging to our parish community. Every member in the communion needs to feel wanted in the community.

The Apostle John emphasizes true love as being more visible in doing good; and for it is in doing good we find true happiness and peace in our lives. Again, if we want to live in unity with God, we must believe in Christ and love our neighbor. When the Apostle John emphasizes love for a neighbor, he emphasizes love without hypocrisy or intrigue. It is unconditional charity, as he says; "Little children, let us not love the word, nor with tongue, but by deed and truth”. In this people will recognize us as true branches of the vine. Our communion with the Lord Jesus has to unfold in the practice of faith, hope and love. By believing God and loving our neighbor, we testify that God dwells in us by the Spirit which he has given us. Personal and ecclesial communion with God bears fruits that God provides for our needs.

Therefore, let us pray that the Word and Sacraments we receive at this Mass be a life-giving milky sap from the true vine nourishing us to eternal life. May the gift of Christ Jesus enable us to be disciples in deed and word.

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year-B:  The Good Shepherd (Shepherd-Leader Model).

HOLY SCRIPTURE: Acts 4: 8-12; Psalm 118; 1John 3: 1-2; John 10:11-18.

What happened to Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples during the holy week overshadows our minds and memories. We cannot but contemplate the meaning of the paschal mysteries of the passion, death, and resurrection. We have heard from the Acts of the Apostles about the work of Jesus under his new form of presence. He heals through the Apostles’ invocation of Jesus’ name. Jesus creates opportunities for the Apostles to make him known to the Elders and leaders of Israel who had condemned him to death on the cross. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’s teaching on the good shepherd becomes understandable to the disciples. What was happening to them, miracles, and persecutions, reinforced their faith in Jesus as savior of the world.

While Peter the Apostle sees Jesus as the “Cornerstone”, Jesus defines himself as a “Good Shepherd”. The theme of the Good Shepherd takes precedence during this Sunday and the mother Church invites us through it to pray for leadership, for vocations in the Church and world.  During his ministry in Israel, Jesus proved to the people that he was a leader who cared for his people to the expense of his own life. He heals, delivers, and feeds the people who come to him. He guides and points to happiness and eternal life through his teachings and deeds. For centuries long, God had called Israelites’ leaders to shepherd his people, but they turned into hirelings and self-servient. In Jesus Christ, God fulfilled his promise of a good shepherd to Israel.

 “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11): The Apostles grasped the meaning of these words after the resurrection that Christ surrendering his life on the cross, freely obeying the will of his Father, offered his ultimate sacrifice for the salvation of the world on the Cross. The significance that He is “the Good Shepherd” thus becomes completely clear: He gives life, He offered his life in sacrifice for us all: for you, for you, for you, for me, for everyone! And for this reason, He is the Good Shepherd! The imagery of the good shepherd draws us to contemplate God’s Providence and his fatherly solicitude for each one of us. The result of this contemplation of Jesus the Good Shepherd brings us face to face with his wonderful love and self-abandonment.  We heard from the second reading these words “See what love the Father has bestowed on us…” (1 John 3:1). It is truly amazing and awesome to consciously consider what God has done for us, for by giving us Jesus as the Shepherd who gives his life for us, the Father has given us all of the greatest and most precious that He could give us.

However, it is not enough for us to wonder and give thanks. It is also important to walk in the footsteps and with the Good Shepherd, it entombs more so to us as alter-Christi and who profess openly Christ as Lord and Savior to exercise leadership in accordance with Jesus’ style, the Shepherd-leader. The shepherd-leader model presented to us in today’s Gospel is applicable to both the ordained and the common priesthood of all the baptized people. We are called to exercise this type of leadership in all the dimensions of our lives – in the diversified functions of our society. By being a shepherd-leader, we bear witness to Christ our chief shepherd. The desire and objective of the Good Shepherd is to embrace all so that “there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16). The challenge of the Good Shepherd leads us to reflect on the national news of the policeman being found guilty in the death of George Floyd. We may ask ourselves what it means to us and to our nation. Could we look at the issue or issues with open mindedness, in a non-defensive way or accusative positioning; so that we may act with respect and mercy toward one another?

Third Sunday of Easter, Year-B; The Body of the Risen Lord.

SCRIPTURE: Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; 1John 2: 1-5a; Luke 24: 35-48.

“You are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24:48). Being a witness requires a resolve to say the truth. Jesus commissioned the disciples to proclaim their experiences with him truthfully. The different stories we hear in the readings today are part of the witnesses of the apostles. The context of today’s Gospel story is the evening of that first day, the day of the resurrection. The two ladies had found the tomb of Jesus empty. Two male disciples went to the tomb, too and attested to the story and experience of the ladies. Their experience and story met a mixed feeling, joy, doubt, and astonishment. The disciples were discussing among themselves their experience of the resurrection when that evening, Cleopas and another disciple returned from their journey to Emmaus; they told another amazing story of encounter with the crucified and risen Jesus.

‎The evangelist Luke today stresses that Jesus Christ has been raised with His physical body and yet different unlike that body of flesh before death. It is a body of glory. It is a spiritual body. It does not have flesh as we now have, but rather a glorious, a transformed body and thus has a state of transcendence as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:35-43. It is a body that can go inside even when the gates are closed in John 20: 26. Jesus’s new body can no longer feel neither hunger nor thirst.‎ The risen body knows no boundaries of time and place; it is a body without limits of any kind; it is a body ‎‎that belongs to eternal life. The new body of Jesus transcends‎‎ time and geographic position. And it is the invitation to us who believe in the resurrection to abandon all that makes us slaves of selfishness and self-centeredness. Faith in the resurrection requires us to come out of our sinfulness and approach another with unconditional love. Everyone who believes in the resurrected Christ must abandon the life of being slaves to sin and selfishness. Jesus raised from the dead sees His disciples still filled with doubt and anxiety and fear, invites them to look and hold his hands and feet. The Resurrected Jesus is recognized not in facial appearance but by the scars of His hands and feet. The Risen Lord is recognized through sacrificial love at the Cross and the Altar. It is by his suffering and death we are redeemed. The Cross reveals Him that He is truly Love itself. It is perfect love that is the image of God we encounter in the Passover celebration.‎

‎The resurrection did not eliminate those scars of His suffering; the‎‎ reality of the resurrection is reflecting God's love for mankind. And Jesus invites His disciples to touch and look upon them; it is an invitation to every follower of Christ that our lives may always reflect the love of Christ, reflecting the scars on his feet, hands, and side of Christ’s risen body. The symbol of a Christian or a believer in the resurrection is an unconditional love; it is a constant and self-giving love. Only the Evangelist Luke stresses over the body of the Resurrected Christ. So, he says that the disciples were able to hold him after the resurrection and even eat with him and also see his body and bones. The Resurrected Christ is not a ghost but truly he is himself and has a body truly different from a ghost or hallucination. The Resurrected Christ has a glorified body and no longer as corrupt as our current bodies.

The disciples recognized the risen Lord in his teaching and the breaking of the bread. The Church as body of Christ needs to carry the marks of the crucifixion while witnessing to the risen Lord. And thus, shall we be raised up on the last day. Our bodies will be transformed and resemble that of the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:44‎), but while we live, we are called to recognize Jesus in the suffering brother and sister and in those who suffer for the sake of wellbeing and salvation of other humans.

Divine Mercy Sunday, Year-B: The Five Wounds of Jesus.

Scripture: Acts 4: 32-35; Psalm 118; 1 John 5: 1-6; John 20: 19-31

In today’s Gospel, John the Evangelist begins with showing us the difficulty the Apostle Thomas had in believing the resurrection of our Lord and later testifies that Thomas became the first to profess Jesus as Lord and Gd. In this process toward faith, Thomas demanded empirical evidence and knowledge of the truth. Jesus proved him with the marks of his sufferings for Thomas and the World. Jesus’ five wounds answered to Thomas’ preoccupations. Stuck with the truth of Jesus raised from the dead, Thomas confessed Jesus as “My Lord and my God” (John 20: 28).

In the movie Fiddler on the Roof based on the writings by Sholem Aleichem, at a certain point the Jewish man turns to his wife and asks her, “Do you love me?” The wife begins a litany of all the sufferings she had endured for the sake of her husband; and finishing she says to him, “After all these, yet you ask me, do I love you”.

The story reminds me of our human way of proving our love for others. Isn’t it said that a friend in need is a friend indeed. We manifest our ultimate love when we are able to stand with someone in suffering and trouble moments. Jesus made known to Thomas and others present not only the truth of his resurrection but also the truth of his love for them. This kind of love to someone unworthy of it is called mercy. It is a free divine gift to a sinner. The parable of the prodigal son stands as a typical teaching on the divine mercy (Luke 15: 22-25).

Because of his great love for them, Jesus enabled the disciples to be instruments of his merciful love to their fellow brothers and sisters. He impacted them with the power of the Holy Spirit that breaks and crushes the sins of the world and sets people free to rebuild their relationship with God. The ministry of reconciliation that Christ gave his Church is a stewardship of God’s undeserved gift of life to sinners. And during the sacrament of reconciliation (Confessions), the priest invokes the absolution on the penitent through the ministry of the Church. He recognizes the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the gift of God’s unconditional love to sinners.

Let’s be thankful to God for his everlasting mercy and labor wholeheartedly in response to the divine gift. May the five wounds of Jesus strengthen us so that we may rejoice in sharing Christ’s sufferings.

Good Friday, Year B:  The Cross, Cruelty and Love.

The Cross is a very common symbol for us Christians. The Cross is a very intimate symbol for Catholics and remains inseparable to Catholics’ prayers. Catholics sign themselves with the Cross before entering into a relationship with God. The Cross is at the center of the Christian life. The Cross displays human cruelty at its worst and the divine love at its best. 

We are used to looking at the cross that we have lost the shocking reality it manifests. Just imagine you were not a Christian and were facing a crucifix for the first time in your life. You will definitely be shocked to see a man cruelly nailed on a cross by fellow human beings. Why, you do not know. You may ask whether there were no other ways to deal with him in a more humane way. You would be terribly scandalized to learn that the crucified man happened to be an innocent man. He went about performing good deeds for people, healing the sick, delivering the possessed and even raising some dead people. Many people, even leaders of his nation, acknowledged his teachings. He spoke truth for all to hear.

However, some leaders found him dangerous for their interests and a good trade-off for their political gains with Caesar and his representative in Jerusalem. As a matter of Roman justice, Caesar’s representative, Pilate washed his hands off the matter but lushly handed the man over to be crucified in order to please the local leaders. The Cross shows the utmost poverty of humans that they killed the man who wanted and was working for the best things for them. Why can’t we have pity on each other instead of turning to violence! Why do we have to look at others as threats to us instead of seeing new opportunities before us! Why couldn’t we appreciate people and their good deeds! Why couldn’t we give other people and actions their due value and honor! The Cross calls us to stand for truth and justice, and not act like Pilate of old.

What is very surprising about the man on the cross, Jesus of Nazareth, is that he chose freely to face the humiliations, pains and death on the cross. Why? Because he wanted to show the love with which God has for the world; he loved his Father so much that he remained faithful to what he sent him to accomplish. Because he loved his own who were in the world that he needed to make known to them the truth for those who have believed him; that death does not have the last say. The assurance of the joyous eternal life is now within reach and opened for believers and people of good will. The ignorance that kept humans scared of death has been taken away through the unfolding of God’s love in Jesus Christ his Son. Life has the last victory through Jesus Christ raised from the dead. The display of death has become the source of life and the symbol of divine blessing. The sign of weakness and death has become the symbol of life and power.

Therefore, Scripture narrates the experience of the Early-Christians on how they came to understand the Lord’s teachings throughout the whole period they had walked with him. The disciples came to discover that Moses and the Prophets spoke about Jesus. It became very clear for them that prophet Isaiah, in today’s first reading, prophesied about the crucified and risen Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ suffering was innocent, vicarious, and redemptive for all mankind. Hence, God vindicated his suffering servant by raising Jesus from the dead. Contrary to the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, Jesus is the new and true tree of knowledge that brings life. Eternal life is to know Jesus and the one who sent him, the Father God. Through the cross, Jesus bridges humans to God.

Today, we venerate the Cross asking for God’s forgiveness for our sins, acknowledging the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus and the amazing love of God for us all. We pray that God may open our eyes to see beyond the veil that covers the crucifix and enable our hearts to respond positively to God’s ultimate love manifested in the crucified Jesus, our Lord.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year B: Joy, Suffering and Fidelity.

Holy Scripture: Mark 11: 1-10; Isaiah 50: 4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2: 6-11; Mark 14: 1-15:47

Today’s celebration is very special. The Holy Scripture leads us through joy and suffering while illustrating the fidelity of the servant of God. The Mass begins with the commemoration of the solemn entry of Our Lord Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem. The event of the solemn entry invites us to joyfully celebrate this unforgettable day. Recalling the thrills and amazement that Jesus caused in the course of his ministries, the people of Jerusalem responded by reserving a very warm welcome to the son of David. We too join the manifestation to publicly show our faith in Jesus. This solemn march into Jerusalem will be slow, peaceful, and long, accompanying our star and hero Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee, as he rides on a colt.

Isaiah, son of Amoz, prophesied about the suffering servant of God, describing the kind of sufferings he would endure and his attitude of patient endurance in fidelity to his mission. In the light of the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see the prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled. The story of Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8: 26-40) confirms that the suffering servant of God in the book of Isaiah is indeed Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Son of God. “34The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus”. And in the most conforming words to the Gospel’s narratives of the suffering of Jesus Christ, King David sung a prayer to God for the innocent person, in Psalm 22. Jesus, who became human like us except sin, experienced our pain and desolation. His cry of abandonment is our own complaint, but God, his Father was ever close to him. So we too, need a strong conviction, an unshakable faith in the presence of God, especially when we are undergoing suffering and tribulation. We would be comforted and strengthened by the example of Jesus though God, humbled himself and became a man and obedient to God unto death on the cross.

Jesus’ perseverance through suffering bears proof of his fidelity to God who sent him into the world for our salvation. The attitude of Jesus shows itself different from the reactions of Peter who denied his master Jesus, Judas who chose to betray for the purpose of gaining some money, or again the young man who took off naked for his life. The multitude of people that had welcomed our Lord Jesus with acclamations of joy during the entry changed their shoots into “crucify him”. The characters of Peter, Judas and the naked young man are also found in us depending on the issues that confront us. But the Lord Jesus exhibits the model of fidelity we ought to follow. As Jesus suffered in the flesh through the appearance of a frail mortal being; in present days he continues to undergo trials and tribulations through his body, the Church, the Body of Christ.

Our prayer today and every day, should be that God may grant us the grace of fidelity to him, constancy in doing good to our neighbors and happily share in the redemptive suffering of his Son Jesus Christ.

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B: Jesus’s Hour

Scripture: Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Ps 51; Hebrews 5: 7-9; John 12: 20-33.

We celebrate today the 5th Sunday of Lent, a Sunday preceding the Holy Week. The Gospel invites us to reflect on the ‘Hour’ of Jesus. Up until the request of the Greeks to see Jesus, He had been saying his hour had not yet come. At the Wedding in Cana, Jesus told his mother that his hour had not yet come. In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares to his disciples that his hour has come. The declaration marks the beginning of the decisive event. Jesus would repeat the same declaration at the last supper when Judas left the dinner in hurry. Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31) and later in John 17: 1-5, Jesus prayed “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, (…) so that your son may glorify you, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.”

The Hour of Jesus is the event of his suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ hour is a period of very painful experiences for a good purpose and end. It is also the time of Jesus reunification with his Father God in the glory that he previously enjoyed before the incarnation. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that “Son though he was, Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”. In order to overcome his painful experiences, Jesus surrendered to the will of God. By doing so he received strength to accomplish the purpose for which he became a son of man that his fellow brothers and sisters may experience redemption and salvation. If a woman can willfully accept the pangs of birth in order to bring about one or more babies and later rejoices proudly to become a mother, more so did Jesus accept the cross and death in order to give eternal life to us and return to the Father of glory. Hence the hour brought pain and glory.

Jesus' hour is also the opportunity to seal a new covenant between God and his people in the blood of his only son, Jesus. The terms of this new covenant will not be engraved on stones like in the days of Moses and Aaron, but in human conscience (written upon people’s hearts) by the Spirit that Jesus would send. The arrival of the Gentiles, Greeks, to see Jesus, to come to know him and love him and be healed and taught by Him, signaled the proximity of the fulfillment of the mission of Jesus on earth. Jesus knew that his salvific mission was destined for the whole world but he would continue it through his disciples. After his death, the disciples went throughout the world to seek and bring all people to Jesus.

My brothers and sisters, we too like the Greeks, bring glory to Jesus and as disciples ought to learn to be obedient to the will of God, patiently endure the pain that may be imposed on us by the mission so that we may one day experience the glory of God. The grain of wheat must die in order to produce more. We cannot privilege self-care. God calls us to accept to die to self so that we may be truly partners of Jesus in his salvific work.

Finally, the Hour of Jesus became the moment of the revelation of God’s presence. God assures us his presence. “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours” (John 12: 30). God's presence infuses Awesomeness but also God's presence calms and strengthens us. God's presence motivates us to please Him in our thoughts, in words and in action. This presence also gives us the certainty that God sees all we face, hears all we ask and is willing to help us. This presence also gives us the assurance that we have power within us, the power that helps us fight in a variety of events of our life journey.

Third Sunday of Lent, Year-B: Jesus, sacrifice, and Temple

 Scripture: Exodus 20: 1-17; Ps 19; 1Corinthians 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25.

The Ten Commandments proclaimed in the first reading set the stage for understanding the action of Jesus in the Gospel. God gave the Ten Commandments to Israel as their guide to blessedness and life. God declares himself as a jealous God who desires to see all his creatures adore Him.

The Jews thought Christ was cursed by God by dying on the cross, while Greeks demanded intellectual arguments to convince them about Jesus and God’s salvific action to the world. For us it is the only fortune to believe in Christ, the only way to our salvation. For Christ to us is the power and wisdom of God. Because God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is more powerful than human strength. In the Gospel according to John, Jesus expels those who were trading in the temple, a sign that messianic times for building a new temple where all people will worship God in truth and spirit are near. The true lamb of sacrifice pleasing to God is here. The sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross replaces the old sacrifice of animals. Question to ask yourself; How did this people trade in the temple, while knowing it was clear that it was a house of prayer? Before thinking about the behaviors of the Jews, we ought to reflect on what happens in our parishes. Many parishes have gift shops, sell dinners, hold festivals, and run bingos. Some of these businesses are conducted at the door of the Church. All these activities seem normal and profitable to the community. And so, were the business that took place in the Temple Area in Jerusalem.

The gospel clearly states that it was near The Jewish Passover. This festival was celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan (March-April) followed by a weekly ceremony where they ate unleavened bread (Ex. 34:23). The Passover feast was a period of pilgrimage. One of the most important acts of pilgrims was to offer a sacrifice of burnt animals like sheep, cattle or dove each according to its capacity. All of your males shall appear forth three times a year before the Lord your God: for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and feasts of Tabernacles. No one will appear before the Lord empty-handed: each of you must bring a gift according to the way the Lord your God had blessed you (Deuteronomy 16:16) (Leviticus 5:7), they also had to pay taxes or tithing (Ex. 30:13). Since the people came from far away, they could not transport animals for sacrifice. There were people selling animals worthy of sacrifice in the temple and others were breaking or converting money from the Roman currency to a Jewish currency as the coin allowed to sacrifice in the temple was merely a Jewish currency. According to roman currency law it was prohibited from being offered as an offering because it had a picture of the ruler of Rome. But since they were under Roman rule, the Roman currency was used in business and normal life. So I had to replace it with a Jewish currency to sacrifice. So some Jews did these businesses in the temple area, a part of the Temple where Gentiles were allowed in.

It is in this context Jesus enters the temple to pray and meets a disturbing condition. And he made a whip out of the ropes, and drew them all out, and overthrew the tables of the silver-changers and said unto them; "Do not make my Father's house a house of Business. This house is a house of prayer." Jesus’ action fulfilled the prophecy of the prophet Zachariah, which says; “No longer will there be merchants in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day (Zach 14:21-22). Jesus' action to expel businesses from the temple is a symbol of the fulfillment of the messianic era and prophecy. That is why the Jews ask him with what authority and what sign will you show us that you are doing this? They wanted a proof of conformity with the Law and source of power of Jesus’ action.

Jesus answered them; "Destroy this temple and after three days I will raise it up” (John 2:21). The Temple officials and even His apostles thought Jesus meant the Temple built by Herod the Great. This Temple replaced the Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of Meeting that symbolized God's presence during the Exodus. Thus, the Jews believed that God was found in the Jerusalem Temple only, which is why they had to go there to pray and sacrifice. Jesus is talking about a new Temple, where pure sacrifices will be offered and accepted, Jesus Christ Himself. That is why Jesus told the Samaritan woman; "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But, (…) true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24). This new temple is Christ’s body. For all the perfection of godliness is in Christ in the form of the human body (Col. 2:9). Jesus compares the Temple of Jerusalem to His body, and thus reveals to us the mystery of God's incarnation to take over flesh and come to dwell amongst us. After his suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, now Jesus is in our midst in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

During the Lenten season, Mother Church forms us in the practice of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in order to empower us to defeat temptation and sin. For Jesus Christ made us sharers in his divine life and Temples of the Holy Spirit. Hence, Christ made us true worshipers as we exercise fervently the Lenten practices. We long one day to see Him in his fullness and be like Him all things. May the Spirit of God open up our minds to grasp the mystery explained to us, our hearts to love God. May he give us strength and zeal to serve Him and share the good news with our neighbors.

Second Sunday of Lent, Year-B:  Jesus, Victim and High Priest.

SCRIPTURE: Genesis 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Psalm 116; Romans 8: 31b-34; Mark 9: 2-10.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?”

The second reading of this Sunday’s liturgy opens us the door to understand the inner meaning of the Scripture passages proclaimed to us this Sunday.

In the story of Abraham, God put him to the test of faith and love by asking him to offer his own beloved son in sacrifice to God. Abraham passed the test brilliantly. He proved his trust and love to God. For Abraham’s son, Isaac, in the absence of a lamb for sacrifice, he surrendered himself, accepting death as victim for the sacrifice. It was at this point that God decided to speak to Abraham saying “Do not lay your hand on the boy. I know now how devoted you are to God”, “I will bless you abundantly…” Referring ourselves to the words of Saint Paul Apostle to the Romans 8: 31b-34, God went beyond his promise of abundant blessings to Abraham to the ultimate blessings to us all. He offered His only begotten Son Jesus as victim at Calvary for the salvation of the whole world. God is far better than Abraham in his love for us.

The story of Isaac’s sacrifice inspired the Early Christians to grasp God’s hidden message in the past that has come to light in the paschal events of the suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus Christ. Just like Isaac, Jesus surrendered to the will of His Father to be a victim for the remission of the sins of the world.

Mark the Evangelist tells us that before the day of Jesus’ sacrifice came, Jesus took three of his disciples up a high mountain. There, the disciples saw a transfigured Jesus in extremely white clothes which means Jesus revealed himself as the High Priest per excellence. He converses with Elijah and Moses. For Moses and Elijah had spoken about Jesus in a veiled way to Israel throughout the centuries as testified in the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament). With the full revelation of Jesus Christ, Christians are able to interpret Moses (The Pentateuch) and Elijah (The Prophets). The disciples not only saw Moses and Elijah but heard God’s voice declaring Jesus as divine whose words require heeding ear and obedience. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Like in the days of Moses, a cloud appeared announcing the presence of God.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” The words of the Apostle Paul boost confidence in the most provident and loving God. They launch us into actions of faith, love and service to God and fellow human beings. Beloved in the Lord, we have heard what God has done for each one of us. We have seen the testimony of Abraham and Isaac. Now, what is our personal response to the action of God in our favor? As believers in the Lord, we are called to resemble Christ Jesus so that people may see the face of God.

Lent is a time for us to take a critical look at our way of life and actions. We ought to consider what we have to do to conquer selfishness and sin in our own lives. God’s grace is always at hand to enable us to give of ourselves to the wellbeing of others. The various devotions and corporal acts of mercy practiced during Lent are meant to help us to deepen our commitment to the Lord. Through faith that enables us to do God’s will, something amazing happens in us manifesting the beauty of God like in Jesus’ transfiguration. Let us pray that the Spirit of God may dwell in us transforming us in the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

First Sunday of Lent, Year-B:  The Covenant of Noah and Jesus

SCRIPTURE:  Genesis 9: 8-15; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1: 12-15.

The message of the gospel of this Sunday brings us back at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus being driven in the desert after his baptism during which the Spirit descended upon him in a form of a dove calls us to focusing on this event. The same Spirit who dwelt on Jesus, in today's Gospel, drives Jesus and takes him into the wilderness. There he stays 40 days while being tempted by Satan. This message is very meaningful to us. Jesus’ trip into the desert may be likened to his pilgrimage into his Israelite ancestors’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. The wilderness, in the Bible, is a place of self-discovery in truth before people and before God. The experience of the desert demands endurance, hoping against hope, surrendering to providence, and having an unshakable conviction. Based on the history of the Israelites who traveled in the wilderness for 40 years towards the Promised Land, the wilderness was a place of testing of perversion, a place of sanctification and a place to taste the goodness, love, and mercy of God. While in the wilderness God showed His great love for protecting, guiding, and providing the Israelites with food; the Spirit of the Father God took Jesus into the desert to manifest the Father’s oneness with the Son and the Son’s power over Satan.

Jesus demonstrates that He is truly the son of God by overcoming those temptations. The desert is also a place of covenant. The first reading describes the covenant God made with Noah after the great flood. A covenant, in simple terms is an alliance or agreement that binds the two parties agreeing to it. In the Bible we see God often making covenants with His people. He has set with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, set with the entire nation of Israel on Mount Sinai and eventually through Christ he has concluded the New and Eternal Covenant. All of those times that God has entered himself into covenant with people, He sets it up not for His benefit but rather for the benefits of the people. The covenant he kept with Noah was that he would no longer destroy the world by the flood as He did during Noah's time. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God made a new covenant to make us his adopted children.

Evangelist Mark continues to show us that after those 40 days in the wilderness Jesus began to preach. And his first sermon called for repentance: "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel". It is good to see that this Gospel shows us what we are also experiencing in Lent. We keep Lent for 40 days that are a period in which spiritually we go into the wilderness for the same purpose of doing repentance and trusting the gospel in accordance with the message of Christ.

Our own lives’ stories are like a journey in the wilderness. Jesus’ temptations did not limit themselves to the forty days in the desert, but he continued experiencing them throughout his life in the world and till now in the bodies of his faithful ones. However, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son is present in us and empowers us to defeat Satan in his tricks and empty promises. For Christ suffered because of our sins and for the benefits of sinners- then died, Christ descended into hell to save the souls that dwelt in prison; Christ rose from the dead and ascended into the glory of the Father.  Noah's ark that saved the people and the flood are an example of baptism. Just as in Baptism, we come to believe in Jesus Christ and submit ourselves to the water of Baptism so that we may have eternal life. Let us, therefore, respond to the call of Christ to repent and believe in the Gospel so that our journey through the desert of life we may remain in the Ark of the New Covenant.

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-B: Reconciliation in Jesus Christ.

SCRIPTURE: Leviticus 13: 1-2, 45-46; Psalm 32; 1 Corinthians 10: 31-11: 1; Mark 1: 40-45.

Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians in today’s second reading appears to carry the core message of all the readings of our celebration. “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the Church of God” (1Cor 10:31). The Mosaic Law prescribes the manner of dealing with a person who carries apparent symptoms of leprosy; and the Gospel tells of the healing of a leper.

In old days, Leprosy was feared and treated with a form of superstition. This disease was not precisely what modern medicine classifies as leprosy or Hansen’s disease, but included all kinds of skin illnesses.  The most important dimension of leprosy in the Bible was considering it as a manifestation of the loss of spiritual purity; therefore, the leper became unfit to participate in the community worship. The patient had to show oneself to the Priest who diagnosed the illness as a minister of the Law of Moses, putting the patient into quarantine or reinsertion into the community once cured. The story of Miriam’s leprosy, the sister of Moses stands as a typical illustration of such understanding of the illness [Numbers 12: 1-15]. The healing of the leper reminds me of the movie, The Apostle of Molokai, Father Damien, which I once watched during my days in the seminary. Father Damien, a young priest from Belgium, visited Hawaii and then arrived on the island of Molokai. There he noticed that lepers were treated as though they were criminals; they were forced to live in colonies under laws that separated them from the rest of the society like in the days of Moses and the Israelites. Some of them were simply put into cages and dumped into the sea. Seeing the miseries of the lepers, Father Damien decided to live with them and help them. He saw the suffering men and women. He preferred to respond to the needs of fellow human beings rather than running away from illness. Finally, he became one of the lepers. Later the Church recognized his heroic love for Christ through the lepers and canonized him as Saint Damien. Pope Benedict XVI once spoke,

“According to the ancient Jewish law, leprosy was considered not only an illness, but the most serious form of ‘impurity,’” he said. “In leprosy, it is possible to glimpse a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of the heart that can separate us from God. … If the sins that we commit are not confessed with humility and trust in the divine mercy, they can even reach the point of producing the death of the soul.”  Jesus has changed this paradigm by touching the leper and restoring his purity of heart and body. Leprosy just like Sin makes a person an outcast and an individual separated from God and fellow humans. Such an outcast person needs to surrender oneself to the will of Jesus and his power to heal. In return Jesus would willfully reach out and touch the person seeking reconciliation and bring healing of spirit and body.

As Christians, we are called to discover the lepers of our time, the outcasts of our society and respond to their needs by showing them compassion. Since the emergency of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have experienced quarantines, shut-downs and social distancing and masking. But many of our elder members have suffered isolation and abandonment as we cannot visit with them. Since Covid-19 dying and death have become so lonely.  As disciples of Jesus, we are invited to reach out to the outcasts to bring them into the community and be in communion with them. Let us remember that we have been empowered with the healing touch of Jesus Christ to bridge the gaps that separate people, to bring reconciliation and reunification. Let us do everything for the glory of God; not offending anyone because of their creed, nationality, color, or social status. Let us keep on loving the sinner and hate the sin following the examples of Father Damien and the Lord Jesus Himself.

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time; Year-B:  For this purpose, have I come.

SCRIPTURE: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19’ 22-23; Mark 1: 29-39.

The Evangelist Mark tells us the story of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee that started with preaching, healing, and driving out demons. But early the following morning Jesus left for a deserted place to pray to his father God. After his communion with God, Jesus refused to indulge in the successes of that day of ministry; he declared the purpose of his coming into the world. He came to preach the good news of the coming kingdom. Jesus did not come to wipe out all sicknesses and free the world of demons. His healing ministry is a testimony of the presence of the divine in the space that Jesus fills. The healings and driving out demons bear witness that God is indeed here, and the kingdom has overtaken the world.

A train is a series of railroad cars moved as a unit by a locomotive or by integral motors. In my life I have travelled on all kinds of trains; I remember being on a steam Engine train, diesel train and electric train. Every train is pulled by a locomotive followed by several railroad cars. Freight cars are important and indeed bring better income to the train company than passenger cars. Passenger cars with its hundreds of human souls cannot be underrated in its importance. All in all, for the train to make the journey to it's destination, the locomotive is prior to all the parts of the train. The locomotive creates an integral unit of all the cars by pumping pressure across all the railroad cars forming that train. Compare this example to the various important things or dimensions of your own life. Think about how you prioritize activities of your life. Where do you place the Kingdom of God in the train of your important dimensions of your life? What is the locomotive of your life? For Jesus, the Kingdom of God was the locomotive of your entire life on earth.

Jesus prayed a lot and alone. When the disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, Jesus said to them when you pray, say this “Our Father who art in heaven, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Here Jesus sets his priority right; he wants his disciples to participate in making the reign of God present on earth as it is in heaven. The Kingdom of God is so fundamental to Jesus that the expression appears 162 times in the New Testament. The Kingdom of God is indeed the keynote of Jesus’ preaching. It is the reign of God on people and their environment. It is a divine invitation to live a life of goodness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rm 14:17).

Following the footsteps of Jesus, Apostle Paul testifies in the second reading that the preaching of the Gospel is an obligation imposed on him and a stewardship that promises recompense. Paul accepted suffering and humiliation for the sake of winning many to the Gospel of Christ. Suffering is no longer a sign of misfortunate and sinfulness but a humbling experience in order to accept the gratuitous love of God. It is in such a context that the passage from Job may be well understood.

What does the kingdom look like? Jesus uses various parables that address different dimensions of the reign inviting his listeners to discover the nature and meaning of his father’s reign on earth. The kingdom of God is not a dominion that is far away but a reign that is close at hand. The Kingdom of God calls for fellowship of love and commitment like the example of the disciples. The mission of Christ in which we too share would be better understood as making the Kingdom of God known and experienced in people’s lives. Let us pray that God may reign in us so that we may live in justice, love, peace, and joy with one another.

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time; Year-B:  The Authority of Jesus’ Teaching.

SCRIPTURE:  Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; Ps. 95; 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35; Mark 1: 21-28

“All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority”” (Mk 1:27). The lesson of today’s Gospel follows immediately upon last Sunday’s Gospel reading. From the call of the disciples, Jesus proceeds to introduce them to the mission; he unveils the Word of God and makes manifest the presence of God’s Reign.

The evangelist Mark shows us Christ Jesus teaching with authority and even healing those who were sick and possessed, all of which show the purpose of Jesus' coming to earth. We are told that there was a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue. Isn’t this interesting and surprising! Can you imagine such a presence in a Church? Oh, yes. A human spirit becomes unclean when it creates resistance to the holiness of God.

In the encounter of Jesus with the possessed man, the unclean spirit knows and fears the power of Jesus to destroy his influence. The unclean spirit tries to create a diversion and a distraction by identifying Jesus, “I know who you are – the Holy One of God”. The demoniac declaration here is not a confession but an attempt to ward off Jesus’ power, reflecting the notion that use of the precise name of an opposing spirit would guarantee mastery over him. Jesus silenced the cry of the unclean spirit and drove him out of the man.

This demonic man was in the synagogue from the start, but after hearing the Word of Jesus Christ, the demons began to persecute the possessed man. Here is the presence of greater power, the power of Jesus Christ's presence shaking the demons. The demoniac is threatened and begins to shout and complain. Jesus Christ has come to break all the power of this devil and His kingdom. Jesus’ word transforms into deed. Jesus doesn’t communicate a message from someone else; Jesus possesses the Word; he is the Word. He teaches in his name. He communicates what he and the father and the Holy Spirit reveal to the world.

Beloved brothers and sisters, Jesus invites us through this Sunday liturgy to open ourselves to the power of the Gospel and the spirit of holiness that lead us to have a new attitude and a new life-a life in the spirit of God. Jesus Christ has come so that we may have life and true happiness. It is by listening to and living His Word we will be free from the power of the evil one. An unclean demon may still want to rule your life; he wants to continue to be the voice leading your mind. Remember that Jesus is standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Let Jesus’ word enter your heart and you will recover your freedom as a child of God.

It is not enough to hear and return to live as usual, to live according to the dictates of the evil one, for then we are not true Christians, not Christ like friends. A friend and true believer is one who agrees to grow, who admits to changing his life by being closer and closer to God and neighbor.

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time; Year-B:  SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD

SCRIPTURE:  Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; Ps 25: 4-9; 1 Cor 7: 29-31; Mark 1: 14-20.

The Universal Church dedicates this Sunday to the celebration of the Word of God.  This is an opportunity to remind us of the importance of the Word of God. We ought to read the Word of God, meditate and pray with it. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 it reads "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." We Christians can be totally secure in the Lord by studying the Bible because it is God's plan for our life. The Word of God is alive and gives life to us. God revealed his word to us so that we may be able to see the truth of God and about ourselves. When God speaks to us, He does not merely reveal some set of empirical truths, but his Word invites us to participate in his life. “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe” He 1: 1-2. God spoke and creation came to be (Gen 1: 1-28); God gave life to creation. God sent his messengers the prophets to proclaim his Word to people recalling them to Him. The case of Jonah stands as an example. God mandated Jonah to proclaim repentance to the people of Nineveh. God’s Word to Jonah meant Jonah’s involvement in the work of God.  The inhabitants of Nineveh heard the Word of God and transformed their ways of life. For God does not want anyone to be lost but to be saved. Simon and Andrew, James and John all heard the Word of Jesus and followed him leaving everything, even the fish and nets behind. The Word of God invites us to enter into a personal relationship with God.

In the Gospel Jesus, who is the Word made flesh (John 1: 14), reiterates the message of John the Baptist, “Repent”, but this time with greater urgency. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is here at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1: 15). In order to become true Christians, we must abandon old dynamics inconsistent with the Christian faith. The people of Nineveh allowed the Word of God to transform them from their infidelities to faith in God.  And Christ says, "repent and believe the good news”."  We must forsake sin and embrace the ways of God. We must abandon cultures and traditions inconsistent with Christianity and our baptismal promises. Change in our lives is required now, not tomorrow. The second reading and the Gospel sound the tune of urgency in order to warn us of the surprise that could disappoint us. God’s time is not human time. God lives in eternity while we are in time that is limited. And at the end of our life’s journey when we die, we leave the world and enter heaven. What awaits us beyond the grave depends on the fundamental choices we make here and now. Let's examine our conscience for what deprives us from having a good relationship with God or with our colleagues and say it is enough now and decide to change our lives. We should reflect and ask ourselves what do we love so much but lose God? What person do you love so much but he destroys your life, your calling, your marriage? Leave him or her. Is anger what makes you miss out on others? Let go of it. Let us ask God to open our ears to his Word so that we may truly be his adopted children and witnesses of his presence in the world.

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-B: The CALL

SCRIPTURE: Samuel 3: 3b-10, 19; Psalm 39; 1 Corinthians 6: 13c-15a, 17-20; John 1: 35-42

On this Sunday, the Church invites us to ponder on our call as Christians and servants of God. A call involves two parties that are the caller and the responder. The caller takes the initiative to reach out while giving an opportunity to the responder to accept the call and enter into a conversation. The conversation may be a life transforming interaction. Just remember the unexpected phone call you received last Christmas. Few days ago, I remembered my former secretary and called her. At first she couldn’t recognize my voice, it has been many years, and then I helped her identify the caller. Then, she got excited and said, “Father you have made my day, I am so happy to hear you. Tomorrow I will celebrate my eighty-sixth birthday.” My God, what a blessing!

Responding to God’s call leads to discipleship, testimony and partnership. Today's readings present us the following people who heard the call and responded positively. Samuel the Seer received God’s call to be the transitional leader in the history of Israel. Not being familiar with the ways of God, Samuel had to seek guidance from Eli the Judge and priest of Israel. Samuel remained with Eli in the Temple God’s dwelling on earth, to show his discipleship. Samuel testified to Eli what God revealed to him. Samuel cooperated faithfully with God in the fulfillment of God’s mission to Israel. The above is summed up in the following verse, “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” (1 Sam 3: 19)

Apostle Paul, being one of those who received God’s call, exhorts us to acknowledge that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and treat our bodies as they are indeed, the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit. Paul gives us the instruction as a true disciple of Christ, who bears witness and is a co-worker with the Lord Jesus.

In the Gospel the first disciples of Jesus heard the testimony of John Baptist, followed Jesus and stayed with him. They also became disciples. As soon as he became a disciple, Andrew went to give testimony to his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. While Jesus was still recruiting his disciples, Andrew brought him one. So Andrew became a partner with Jesus in his mission. Hence, the person called and the receiver of the calling are both invited to be representatives of Christ in the circumstances in which they live and work.

John the Baptist bore a testimony that was very exceptional, that of identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God. John bore witness that he was sent to prepare the way of the Lord by proclaiming repentance and remission of sins. In truthfulness and humility, John pointed out Jesus as God’s sacrifice for the salvation of the world. The disciples left John the Baptist and went to stay with Jesus and be his partners.

In the liturgy of baptism we were anointed with holy Chrism, fragrant oil which is the symbol of Christ’s Sanctifying power that confirms our calling.  As we continue to respond to God’s call in our daily living through discipleship, testimony and partnership the holy fragrance fills the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit for eternal salvation.

The Epiphany of the Lord; Year-B:  The Universality of Salvation

Scripture: Isaiah 60: 1-6; Ps. 72; Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2: 1-12

Today we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord Jesus to the people of the nations represented here by the Magi. But the story of Magi and their gifts can be fascinating even to the children as they admired the nativity scene. An 8-year-old asked, "How come the kings brought perfume to Jesus?” What kind of gift is that for a baby? His 11-year-old sister answered, "Haven't you ever smelled a barn? With dirty animals around, Mary needed something to freshen the air”. 

God makes himself known; he leads and guides people on their journey through life. We believe that God continually draws all people to himself and often he does so in the most unobtrusive ways. He chooses to act in all sorts of hidden and subtle ways out of respect for our free will. God invites but he never imposes himself upon us. Many ignore him and others reject his invitation but God does not stop showing us the way. In reflecting on the story of the Epiphany we have to keep in mind that it celebrated the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. The Evangelist Matthew wrote to a very specific audience, mostly composed of converts from Judaism but also that included a good number of Gentiles.  Matthew saw the presence of non-Jewish Christians as a game-changer and fulfilling the ancient prophecies. Indeed within a few decades, the vast majority of Christians were converted-Gentiles, and naturally, they looked in the Gospels to see how Jesus related to Gentiles. The Gentile- converts found some fine examples in the Gospels such as the Roman Centurion who asked Jesus to cure his servant as well as the group of Greeks who came to see Jesus just before his arrest. They were especially attracted to these Magi from today's Gospel text because they could see their own story reflected in the story of the Epiphany. 

The disciples, just like each one of us, saw themselves as drawn by God, often in mysterious ways, to come to recognize Christ, to accept his teaching, and to do him homage. It is therefore easy to see why the feast of Epiphany became such an important Christian celebration quite early on in the life of the Church. God has brought each one of us to faith. We look back on our lives and see  God’s hand at work in all sorts of curious incidents and apparent coincidences over the years. And we recognize his influence on our journey of faith.

So the acquiring of our faith is no mere accident of birth but part of the deliberate unfolding of God’s plan. Our children may not all want to receive what we give them, but to water the faith down or to deprive them of it would be a serious failing indeed. God works in the world, he draws everyone to himself; but the principal means he uses are not stars of the sky but you and me. The Magi were drawn to Christ by a star; however, God may use nature, humans, and events in his plan of salvation. It is our mission and task in the world to make Christ manifest to those around us, especially to our own families. It is our task to enable the people around us to come to their own unique Epiphany. It might happen immediately or it might take them a whole lifetime to perceive God’s manifestation.  Our hope and prayer are that at a certain point they will come to make the decision to bend their knee in homage to Christ, to the Messiah, to the one, true Savior of the World, JESUS CHRIST. 

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; Year-B: The Holy Family.

SCRIPTURE: Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128; Colossians 3: 12-21; Luke 2: 22-40.

The family is the basic unit of human society. Its fundamental character is interrelationship among its members. But family finds its origin in God who did so willed that it came to exist when God created man and woman, blessed them and empowered them to procreate and fill the earth. God made the bound between man and woman holy. God entered the family of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, perfecting it with the birth of God’s own son, Jesus Christ.

The family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus is threefold holy because, firstly God who is holy, came to belong to it; secondly when she was visited by the angel Gabriel, Mary, obediently welcomed God to be the master of her and her household; thirdly Joseph accepted God to reign in his life and future family. Because of its holiness, the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph stands as a model of all human families. The Holy Family distinguishes itself in its openness to God and its unconditional love. Mary and Joseph accepted the will of God despite multiple unknown realities that surrounded the incarnation of Jesus. Joseph and Mary believed each other despite the pre-existing condition to their marriage. With mutual respect and trust, Mary and Joseph welcomed each other as husband and wife. Meditating on the life of the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph will help us live happily in our families through problems and difficulties.

The underpinning theme of all the readings of today’s liturgy is interrelationship in the family. The first reading centers its message on the fourth commandment of the Decalogue. Sirach discusses the reciprocal obligations and privileges that flow from the strict observance of the fourth commandment, “Honor your father and mother”. Sirach exhorts us to honor parents even in the most challenging times when their minds fail; there is an advantage to honoring parents, God will hear your prayers and will bless you with a long life to enjoy your achievements. The Christian family, being a family of God, should put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another; Saint Paul writes to the Church at Colossae. The Evangelist Luke reminds us that the family provides the best environment for physical, intellectual and spiritual growth. Mary and Joseph offered Jesus a place for growth, linked him to the past of his people and immersed Jesus into the dream and hope of Israel. Without comprehending all about their baby, Mary and Joseph were surprised by the utterances of Simeon and Anna. As an African saying goes, “A seated Oldman sees far more than a standing young man”, Simeon and Anna perceived the hidden blessing in the baby of Mary and Joseph. For Simeon, the baby in his arms was the fulfillment of the greatest dream, the salvation of the world. For Prophetess Anna, the presence of the baby of Mary and Joseph was the awaited redemption of Israel. She gave thanks to God. In this entire episode, the Holy Spirit remains unseen and yet plays a pivotal role, moving Simeon and Anna, opening their eyes to see the awaited Messiah and making them both proclaim the praises of God.

All done and said, Joseph and Mary had to return Nazareth with their child Jesus and help him grow and be ready for his mission in the world. Day in and day out, the Holy Family allowed God to reign in their life. Like the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus developed into a grown up man and became a phenomenon in Galilee and Jerusalem, and finally the entire world has come to know him, love him and serve him. May the Holy Spirit move our spirits so that we may live as members of the Holy Family.

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year -B; You Have Found Favor With God

SCRIPTURE: 2Samuel 7: 1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 88; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1 : 26-38.

During the past three Sundays, we have heard John the Baptist proclaiming the coming Messiah and today the angel Gabriel announces the conception of the baby God, Jesus the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. In today’s readings, there are two expressions that have captured my attention, “favor” and “overshadow”.

Luke the Evangelist brings together for us David and Mary when he writes in Acts 13: 22-23, I quote, “Then he (God) removed him (King Saul) and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish’. From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.”

I found this description of the relation between God and David very fascinating if not tickling and humbling. It is so charming that God, the source of everything, can enter into a relationship of trust and self-giving with a human being like in the cases of David and Mary. It is very humbling for a human being to be so favored by one’s own creator and savior. “Who am I, Lord God, and my house, that you should have brought me so far”, said David. As humans, we are invited and welcomed by God in his greatness and awesomeness. In living such a life of favor, we can’t but be overshadowed by the mighty hand of our God. We acknowledge God’s might that makes us achieve wonderful deeds. From his anointing as king in the presence of his father Jesse and brothers to his establishment in Jerusalem, Zion, the City of David, God did it all for his love of David. And David recognized at all moments the presence and action of God in his life. From his battle against Goliath to quelling the young Absalom’s rebellion, it was the Lord of Hosts fighting for Israel and David, his servant. God favored David during his lifetime and for generations to come, his descendant. David believed God and firmly trusted that God would fulfill his promise, “your throne shall stand firm forever”.

And the angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have favor with God” Luke 1: 30. Mary was dumbfounded by the greeting and message of the angel. While trying to understand what she was hearing, she is assured that God would do it all with her. It will not be through the natural ability to conceive but by the power of God. “The power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Humbled the favor of God, Mary would only reply in obedience, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”. The life of Mary as well as that of David was overshadowed by the power of God. Mary, a lowly girl from an unknown town, became a girl after God’s own heart. By bringing Jesus into our world, Mary participated in the fulfillment of an ancient promise made to David. Mary’s life from the moment of the annunciation enveloped in the life of Jesus. Her name would no longer be mentioned without that of her son, Jesus. The examples of David and Mary are a great road map for how we are to live our life as Christians. We can learn more from their characters and dispositions before God. God’s favor has been poured out on all the believers making us children of God. We can learn from David and Mary how to respond to God’s favor and let God be God in our lives. The outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost meant to overshadow us in making us, new creatures.

Second Sunday of Advent, Year-B; Good Tidings

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85: 8-13; 2 Peter 3: 8-14; Mark 1: 1-8.

“Good tidings” in the Hebrew original, is a verb that gave the New Testament writers the noun “Gospel”. The “good tidings” is the good news of the impending God’s intervention in human history. In the context of today’s passages of the Holy Scripture, the “good tidings” is the return of the people of Israel from exiles. The prophet sees the approaching return from exile as life changing event. Isaiah envisions this return from exile as a new Exodus not because history repeats itself but that God’s mighty acts in history follow a consistent pattern because God is true to himself and his purpose of salvation. And so, Prophet Isaiah and other prophets of Exile and finally John the Baptist were compelled to speak by the same Spirit of the Eternal God.

John the Baptist became the “voice that cries in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord (John 1: 23; Isaiah 40:3). The coming of the Lord is the “good tidings”, the good news. What is good about this news, about the Lord’s coming? “Every valley shall be lifted up/ and every mountain and hill be made low/ and the uneven ground shall become level,/ and the rough places a plain”(Isaiah 40: 3-4).

These land shapes could be understood as obstacles to people walking focused on their destination. Such obstacles must be removed in order that people may journey back to the Promised Land. The above imagery represents a change of heart on the part of God’s people both in the Old and New Testament. God intervenes in human history when humans cannot help themselves.

The preaching of John the Baptist on this Sunday means a call to repentance as an indispensable evangelical preparation and the celebration of Christmas.

First Sunday of Advent, Year-B; Be alert.

Scripture: Isaiah 63: 16-17; 64: 1, 4-8; Psalm 80: 1-2, 14-15, 17-18; 1Cor 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 33-37.

Today we begin the season of Advent and a new liturgical year of the Church’s calendar which is year B. In the liturgical Calendar, the Church has set aside six important moments that are Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and the ordinary season of the year. Advent season celebrates a period of preparation for Christ's coming in our lives and in his final revelation. Christmas commemorates the birth of Christ in the body and his presence into our hearts. Lent is a period of penance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Easter is a period of resurrection with Christ in the newness of life. Pentecost is a period of receiving the Holy Spirit, the advocate and our leader in truth and life. This newness of life in Christ Jesus forms the believers into his body, the Church. The ordinary season of the year invites us to live in the Holy Spirit as true disciples of Jesus Christ and wait for Christ to come in the final judgment.

The words of Saint Paul in the second reading (1Cor 1: 3-9) fit very well with our context of Thanksgiving weekend as Paul sees the many divine gifts bestowed on the Corinthians. These gifts are shown in discourse, knowledge and testimony to Christ as the Corinthians await the full revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul is very thankful to God for the Corinthians because they are alert and ready to welcome the Lord as faithful servants. These Corinthians are a model for us too as we expect the second and final coming of Christ. Through Baptism and confirmation, we have received an overflowing measure of grace to manifest the presence of God in our lives.

The Gospel message calls each of us to be alert while waiting for the coming of the Lord. Because, the Lord’s return has an essential element of surprise; “you do not know when the Lord of the house will come, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning”. We do not know the time of God. But the most important thing is to stand strong in faith, unwavering of hope and steadfast in love every moment of our lives. Knowing that we falter sometimes, the Church avails its instruments of God’s mercy (sacrament of reconciliation), so that we may sharpen our alertness.

Let us learn from the preparedness of people who live in disaster prone areas such as tornado highways and hurricane zones. They keep their emergency kits ready; frequently renewing its contents to avoid disappointment on the day of disaster.  So, should we be doing with the spiritual gifts that we have received for the building of the community. We ought to check up ourselves against selfishness and malice, “immorality and impurity, licentiousness and idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry and outbursts of fury, factions and occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies and the like” (Gal. 5: 19-20) that tries to separate us from the love of God.

If we live as daughters and sons of God, the day of the Lord’s coming will be a sweet surprise. And the joy of that day will surpass the anxiety of waiting for many years.

Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe; Return and Judgment

SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23: 1-3, 5-6; 1Cor 15: 20-26, 28; Matthew 25: 31-46.

On this celebration of Christ the King, the Gospel passage and the prophecy of Ezekiel present us a double scenario; one of the glorious and eschatological return of Jesus Christ as King and sole shepherd of his people, and the other of Christ Jesus as Judge whose judgment will be based on human acts of companion towards Himself identified with the suffering people.

During the past Sundays, the Word of God has been reminding us of the importance of the divine gifts of faith, hope and love. A true disciple of Jesus is one animated by these spiritual gifts. The glorious return of King Jesus is joyfully awaited by those living according to the Spirit of Jesus. The Reign of God in each one of us takes roots slowly but firmly, like in the parable of the mustard seed, and gives abundant fruits or profits like the parable of talents. The King of God is all embracing without consideration of difference in ritual worships. Apparently, the only measuring stick is the bond of love and concern that reaches deep into the human heart. The judgment is based on whether we meet the very basic human needs of fellow human beings.

There is a need to note the difference existing between humanitarian acts of kindness and the evangelical responses to human sufferings or deprivation. The disciple does good deeds to others because enabled by faith in the Risen Lord, he or she sees Christ in the needy person. The disciple sees Jesus in his disfigured form like in the hours of the condemned, cross-carrying and crucified Jesus on Calvary. The disciple perceives his fear and shame, his brokenness and sense of loss, his indignity and undeserving respect. Those capable of discovering Jesus and serving him under such conditions will obtain the everlasting reward of life, joy and peace. Like “the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”(Mark 15: 39).

The humanitarian acts promote human welfare and ideas of people; they bring about change in the normal behavioral patterns of a society and help to aid by giving money or necessities for those in need. Humanitarian acts are based on being ethical and promoting a sustainable and peaceful society. A humanitarian action begins from man and ends in man and his environment. Its motive is human welfare. A humanitarian act makes a member of the city look respectable. The same act promotes the human dignity of the helped member.

Therefore, it is necessary for the disciples of Jesus to be motivated by faith, hope and love in God, in order to merit the King of God.

Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Personal Accountability

SCRIPTURE:  Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1Thessalonians 5: 1-6; Matthew 25: 14-30.

When God calls someone, He gives him/her the ability to achieve the purpose for which God calls him/her. God furnishes you with all that is good; that you may do God’s will (Hebrews 13: 21).

In today’s gospel, the owner of the possessions gave to each servant according to one’s capacity. The giver of all, God doesn’t deserve insults for demanding accounts as the parable tells of the servant who received one talent. Note that one talent is not a little sum of money; it equaled 20 years of daily wages or 6,000 denarii. Just imagine receiving some $348,000.00 to do business with and you hide it all in your house safe in order to return to the owner years later. God, Creator, and giver of all that we are and have, will demand accounts of our lives. Each and every one of us is richly endowed by God to do God’s will. The time between the departure and return of the owner to demand the accounts, is very determinative. This time means my lifespan and yours. While we await the second and final coming of the Lord Jesus, we have opportune time to grow in faith, hope and love. We are called to do the works that are prompted by the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us.

The industrious servants who produced more talents are comparable to the worthy wife whose deeds are sung in the first reading (Prov.31:10). Both types of servants are highly rewarded. What happiness is there in receiving the reward? The good and faithful servants and the worthy wife are models of discipleship. A follower of Jesus Christ is a person that has been endowed with the gifts of faith, hope and love. From these gifts flows the good works that praise God. That means productivity and works of mercy.

Beloved, let us always keep in mind the context we are living in; the day of the Lord is near and will appear without any warning. Let us realize the gifts of the Spirit that we received, put them to work daily to the best credit of the giver and father of our savior Jesus Christ. Then, we will expect the reward that will fill us with the greatest joy and happiness.


In this period of national elections, we all experience tensions and anxieties as we watch the progress of the electoral results. It is normal to feel so, because of the love we attach to our nation and its future.

As children of God and fellow citizens, we all share the same aspirations to live in a prosperous and peaceful nation. We place our trust in God who has summoned us together as a nation. As tensions and anxieties rise in us, we are called to turn to the positive power inherent in us and to the power that upholds the universe.  We make recourse to prayer for our personal wellbeing and the health and safety of our fellow citizens directly involved in the elections progress.

I would like to propose to you the following slightly modified prayer composed by Reinhold Neibuhr , 1892-1971:

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with God

Forever and ever in the next.


In order to draw grace from the prayer, I would suggest that you take a relaxed position, breath in and out a couple of times and then begin saying the prayer. You may repeat the prayer as many times as you need during the day.

May the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

 Fr. Benoit

Solemnity of All Saints, Year-A; The Vision of Heaven

SCRIPTURE: Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24:1b-6; 1John 3: 1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12a.

If you cannot imagine the beauty, happiness and joy of where you are going, you will not brave the challenges and hardships of the journey.  The men and women of all ages and nations and languages whom we celebrate today, are people who had a vision of the beauty, happiness and joy that awaited them in the invisible realm of God. They imagined what the reign of God could be like based on the information and witness of people of their time and past ages. They became firmly convinced by their vision and experienced in their own lives transformation of their thought system and style of living. Their lives impacted other people’s lives.

When we speak of the “American Dread”, what does it mean? Is it the same for everyone?

“The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone. The American Dream is achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance.

The term was coined in a best-seller in 1931, "Epic of America." 
James Truslow Adams described it as "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement."” (Investopedia, American Dream).
Immigrants sell all their belongings, leave their home lands and travel for the United States because of their vision of that land where peace, justice and success are possible for all through personal hard work and ingenuity. Without such an imagination will be no place better than home.

We, Christians too, are challenged to have the vision of heaven that promises all that we aspire for and lack while we are in this present life. The first reading from Revelation, the Apostle John saw a vision of a multitude of people, which no one could count, from everywhere.

Such a vision tells us that Heaven has great opportunities for each one of us. However, we cannot consider Heaven like an entitlement because we are baptized and attend Church regularly. Look, the multitude is formed of people “who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” (Rev. 7: 14). When someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. (Luke 13:23-24). Jesus taught many parables of the kingdom of God in order to awaken our imagination and longing of the reign of God. Saint Paul exhorts us to vision what it means being God’s children. What it means to us while living in this body. What it entails to our lifestyle.

The Saints we celebrate today are the blessed ones through the centuries of human existence. They used their God’s given abilities in their diversity, to attain their vision of heaven, to enter the fullness of the reign of God. This celebration is for us a reason for hope and working passionately for the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in our world.

May the Holy Spirit inspire us with the vision of the peace, happiness and endless joy with God our Father.

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Love God and Neighbor.

SCRIPTURE: Exodus 22: 20-26; Psalm 18: 2-4, 47, 51; 1Thessalonians 1: 5c-10; Matthew 22: 34-40.

The interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees with the Sadducees make me think of a series of boxing bouts where two archrivals keep on demanding a rematch at every end of a fight. One of the boxers doesn’t accept defeat but concedes a more defeat. Simply said, the leaders of the people of Israel wanted to get rid of Jesus; his presence and teaching unsettled them. They wanted him out of their lives.

The question about the first and greatest commandment of law was and still is a tricky test. It demands a deeper and broader comprehension of the entire Judeo-Christian teaching or law. For many centuries, the Jews debated on this issue of the most important commandment of the more-than six hundred laws they held. The lawyer from the Pharisee party didn’t expect Jesus to pass the test but Jesus proved his understanding of the Law with great ease. You must love God and neighbor. Both concepts didn’t impress the lawyer as Jesus took them from the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. But Jesus did what genius do, solving apparently complicated puzzles with great ease, simple and easy.

Firstly, Jesus shows that they aren’t two commandments but two sides of the same coin. Secondly, he argues that the whole Law hangs on love. Finally, love is inclusive of Jews and Gentiles. Hence, Jesus surprised the Pharisees who promoted hate against the Gentiles, especially the occupying Romans.

In our own days, we still wrestle with the same question of love for God and Neighbor. In every game, there is a difference between a professional and a fan. Professionals differ in their competitive capacities, while fans are uncompromisingly passionate attached to their champions. Professionals respect and love their opponents. Fans hate and can turn into uncalled for violence. Christians are called to be like professionals showing compassion towards fellow children of God.

Love for God and neighbor involves many dimensions of private and social life. Scripture teaches us that we shouldn’t think about our love for God because ours is a mere response to the Love God has for us. God loved us from eternity and brought us into being and sent his only son Jesus our savior. God continues to show his love in our daily living. When we discover God’s love for us, we become more respectful of the self, caring and truthful. In the process of responding lovingly to God, we are compelled to face the neighbor to whom we ought to direct our love and actions.

Love is life-giving, patient, kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude, not self-seeking, and not quick-tempered and does not brood over injury. Love, which is the foundation of the reign of God, is contagious. The reading from the book of Exodus explains the social dimensions of love: care for the aliens, showing kindness to the widows and orphans, lending without interests and doing justice to the most vulnerable.

Let us pray, beloved, that in all we do or say, we may not sin against love but rather make God’s love manifest to all.

In Lieu of Fr. Benoit's weekly reflection please prayerfully reflect on this papal message on this important annual celebration:


Here am I, send me (Is 6:8)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to express my gratitude to God for the commitment with which the Church throughout the world carried out the Extraordinary Missionary Month last October. I am convinced that it stimulated missionary conversion in many communities on the path indicated by the theme: “Baptized and Sent: the Church of Christ on Mission in the World”.

In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah: “Here am I, send me” (6:8). This is the ever new response to the Lord’s question: “Whom shall I send?” (ibid.). This invitation from God’s merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity as a whole in the current world crisis. “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying ‘We are perishing’ (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this” (Meditation in Saint Peter’s Square, 27 March 2020). We are indeed frightened, disoriented and afraid. Pain and death make us experience our human frailty, but at the same time remind us of our deep desire for life and liberation from evil. In this context, the call to mission, the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbour presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer. The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.

In the sacrifice of the cross, where the mission of Jesus is fully accomplished (cf. Jn 19:28-30), God shows us that his love is for each and every one of us (cf. Jn 19:26-27). He asks us to be personally willing to be sent, because he himself is Love, love that is always “on mission”, always reaching out in order to give life. Out of his love for us, God the Father sent his Son Jesus (cf. Jn 3:16). Jesus is the Father’s Missionary: his life and ministry reveal his total obedience to the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4:34; 6:38; 8:12-30; Heb 10:5-10). Jesus, crucified and risen for us, draws us in turn into his mission of love, and with his Spirit which enlivens the Church, he makes us his disciples and sends us on a mission to the world and to its peoples.

“The mission, the ‘Church on the move’, is not a programme, an enterprise to be carried out by sheer force of will. It is Christ who makes the Church go out of herself. In the mission of evangelization, you move because the Holy Spirit pushes you, and carries you” (Senza di Lui non possiamo fare nulla: Essere missionari oggi nel mondo. Una conversazione con Gianni Valente, Libreria Editrice Vaticana: San Paolo, 2019, 16-17). God always loves us first and with this love comes to us and calls us. Our personal vocation comes from the fact that we are sons and daughters of God in the Church, his family, brothers and sisters in that love that Jesus has shown us. All, however, have a human dignity founded on the divine invitation to be children of God and to become, in the sacrament of Baptism and in the freedom of faith, what they have always been in the heart of God.

Life itself, as a gift freely received, is implicitly an invitation to this gift of self: it is a seed which, in the baptized, will blossom as a response of love in marriage or in virginity for the kingdom of God. Human life is born of the love of God, grows in love and tends towards love. No one is excluded from the love of God, and in the holy sacrifice of Jesus his Son on the cross, God conquered sin and death (cf. Rom 8:31-39). For God, evil – even sin – becomes a challenge to respond with even greater love (cf. Mt 5:38-48; Lk 22:33-34). In the Paschal Mystery, divine mercy heals our wounded humanity and is poured out upon the whole universe. The Church, the universal sacrament of God’s love for the world, continues the mission of Jesus in history and sends us everywhere so that, through our witness of faith and the proclamation of the Gospel, God may continue to manifest his love and in this way touch and transform hearts, minds, bodies, societies and cultures in every place and time.

Mission is a free and conscious response to God’s call. Yet we discern this call only when we have a personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his Church. Let us ask ourselves: are we prepared to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to listen to the call to mission, whether in our life as married couples or as consecrated persons or those called to the ordained ministry, and in all the everyday events of life? Are we willing to be sent forth at any time or place to witness to our faith in God the merciful Father, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, to share the divine life of the Holy Spirit by building up the Church? Are we, like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, ready to be completely at the service of God’s will (cf. Lk 1:38)? This interior openness is essential if we are to say to God: “Here am I, Lord, send me” (cf. Is 6:8). And this, not in the abstract, but in this chapter of the life of the Church and of history.

Understanding what God is saying to us at this time of pandemic also represents a challenge for the Church’s mission. Illness, suffering, fear and isolation challenge us. The poverty of those who die alone, the abandoned, those who have lost their jobs and income, the homeless and those who lack food challenge us. Being forced to observe social distancing and to stay at home invites us to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationship with God. Far from increasing mistrust and indifference, this situation should make us even more attentive to our way of relating to others. And prayer, in which God touches and moves our hearts, should make us ever more open to the need of our brothers and sisters for dignity and freedom, as well as our responsibility to care for all creation. The impossibility of gathering as a Church to celebrate the Eucharist has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday. In all of this, God’s question: “Whom shall I send?” is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: “Here am I, send me!” (Is 6:8). God continues to look for those whom he can send forth into the world and to the nations to bear witness to his love, his deliverance from sin and death, his liberation from evil (cf. Mt 9:35-38; Lk 10:1-12).

The celebration of World Mission Day is also an occasion for reaffirming how prayer, reflection and the material help of your offerings are so many opportunities to participate actively in the mission of Jesus in his Church. The charity expressed in the collections that take place during the liturgical celebrations of the third Sunday of October is aimed at supporting the missionary work carried out in my name by the Pontifical Mission Societies, in order to meet the spiritual and material needs of peoples and Churches throughout the world, for the salvation of all.

May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization and Comforter of the Afflicted, missionary disciple of her Son Jesus, continue to intercede for us and sustain us.

Rome, Saint John Lateran,


Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; The Inviting Servants

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 25: 6-10a; Psalm 23: 1-6; Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22: 1-12.

The Reign of God is presented to us in the readings as a joyful banquet to which we are all freely invited. The description of this banquet makes us imagine being at a first-class dinner or in a classy restaurant. With joyful faces and eyes wide open, waiting impatiently for the delicious meal surrounded with happy well-dressed friends. The Gospel is about this happy message. Pope Francis wrote an encyclical entitled “The Joy of the Gospel”, to emphasis on the reality of Joy that Jesus brings in our lives for those who receive him. That happy moment starts right here and now and its plenitude in the life to come. What invited guest would not only reject the invitation but go to the extent of killing the servants who brought it? Unfortunately, we have seen it happen in the kingdom of God on earth. Some of our modern time prophets have been gunned down or jailed. Many unnamed martyrs have died for the sake of the Gospel. They went happily washed in the blood of the lamb. They are now robbed in white enjoying the plenitude of the banquet of the lamb that was slain, Jesus Christ. Though they looked like losers in the eyes of men, they are victors in eternal life. Their faith and righteous deeds have earned them the white robes. (Revelation 19-21).

I would presume that all of us here present have responded positively to our initial call in the Kingdom. We have come to know also that there are no shortcuts or cheating to get in the banquet of Jesus. The lesson about the guest found without a wedding garment should warn us. Apostle Paul exhorts everyone to work for one’s salvation in the spirit of reverence and awe as coworkers with God (Phil 2: 12-13; Rom 12: 1-2). At this point, I would like to invite you to focus on the inviting servants and identify ourselves with them. Servants are entrusted with the delicate but dangerous duty to bring in guests. The Reign of God is already here even though not fully revealed to us. If we have really encountered Jesus and discovered the joy of the Gospel, we ought to feel compelled to share it with the neighbor we talk or work with; share it with the stranger we meet. Less we become like the guests who arrived single in my story. There was a couple that organized a feast for their daughter in a luxury hotel. On the invitation card, they wrote, “No gift expected or required. Please, bring a friend with you”. On the evening of the feast, guests started arriving. The welcoming team notified the Master of ceremony that some quests have arrived singles, without a friend accompanying. The MC simply replied there was no table for singles. Sorry we cannot take them in.

Therefore, beloved in the Lord, let us savor the joy of encountering Jesus who has transformed our lives. We taste of his banquet in the Eucharist we share that reminds us of the free gift of the grace of God. Let us remain focused on the fullness of joy and happiness awaiting us where God will be openly with us.

Twenty-seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; What shall you return to the Lord?

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 5: 1-7; Psalm 80: 9, 12-16, 19-20; Philippians 4: 6-9; Matthew 21: 33-43.

There has been a sequence of three parables for the last three Sundays telling about the vineyard from different points of views. Today too, there is another parable of the vineyard that focuses on the accountability of the tenants. The responsorial psalm led us into chanting that the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. The Lord God brought this vine from Egypt, planted it on a land that Himself prepared and entrusted it to stewards chosen by Him. To God’s total disappointment, the stewards took possession of it and rebelled against the owner.

Jesus gave this teaching to the leaders of Israel present, probably during the last week before his passion, death and resurrection. He wanted them to understand their current role and what history bore as witness to the behaviors of the leaders of Israel in its past. For the current leaders of the time of Jesus, they had taken ownership of the people for their own living. They were not accepting the Messiah who would disrupt their order, way of life and put an end to the Temple. They rejected John the Baptist and got Jesus crucified. As for their forefathers, they did treat the prophets harshly, ignored them and killed some of them. Knowing fully that his death was near, Jesus defiantly revealed to the leaders their evil, opportunity to repent and the fatal consequence of rejecting the Messiah. But they refused and proceeded to the execution of their plan.

The lesson about the tenants of the vineyard did not end with the people of old but remains relevant to us today. Firstly, the parable reminds us of the grace and gifts of God given to us. Secondly, we are answerable to God both individually and collectively in our stewardship of personal gifts and in the social responsibilities. We have a shared responsibility in our common ownership over entities and organizations. What kind of account shall each one of us render to God on the Day of Judgment? In the parable, the leaders of Israel answered to Jesus that the owner of the vineyard “will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to others” (Mt. 21:41). The leaders of Israel pronounced their own judgment. And it will be for us; each one will give an account of their own faith and works. Such a reality should prompt us to being true disciples of Jesus in sharing our faith and bringing more people to Christ in the Church. In the society, true disciples exercise their daily duties as servant-leaders.

On the Day of Judgment, true disciples will be more than happy to see the Lord Jesus and render fruitful accounts of faith and service.

Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Jesus Salvation of the Sinner

SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 18: 25-28; Philippians 2: 1-11; Matthew 21: 28-32

The rain had been pouring nonstop for two days in the town; a sick man who lived there was shivering with cold and couldn’t help himself. He thought, “If I call the priest he will surely come.” So he made the call asking for the anointing of the sick. Indeed, the priest showed up, prayed for the poor man anointing him with oil for healing. At the end, the priest wished him a blessed evening and quick recovery. To which the man responded, “I am not sure father.” He went forward asking, “Father, do you have a cigarette?” The priest responded, “I stopped smoking a long time ago.” Go well father, he said concluding their conversation. Later, the priest returned with a packet of cigarettes to give to the shivering man. The man took it and looked at it twice, looked at the priest and then said, “You are a man of God, father.”

“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of Israel. The tax collectors and prostitutes were regarded as the most sinful and wretched people in Israel at the time. Tax collectors failed to meet the expected morals because they were instruments of the foreign occupiers and were suspected of extracting more tax than required by Roman officials. Prostitutes were despised on account of their trade failing the requirement of the Ten Commandments. But, when they encountered Jesus of Nazareth, their lives changed. They came to believe in Jesus and his teaching and changed their lifestyles. Consequently, Matthew, a tax collector, became one the close friends of Jesus. He remained faithful to him to the end of his own life. From him, we have received the Gospel according to Matthew. Mary Magdalene, too, came to believe and became a faithful disciple. She followed the Lord all the way to Calvary. From her, came the first news of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. These two stand as examples of the wicked who have changed into virtuous people. To them, belongs the kingdom of God. In them, God’s justice is manifested. Prophet Ezekiel in today’s first reading puts it clearly too.

The chief priests and elders did not change their hearts even after seeing all that was happening with tax collectors and prostitutes. They thought of themselves as righteous before God and looked down on others. They had resisted the message of John Baptist and also rejected Jesus. Indeed, they falsely accused Jesus and condemned him to be crucified. They persisted in their wickedness. Should God be blamed for their eternal death? No. They chose to die in their wickedness.

God’s mercy comes to the soul even at its latest opportunity. It is up to that soul to welcome the mercy of God. God never gives up on the sinner but visits him/her with his mercy always. For what matters before our God is not how many times we fall in sin, but how often we struggle and rise to be reconciled and at peace with him. Like a mother watching her baby trying to walk, she feels consoled by the many times her baby rises again and tries to walk until finally the baby’s knees become strong and walks. So God watches and accompanies us on our way to holiness. Beloved in the Lord, let us, then have in us the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, humbly regarding others as more important than ourselves, each looking out not for one’s own interests, but also for those of others. (Phil 2: 3-5)

Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Empathy and Justice

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 56: 6-9; Philippians 1: 20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20: 1-16a

“Are you envious because I am generous?” The questions which we have just heard from the Gospel, reveal to us the real sentiments the workers who started in the morning felt, Envy and Jealousy. An envious person is resentful and unhappy because someone else has, or has achieved, what one would wish oneself to possess or achieve.

We need to draw a difference between these two very ardent emotions. Jealousy is when you worry someone will take what you have. Envy is wanting what someone else has. The jealous person does not appreciate one’s own gifts or strengths. He/she can only see the gifts that others have. A jealous person concentrates on trying to be like the other. An envious person remains consumed by one’s own emptiness and weaknesses. He/she hates other people for their gifts.

Everybody is different. No two people are the same. We do not have the right to compare or contrast others to ourselves. Empathy helps us to overcome envy and jealousy in order to experience the joy and pain of the other person.

Empathy is compatible with justice. The landowner might have felt in the shoes of these poor bystanders-potential workers. These bystanders came to the roadside to avail themselves for work but had not been lucky up until the eleventh hour when the landowner offered them the job. It was just right for them too to earn their daily wage. This kind of action is also good for the entire society, for peace and security. As joblessness may give occasion to robbery and public riots or demonstrations. The early workers would have seen the positive in the action of their employer, the landowner in the Gospel. The landowner’s kindness and empathy would have been understood as a precedence to what he would do in a similar case regarding these unhappy workers.

The Christian reaction in such a case would be of rejoicing with the latecomers over the action of the landowner. A Christian would be thankful together with late workers toward the generous landowner.

Apostle Peter rejoiced with the family of Cornelius over their reception of the Holy Spirit before their baptism (Acts 10: 44-47). “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears and acts uprightly is acceptable to him” (v. 34-35). Indeed, no one has an advantage over another Christian depending on the time of one’s calling or one’s nationality or location.

The parable of the landowner might have referred to the entry of Gentiles into the family of God just as the Israelites. Though the gentiles have been called late did not imply that less salvation for them. But all Jews and gentiles called, receive the same measure of salvation.

This parable also applies to us today regarding our relationship with God and with one another. God loves cradle Catholics who practice their faith throughout their lives. God also loves those who respond to his call to salvation during the day and even in the evening. God rejoices in those who also respond to God’s mercy at the end of their lives. God loves the faithful son and embraces the prodigal son who returns home (Luke 15). It is a courageous act of humility to turn from a sinful life and believe in the Lord’s mercy. What matters is that they are at peace with God now. God loves Catholics who have grown since childhood in the faith, and he rejoices over the converts. We rejoice in those who join the faith or return to the faith. We don't consider ourselves better than them because we are all adopted children of God.

Love celebrates the gifts and achievements of other people. The celebration of love is the right and fitting praise to God the giver of all. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Forgiveness Heals and Renews

SCRIPTURE: Sirach 27: 30-28:7; Romans 14: 7-9; Matthew 18: 21-35.

“Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?”.

I remember my days in grade schools that our rule of forgiveness used to be limited to three times. Beyond three times it turned physical. Even after exchanging blows and wrestling with each other, the elders among us would separate the fighting parties, give them quick advice, and make them shake hands as signs of reconciliation. This meant a return to forgiveness and a relationship of respect and mutual love began. Forgiveness heals and renews both parties.

In his question, Peter wanted to confirm whether seven times could be the perfect way to forgive a fellow brother. Maybe, Jesus thought it quickly to the end process. After seven times, Peter would do what? Hold a perpetual grudge? That wouldn’t be good for his health and personality. Would Peter pass to vengeance? Vengeance is mine and I will take it, says the Lord (Deuteronomy 32: 35; Romans 12: 19). After all, Peter will not be assured of winning. And even if Peter did, such a process will leave parties in harm and arrogance. Therefore, the perfect way of forgiving is forgiving always. “Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Only forgiveness can bring both the offender and the offended to healing of their wounds and renewal of their interior-self and relationships.

Forgiveness, according to St. John Paul, is primarily a personal choice that has a “divine source and criterion” urging us “to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.”(John Paul II, “No Peace without Justice, No Justice without Forgiveness," § 8.) Forgiveness does not mean forgetfulness but letting go one’s own feeling of hurt and desire to revenge or fear of the offender. It sets free the offender as well as the offended.  Most of us have experienced hurt through intentional or unintentional actions or words or through learned family’s history. In whatever case, forgiveness may be very difficult but not impossible with the grace of God. We ought to bring our hurts and bad feelings before the Lord in prayer and surrender them to God.

For, when we didn’t deserve it, God has forgiven us in Christ Jesus. Through Christ, we have become God’s adopted children. Jesus went on to the ultimate sacrifice of the Cross in order to bring us salvation. The parable of the King, who decided to settle accounts with his servants, shows the kind of God we have.  Our God is a forgiving God, unconditionally forgiving of our sins. God forgives us and expects us to forgive our fellow humans. Apostle Paul calls us to be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5: 1). “And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from you, along with the malice. (Ephesians 4: 30-31). “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” Mt. 5: 7).

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year-A; Keepers of Each Other

SCRIPTURE:  Ezekiel 33: 7-9; Romans 13: 8-10; Matthew 18: 15-20

By our very nature, humans are social beings. There is an interdependence that exists among us. One of the good things that Coronavirus has brought us is a reminder of this very nature of ours. It is as though God was speaking to us through the pandemic that none of us is an island. The masks we now use have no sense if another person did not exist in front of you. By wearing it I am saying that I am protecting you. By your nature, you too reciprocate by wearing one to protect me. The Word of God today, tells us that we are protectors of one another. The wellbeing of the neighbor is for your good. And again, we are responsible for each other's salvation.

God called the prophet Ezekiel to be a watchman or sentinel of the people of Israel. The work of a sentinel in Israel of old was to watch over the city against its enemies. A sentinel, like a security guard of our own time, is not armed to defend us but to alert us of any possible danger. We need one because we cannot be awake all the time or present everywhere all the time. A lack of clarity in some issues of life may make us judge things wrongly. The lack of clarity darkens the mind, leading to wrong choices in life. In such conditions just like during the night or an absence, we need a sentinel, we too need a brotherly correction or alert. Being your brother’s keeper in the family of God is an obligation of love. By alerting your neighbor of the consequences of the wrong he/she is doing you fulfill the law of love.

Daughters and sons of God, the Spirit that summoned you into the Church, remind you that as adopted children of the same father God, you ought to care for one another. Each one of us will be held responsible for the loss of eternal life of any one of us. In order to discharge yourself of such a responsibility you must be a sentinel of your neighbor. For God says “If I tell the wicked, ‘O wicked one, you shall surely die’, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, (…) you shall save yourself.”  (Ez: 33:9).

The manner of making a brotherly correction may determine our success or failure in the relationship with the other. In the above-quoted verse from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, we find the word “dissuade.” To dissuade would mean to persuade somebody not to do something. In order to dissuade someone, the person concerned must feel that the correction is for his/her benefit.

Beyond brotherly correction, Our Lord calls us to reconciliation and unity in our intention during prayer. Being forgiving is a sign of power and not a weakness. Keeping grudges is a weakness and a sin against love. Accepting one’s wrongdoings is strength and grace. For God rejoices in the repentant sinner like the father of a prodigal son. Hence, dear brothers and sisters let us all work for the salvation of all as fellow workers of God.

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Love and Suffering

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 20: 7-9; Romans 12: 1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

Responding to the call of God may make us experience both love and suffering. The Lord Jesus shows us that both love and passion are the way to salvation. About Love, God assures that He is with us. Suffering, the world will always inflict pains on us in attempts to persuade us to abandon the call of God.

The first reading tells a fascinating story of Jeremiah’s relationship with God. The relationship is narrated in romantic words “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped”.  The New American Bible, Revised edition translates this statement as “You seduced me, O Lord , and I let myself be seduced”, offering us a better understanding. This relationship is of love and suffering. When God called Jeremiah to be bearer of his Word, Jeremiah expressed his inability due to his young age. But God encouraged him, and finally touched the mouth of Jeremiah with His hand - giving him the Word. Jeremiah loved his privilege as a messenger of God, a prophet. He gave his entire life to it. However, Jeremiah’s beloved profession brought him suffering. He became a subject of mockery. He felt discouraged and wanted to quit prophesying.

God has called each one of us to bear witness to Him through relationship and functions.  Isn’t the story of Jeremiah our own stories? We undergo similar experience in the call to bear witness to Jesus whether in words or/and deeds? Could you be feeling like quitting your beloved job in the midst of challenges? Or breaking your beloved relationship because of the current suffering? Remember the tones of love that you have enjoyed throughout the years and the opportunity the present suffering might be offering you to bring holiness to your spouse.

Jeremiah remembered the love with which God had loved him and his loving response to God. “It becomes like fire burning in my heart”, he said. Jesus, the incarnate word of God, himself could not resist this burning fire of love and went forth unto the cross. He died for love of us and His heavenly Father. Poor Peter had not understood this logic of love and suffering. Like a young soldier who had loved so much to become one and defend his nation, run away from the battlefield when the moment of defending the nation came. His commander made him reflect how glorious was the moment of the battle, an opportunity to bring victory home and a chance to make our people proud and secure.

So, the Master reminds us today “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”.  Love challenges suffering and overpowers it. Let us pray, dear beloved that the Spirit of God may keep us burning with the fire of love. And that love may help us remain faithfully committed to witness to Christ through word and actions.

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Knowing one’s Purpose in Life.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 22: 19-23; Romans 11: 33-36; Matthew 16: 13-20

In the prayer for vocations that we always say at the end of the intercessions during Mass, we say that God created each of us for a "definite purpose". In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells Simon Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter (Rock), and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it….”

The Lord Jesus reveals to Simon Peter his purpose in life from that day on. He tells Simon about his future responsibility by promising to give him the keys. Simon, who had been a fisherman by profession and a student of Jesus since he had met him, would need to prepare himself for this future way of serving God and society.

You and I might ask, How will I know my purpose in life according to God’s will? In the first place, we should consider ourselves as most blessed because the Holy Spirit has been outpoured upon us as adopted daughters and sons of God. And God's Spirit speaks to our spirits. We learned from the Baltimore Catechism that God created us so that we may know Him, love Him and serve Him. The third purpose, among the threefold purposes above, demands our continuous discernment so that we may know what form of service we ought to render to our society in accordance with God’s Will. Hence, we are called to get acquainted with God's ways as we seek daily to know Him. We ought God our committed love and attachment. As a result, God in his kindness and at his appointed time will let our spirits know the type and form of service, and guarantee us his accompaniment.

In the case of the Apostle Peter, the Gospel shows us that he had come to know the Lord despite Jesus’ humble state as a human being. He had loved him so much. And the Lord revealed to Peter his future type of service.

The first reading carries a different story of the failure of Shebna and the rise of Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. God had entrusted Shebna with the honorable office, comparable to that of White House Chief of Staff, over the King’s palace. But Shebna became arrogant and abusive to the citizens of Israel. That means he stopped serving God and society and began to serve himself. Eliakim, on the contrary, is described as a servant of God and promised to replace Shebna. Eliakim will be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the entire Judah. This second story confirms the story of Peter in the case of Eliakim and encourages us to remain faithful in the service of God and fellow humans. Otherwise, we shall suffer the humiliation of Shebna when the authority will be taken away from us.

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; The Prayer of Humility of the Canaanite Woman

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 56: 1, 6-7; Romans 11: 13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15: 21-28

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15: 24, 26)

The above statements entail what Jesus carried with him as an Israelite from Nazareth, the prejudices of his own people and against his people as a human being. He knew well what preconceived ideas and attitudes Israel and especially Judah thought and believed about themselves and their neighbors.

The Siro-Phoenicians preceded the Israelites as inhabitants of the region. They were known also as Canaanites. Israel invaded this land under the leadership of Joshua, successor to Moses. The Siro-Phoenicians were renowned for business deals and navigation around the coasts of Africa through the Mediterranean Sea, Red sea and the Persian Gulf. They lived along the East-coast of Israel, Gaza Strip and West-Bank of today. Jesus paid a visit to this region with his disciples and encountered this wonderful woman. Her baby girl was very ill. She asked and pleaded with Jesus to heal her.  She had learned and believed in Jesus, a man from Galilee of Judah, as having power to heal. She knew what she wanted from Jesus. She didn’t regard the cultural barriers that separated them from the Israelites. She acknowledged the power of God working in Jesus of Nazareth. She persisted in asking Jesus to heal her daughter. Finally, she got it. And Jesus admired her faith.

What does this story say to us today?

  • First, I learn that whoever God chooses must come from a particular people and cultural background with its limitations. Even God’s only begotten Son was born in a given society with all its cultural baggage.
  • Second, God’s power is not hindered by culture and belief.
  • Third, faith transcends and purifies culture. The Canaanite lady overlooked culture with its prejudices and saw God in Jesus of Nazareth. God is for all people. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”, says the Lord. (Isaiah 56:7)
  • Fourth, the woman’s persistence shows her humility before God. Humility is a necessary disposition for all to approach God and find favor with Him.

Let us learn from this encounter between the Canaanite woman and Jesus the virtue of humility, persistence and going beyond our cultural boundaries to meet God in our neighbor and the stranger.

A little advice: Remember this teaching when you are choosing a new doctor or just visiting your old one.

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; God in the chaos

SCRIPTURE: 1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a; Romans 9: 1-5: Matthew 14: 22-33

In our everyday conversations, it isn’t unusual that someone responds to your greeting, “How are you?,” by “I am hanging in there.” What this answer may mean is the person is going through doubts and uncertainty. The individual feels like walking on non-solid ground, on the water.  As wonderful and beautiful as life might be, it can also be very frightening. The natural processes of creation and conflicts generated by human beings and their institutions engender turbulent events and times. These turbulent events and times may be very threatening to life and unsettling. They are chaotic. They may last from the shortest moment to a very prolonged period extending to several years. The Second World War lasted five years while the Cold War took forty-five year to come to end. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in South Korea has left three hundred and three dead; 13,543 recovered and 14,519 persons infected. There are still 673 sick (as of August 7, 2020). We can say the Koreans see the end of Covid-19 from their country within reach. But for us, we can only hope to experience freedom from Covid-19 as long as it takes.

These days are chaotic times for us. Our medical personnel are struggling to find an appropriate treatment that leads to cure while fighting for their own survival every day of duty.  The sick are suffering alone separated from family members. Our political leaders are negotiating between human survival, economics and their own political careers as they face the ballot box. Faith and doubt have become tidal waves of the Christian person. But, where is God? What does he want to say to us through our chaos? “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid”; these words of assurance come from the mouth of Jesus at a time that his disciples were in serious trouble in the face of the chaos created by storms and waves of the lake. Similarly, in the chaos of the strong and heavy wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks, the earthquake and the fire, the Lord God appeared to Elijah in the tiny whispering sound. The Lord brought to end the threatening chaos. Where is God; he is in our chaos and invites us to be courageous and not to fear. His power is there to bring calm and normalcy to our lives and end the chaos that surrounds us. God wants us to understand and depend on his power at work in creation; he remains the Master of all forces despite the threat of chaos.

Prophet Elijah found himself in a cave on Horeb, because he was running for his own life. King Ahab (874-853) and Jezebel wanted him dead. He was afraid and doubted just as the disciples were in the boat. In the chaotic judgement, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus, where was his father God? The father of Our Lord Jesus was present with him. Possibly saying to Jesus, courage; be not afraid; I am with you. God does not abandon us in our chaos. He raised his Son Jesus from the dead. He brought calm and assurance to Elijah. He calmed the stormy lake and gave peace to the disciples.

Let us, dear brothers and sisters, hold firm to faith and have courage to brave our times of tribulations and trials. May the Spirit of the Father and of his Son Jesus help us all.

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Give them some food Yourselves

Scripture: Isaiah 55: 1-3; Romans 8: 35, 37-39; Matthew 14: 13-21

Today’s readings present us with a God who is so generous  and invites us to come to him for water, grain, wine and milk freely and without money. The Gospel starts with the reaction of Jesus at the news of the beheading of John the Baptist and proceeds with the story of the feeding of five thousand and more persons. For me, this first verse of today's Gospel encapsulates the meaning of the rest of the text.

From the human perspective, Jesus was a relative of John Baptist. It is John who baptized Jesus and presented him to the world. From John’s company, Jesus got two of his close collaborators. John understood Jesus well and Jesus appreciated John profoundly. He knew John profoundly well. Jesus would later say about John that among those born of women there is none greater than John. Therefore, having lost to a brutal death someone so dear and valuable, Jesus withdrew to a deserted place to be alone, to pray.

But people wouldn’t give him a break; they arrived ahead to wait for him. In your personal case, how would you have reacted to such a situation? Wouldn’t you have asked to be left alone and take some time to grieve? But, Jesus shepherd’s heart was moved with compassion and began to teach the people. By caring for the people instead of taking care of himself, Jesus seems to answer Saint Paul speaking in the second reading, what will separate me from the love of people? The people I came to redeem? Jesus’ love for us is full of passion that nothing would deter him from loving us and loving us to his own death. And in response we can declare with Saint Paul too, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The disciples got exhausted and wanted a break now. They asked the  Lord Jesus to dismiss the people. Do you know why these disciples wanted to dismiss the people? I suspect they wanted to enjoy their dinner of five loaves and two fish alone. Jesus refused to send the people away but told the disciples to give food to the people.  The disciples thought what they had as food was too little to share. Like most of us, we think we don’t have enough for ourselves and to give away. But the Lord proves us the contrary; nothing is too small to share if we were generous enough and trusting in God’s providence.

When we invite God in to whatever we do, the results will be astonishing. What we thought earlier we were incapable to achieve, becomes possible and within our reach. What we were unable to understand becomes clear to our comprehension and articulation. God provides us with necessities of life free of charge. What God has to offer is satisfying and will be long lasting compared to all else for which people spend their money on. That’s why the prophecy of Isaiah declares, “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.

May the Holy Spirit enlighten each of us to grasp the passionate love of Christ Jesus for us.

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Your Treasure and Pearl

SCRIPTURE: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8: 28-30; Matthew 13: 44-52

The word of God in today’s readings, calls us to introspection, self-examination of what treasure or pearl each one of us has so far found in life. King Solomon desired and searched for Wisdom as his treasure. He found that wisdom would be fundamental to success in his leadership and personal life. God granted it to him because he had asked for an unselfish thing. Wisdom didn’t only give Solomon the ability to conduct his royal duties but provided him joy and balance in his life.

Apostle Paul found Jesus and his Gospel as the most treasurable realities in his life. With joy he abandoned his privileges as Pharisee and well trained disciple of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and went to proclaim Christ and more disciples for Jesus. He testifies to us that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). Paul speaks here according to his own experience.

The reaction of the one who finds a treasure or pearl is joy. Joy is followed by a conversion, a radical change of the orientation of one’s own life. The Gospel tells us that when a person finds a treasure, he hides it safely and out of joy goes and sells all he has and buys that field. What does that mean to us?

Finding the treasure implies searching for something not obvious, not in the open. A treasure is something or reality that possesses great value.

The Hidden-Treasure in the field means something/reality of great value that necessitates digging/tedious work that is manual or intellectual or spiritual. ‘Selling all that one has’ signifies detaching oneself of all that used to have value and investing oneself totally in the new.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, will you ask yourself whether you found your treasure in life today? And what have you done with it? Today is your day to distinguish what you could die for from what you would let go. For the moment of judgement is certain. Which side will you find yourself?

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Growing in Relationship with the Lord Jesus

SCRIPTURE: WISDOM 12: 13, 16-19; PSALM 86; ROMANS 8: 26-27; MATTHEW 13:24-43

The Lord Jesus teaches us today through three parables. First of all we ought to remember that the Word of God is like a double-edged sword. All three parables touch the interior self and the external world of people. The reign of God is growing in each heart and in the world.

I would prefer starting this reflection with the parable of the mustard seed. The growth of a mustard seed into becoming a large bush makes me think about the natural growth of a human baby. A biologist sees the origin of a baby from a microscopic size into a small baby who appears on the day of birth. The family rejoices to receive a new member in their household. That baby enters into its new family without knowing any of the members but only recognizes its dependence on the mother. Some years later, the same baby becomes a genius in human science with the ultimate scholarly degree. Just think about it! From the womb, God planted a seed of intelligence in the baby. However, the process of life of that baby was nurtured and provided with the proper environment for the development of its intellectual capacity.

The same could be said of the human relationship with Jesus. The life of grace received from God ought to be nurtured and developed in the course of life so that one may grow in holiness. For God has redeemed us and filled us with the Holy Spirit. It is our responsibility to allow it to grow. A Christian family is the first school for promoting spiritual growth and closer relationship with Jesus. Personal reading and meditation on the Holy Scripture makes one acquainted with God and his Son and the Holy Spirit. Bible reading helps one model one’s own life on the life of Jesus. The Church gathering brings the Word and life of Jesus actually into the proclaimed Word and the Last Supper shared. Slowly and habitually, God’s reign becomes dominant in the individual Christian. One’s life changes and becomes visibly animated by faith, hope and charity.

Such a life radiates to others around and helps other individuals to undergo the same process of growth in the spirit. The world gets transformed through the work of evangelization of the mature Christians to reach out and bring others to Christ. Those who accept Christ in their lives form the Church. The Church members continue with their on-going growth in the Lord until the full revelation of the children of God.

The continued growth in the Lord implies that we are never a finished product but a product in the process of improvement. A Christian is a student in the school of Jesus, the teacher. The parable of wheat and weeds intervenes here to teach us that there is both good and the bad in each of us as well as in the world. From Romans 7:19, we read, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”  Apostle Paul acknowledges the struggle and need for ongoing conversion needed by every Christian. This means that Paul was still fighting the weeds in him, just as most of us are. But, God in his providence and leniency allows us to live on and provide with help to us until the day He calls us. God doesn’t end up with us on the day of our death but purifies us even in the after death in order to welcome us.

The parable of yeast in a mixture of wheat flour emphasizes on the growth of the reign of God in the heart and the world. The influence of the reign of God cannot be negligible. The Word of God has changed an extraordinary number of people and permeated the life of some individuals so profoundly that they, in turn, took actions that changed the course of the world.

The Word of God remains a double edged sword; it cuts both the self and the other as well. It grows in me and in you. So let us abide by the school of Jesus. And the Spirit of God will assist us to be good students of his Son.

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; The Gratuitousness and Effectiveness of the Word of God

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 55: 10-11; Romans 8: 18-23; Matthew 13: 1-23

Today’s Word of God calls us to respond positively by showing a change in our life.

Prophet Isaiah compares God’s Word to rain and snow that come down and causes change to land and all that stands on it. It gives seed to the one who sows. The Lord Jesus teaches the parable of the sower where the seed is the Word of God and the ground is the human person. Both teachings are centered on the gratuitousness of the Word of God and its effects. The prophecy of Isaiah and the teaching of Jesus Christ complement each other while reinforcing the same message.

God speaks to every one of us the same Word but in various ways. God may speak to you through the Holy Scriptures, another human being and medians of human communication, as well as through natural events. Every human being hears God’s Word like the rain falls on all, the good as well as the bad. But it gives seeds only to the farmers who prepared their fields and sowed. Such is the word that comes from the mouth of God. And when sowing the seeds fall on different surfaces. If the Word of God finds your heart not open to receive it, it hits a rock and can’t cause an effect in your life. Sometimes, the rock is a particular dimension of your life that resists change and perpetuates sin. When the Word finds, you resemble a path, it enters, you may even share it with others but without drawing any benefits from it but those who heard it from you, take advantage of it. When you open your ears to the Word, with positive disposition, God’s Word comes into you and transforms your life. It puts you on the way of a continued transformation of every other dimension of your life. One becomes a new creation animated by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

This is what we called to be: new creation. As we listen to God’s Word preached to us or read it from the Bible, with prepared and open hearts, let us receive it with conviction for God neither errors nor leads into mistakes. God is the source of all truth. His Word gives life and leads us into the full truth.

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year-A; Yoke & Burden

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 11: 25-30; Romans 8: 9, 11-13; Zechariah 9: 9-10

As we celebrate our Independence Day, our thoughts should turn to the Founding Fathers who searched to affirm their human dignity, ability to govern themselves, and live in liberty. These aspirations of the Founding Fathers are still shared by us today and by the immigrants of tomorrow. Such aspirations are heavenly and embedded in human nature.

The Lord Jesus reveals himself to us in the Gospel reading of today as the Son of God, who alone knows his Father and praises Him for unfolding his truth to the childlike. Jesus declares himself as a humble and meek teacher and invites us to his school. His open arms are ready to welcome any and everyone who comes to him with one’s difficulties and problems. 

The virtues of humility and meekness imply simplicity in thought and lifestyle, openness to God, and true knowledge of the self in relation to others.

Jesus’ invitation to the baptized people means living according to the Spirit of Christ that dwells in them. The yoke of sin is heavier than the one of righteousness that Jesus offers. Living a life of faith, hope and charity assure us happiness now and after. The burden that comes with the following Jesus brings joy; while an immoral life promises only short-lived joys followed by a bad reputation and eternal suffering.

In simple terms, Jesus wants us to walk with him and not alone. And our journey of life will be easier and happier.

May the Spirit of Christ free us from the yoke and burden of selfishness and lead us to experience the joy that is in Christ Jesus.


Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time; Year-A; Scripture Reflections

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 19: 37-42; Romans 6: 304, 8-11; 2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16a

A couple of years ago, a young lady, a teenager, asked to see me. During our conversation, she spoke that her parents were no longer treating her well. She got fewer gifts. What she asked for, she never got. And the list was long. I inquired about her activities in the house. She mentioned a number of things she did for herself. What do you do for your parents? She replied, “Nothing.” Who makes breakfast for you? She answered, “Mom does it.” Then, I requested her permission to petition something from her. She allowed me and I seized the opportunity to recommend that she voluntarily prepare breakfast for her parents on the weekends a few times before I were to meet her again in four weeks. Her first breakfast for her parents delighted them. Soon after the young lady came to discover how much she was loved by her parents.

Today’s first reading shows us the generosity of the lady from Shunem. Her hospitality and graciousness touched the heart of Prophet Elisha, who in return sought to answer to her greatest need, a baby boy. The lady anticipated the need of Elisha without thinking about herself and the cost of accommodating a stranger. In the Gospel, Jesus comes to confirm her deed when he says, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward”.

However, the Lord Jesus moves up for a higher demand than just generosity with “stuff”.  Jesus demands a deeper attachment and commitment to him; that is true discipleship. Our relationship with Jesus Christ ought to surpass the most cherished family fidelity. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me …” The disciple’s ultimate preference goes to Jesus Christ.  Discipleship requires our very lives, it calls us to self-abnegation. As disciples, we are oriented towards attending to the need of the other and not ourselves first. We cannot ask what will happen to ourselves whenever an opportunity to assist the other shows up. We commit fully to whatever we have to do, despite how insignificant the task might appear to be, because Christ must be testified through our deeds. The time we give to the Lord Jesus in all our activities should surpass any other function of our daily living. There is a greater joy in giving than in receiving; and it is in giving that we receive.

It makes sense for us to prefer Christ because he remains forever with us. When our blood relatives disappear from our lives, Jesus abides with us. He secures our present life and the life to come. May the Spirit of the Risen Lord, the advocate, the Holy Spirit enable us to strengthen our loyalty to the Son and the Father so that we may discover the love with which God loves and find joy.

Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time; Year-A; Scripture Reflections

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 10: 26-33; Romans 5: 12-15; Jeremiah 20:10-13

God is a father not only because Jesus is his only begotten Son, but also for his characteristics as a provider, a protector, a defender, a guide, and guardian. The human father draws one’s fatherhood from God and he is reminded constantly to learn from the Father, God in order that he may find happiness in one’s household. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers. Thank you for being there for your family.

Peter and Smith went looking for jobs, they find a business that was hiring. Both entered the employment office just to encounter the very top boss at the desk. They made their intention known and the boss had two offers for them. The first job would last two weeks only for a lump sum of fifty-thousand dollars only. The second job would last several years but for an annual take-home of thirty-thousand dollars plus benefits. The two men paused for a moment and Smith said, ‘I know what I want’. The boss responded by asking Smith to write his choice down. After a little longer, Peter stepped up to jot down his intention. Finally, the boss unveiled the choices, Smith wanted a two weeks job and leave with his fifty-thousand quick cash. Peter had chosen long term employment. Who of the two men would have greater love and loyalty to his boss? I leave the answer to you. Satan promises are for quick joy and short-lived. God’s promise is for eternal happiness despite the temporal suffering now. 

By sending the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel, Jesus tells them not to fear, because he will be their support to his father. Thus God had promised the prophet, Jeremiah, to be his support against his enemies, he who delivers the poor from the power of the wicked. Why does Jesus exhort his disciples not to be afraid? And why Prophet Jeremiah declares his confidence and hopes to God’s support and protection? Jesus is aware of the evil in the world and the threat his disciples would experience in the process of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. However, the disciples are called to cooperate with the grace of God poured out in abundance for their eternal life. We, too, experience evil in our lives. But, the abundant grace given us through Jesus Christ is far greater than the condemnation brought about by sin.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Matthew 10: 28A disciple of Jesus is called to have courage and zeal in the face of evil and wicked people as he/she fulfills the mission of Jesus. The reason for the disciple to be patient in suffering, never fearful but courageous and hopeful for their reward is greater than we can imagine. May the Holy Spirit enlighten your heart to long the greater and eternal happiness that Christ has prepared for you. For the Spirit who have received is not a spirit of cowardice but of power.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year-A; Corpus Christi

SCRIPTURE: John 6: 51-58; I Cor 10: 16-`7; Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a

In our daily language, people speak about being “the bread-winner of the household”. And in our everyday prayer, we ask the heavenly father to give us our daily bread. Today’s first reading tells us that God fed the Israelites manna, a food unknown to their fathers. Bread-winner, daily bread and Manna, these expressions mean more than just what they appear at first sight. When we utter them we mean a lot of things. When we pray for our daily bread, we ask for our daily needs, for what sustain us. What sustains us takes different forms. God still provides Manna to his people every day.

What is it that you ask of God today? What have you been longing for in your prayer these last days? Personal necessities depend on each person and community. One may be in need of a friend, companion, or money; while another asks for a job, good relation, reconciliation or healing and excellent health. For whatever need one might have, among the multiple human necessities and wants, we all pray “give us this day our daily bread”. We hope for God to send us that Manna to help us on our journey to Him. When we receive manna from God, whatever shape it takes, we are called to honor and cherish it.

Moses reminded the Israelites that it was in order to show them that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord that God granted manna. The Word of God is a creative word. It is a healing word; it is a sanctifying word; it is a transforming word. It is a word that gives life. This same word took flesh and lives among us.

When his hour had come, Jesus took his place at the table with his disciples for the last supper. Taking bread, he declared “this is my body for eternal life” and after, Jesus took the cup blessing it, he declared, this is my blood for eternal life. That word of Jesus over bread and cup effected change in the substance of the bread and wine into his own flesh and blood, food for those who believe in him. As he taught the Jews about manna and himself, Jesus insisted that his flesh was really food and his blood, real drink for the life of the world. Jesus, not only gave of his body and blood at the last supper, but proceeded to consummation on the altar of the cross at Calvary.

Therefore, the teachings of Moses and Paul meet each other and point out the deep meaning of what we eat and drink in the Eucharistic celebration. We are sustained by the Word that comes forth from the mouth of God, Jesus Christ, in whose life and giving that we participate as we partake of his flesh and blood. Our participation in the body and blood of Jesus Christ brings us together and makes us realize our unity and communion as children of the same Father, God, with our brother Jesus.

May the Holy Spirit open the heart of each of us to understand the above revealed truth of salvation. Amen.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year-A; The Loving God

SCRIPTURE: John 3:16-18; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9

God has no other desire than to save his people.  In God’s will to save us, he chose to make himself known to us so that we may love him in return and serve him. John the Apostle expresses it so nicely, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Perdition is a human choice and consequence of one’s own lack of faith in the only son of God. God’s love became manifest through His Son whom He sent into the world.

 The Son, Jesus, before ascending to the Father promised and gave the Spirit to the Church so that the love of the Father and the Son might remain present in the world. Last weekend we celebrated the manifestations of the Spirit in its gifts.

Today, we celebrated the full revelation of God in his three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Epistle to the Hebrews remind us that, in times past, God reveled himself partially and in various forms but now through his Son, who is the very refulgence, the very imprint of his being (He 1:1-3).

Moses knew God’s presence by the cloud, but God spoke to him clearly and proclaimed himself as a compassionate and merciful God. In Jesus, we see that compassion and mercy. Through the Spirit’s works of healing, guidance, faith, hope and charity, we witness God’s compassion and mercy.

God’s compassion and mercy does not leave us indifferent but moves us to respond to our fellow human beings with the same feeling and thought that are in Jesus Christ. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us …” (1John 4:11-12). Love should define us in all our relationships, words and works.

Beloved, the events of these last days in our nation, call us to soul searching. We are a people known for generous responses to many unfortunate events in the world and at home. At every disaster, America shows a great spirit of compassion and charity. But from time to time, our domestic issues reveal a lot of flaws in the fabric of our nation. Some of the old ghosts still haunt us. The ongoing protests should not leave us on the sideline watching but enter into the dialogue and process of transforming the unjust and less compassionate system of our society. As Church, we are one body, the Body of Christ. One suffering part of the body affects the whole body. The unity of Holy Trinity invites us into oneness too with God and one another, as we all share the same Spirit of the Father and of the Son.

Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, Year-A; The Revelation of the Spirit

SCRIPTURE: JOHN 20: 19-23; Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Cor 12: 3b-7, 12-13

Jesus, before ascending to the Father, promised the disciples that they were to receive the Power of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came to be known to our senses. The disciples’ eyes perceived tongues as of fire resting on their heads. Their ears heard a noise like a strong wind. They felt the house filled with the power of the Spirit and manifesting the fire of God’s love. The Spirit of the Father and the Son filled the disciples enabling them to proclaim God’s wondrous love without hindrance of languages’ limitations. All present that day were astounded and amazed. The Holy Spirit has chosen a body to live in, the Church is born. And a new age has begun, the age of the Spirit.

 What the disciples had heard and seen on that day, Pentecost day, became prophetic signals of what the Church will go forth witnessing in her life. The newly baptized through water and imposition of hands, receive the Holy Spirit. The community at Corinth testified to the presence of the Holy Spirit dispensing different spiritual gifts to the members, the Body of Christ. The Church is powered up by divine energy that needs just a spark to ignite in with life and joy, just a spark to change your life and my life. It is the Holy Spirit that leads the disciples into missionary trips; it is the Spirit that builds the Church; it is the Spirit that empowers any person to confess that Christ is Lord; it is the Spirit that forgives sins.

Some members of the Church today say that they were baptized and confirmed but never had any experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit. If you, brother or sister in the Lord, share in this question, then it is the time for you to open up your heart to welcome the divine Spirit. Examine your conscience before the Lord, make a sincere confession and pray for the manifestation of  the Holy Spirit in your life. Remember the Lord Jesus saying that his father will give the Holy Spirit to whoever asks him.(Luke 11:13). Trust in the Lord and stay constant in your love for Jesus. At the appropriate moment of God, the gift will be granted you for the building of the Church.

On a note of testimony, 317 years ago, a young seminarian at a Jesuit college in Paris, France, together with some friends of his, prayed on that Pentecost day for the Spirit’s gifts. The little group soon formed into a community that will receive the mission of Jesus to minister to the less fortunate members of their cities. This community was put under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Through the three centuries, the Holy Spirit has led them and those who followed them to the ends of the earth. So, the Congregation of the Holy Spirit was born, spread and reached to you. These are the Spiritans to whom I belong as a religious-missionary in the Church. Let us all celebrate with rejoicing and gladness the outpouring of the Spirit, the birth of the Church and the birth of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit.

Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year-A; Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 28: 16-20; Ephesians 1:17-23; Acts 1: 1-11

The celebration of the Ascension of our Lord concludes forty days of the resurrection of Christ. During this perfect number of days, the Risen Lord has been appearing, teaching his disciples and assuring them of his presence amongst them. He strengthened the disciples to bear witness to his resurrection. He spoke about the kingdom of God. He promised the disciples their reception of the empowering Spirit of the Father and the Son. And finally, the disciples saw his elevation and the Father, God, took him to himself, placing him at his right hand. The story of the Acts of the Apostles tells us of entering the cloud which is a symbol of God’s presence from Moses’ time. Hence, Jesus has received all power in heaven and on earth. This event marks a turning point in the life of the Church. The Church can no longer cling to the bodily appearances of Jesus, but depend on his spiritual presence. The disciples can no longer contemplate Jesus in the flesh but go forth to bear witness, to proclaim the wonders of God and make other disciples for Jesus.

Today’s Gospel ends with the great commissioning of the disciples. Life changed suddenly for the disciples, so it has with us today, by the Lord’s command: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

This command is the mission of the Church. Christ’s assurance of his presence makes the Church his new appearance, his body. Hence we are the Body of Christ. As Body of Christ, we ought to continue with his mission. Christ does not only give us a mission without empowering us. Next Sunday, we will celebrate the Church’s reception of the empowering Spirit, the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who propels and compels us into the work of evangelization. We are sent to win people for Christ as individual members of the Church, as parish Church, as diocesan Church and universal Church.

At a personal and parish level, we are called to overcome the temptation of turning inwardly and concentrating at maintaining ministry. That means, I look after my spiritual welfare alone; we work at providing the best worship service, teach our parishioners only and nourish them through the sacraments. Nothing wrong with this, but the end purpose of our spiritual strength is to go out and bring in the lost sheep. For a Church that abandons its mission is bound to disappear. The Lord’s commission reminds us of our holy call, to proclaim Christ’s wonderful work of love, by our witness of life and confessing Christ by our words. Let us pray that we may realize the presence of Christ in us and be courageous to proclaim him by word and witness of life to that we meet.

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year-A; Sanctify Christ in your Hearts

SCRIPTURE: John 14: 15-21; 1Peter 3:15-18; Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20; Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

The Apostle Peter invites us to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts (1 Peter 3: 15). This exhortation to acknowledge Christ’s holiness in the inner self of each one of us is intended to lead us to discover and experience the love of Christ. As Disciples of Christ, we respond to his love with a holy obedience to his commands. It is Christ’s holiness that gives Christians both strength to share in the suffering of their Teacher patiently and courage to bear witness to their faith in the resurrection.

Indeed, the holiness of Christ ought to be lived and seen in our style of living. Each one of us, Christian, must always be ready to articulate our faith in Jesus in a way that speaks to others. Our good deeds cannot speak loud enough if we are not able to explain to others the reason for those works. They would be considered as simple humanitarian and altruistic acts. A Christian goes beyond what is humanitarian to the recognition of Christ’s present in the other.

A Christian's deed reflects the love of God manifested to us through Jesus Christ. It is in living a true Christian life that we will bear witness to our obedience to Christ and bring others to Christ. Philip, the deacon, preached the Gospel to the Samaritans and his word was confirmed by his deeds. We hear his story in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles [8: 5—8, 14-17].

Today’s Gospel, [John 14: 15-21], begins to clarity our lesson of sanctifying Christ by teaching us about love and obedience. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. In ordinary life, a child obeys one’s parents because he or she knows that the parents love him or her. In this line of thinking, obedience is a consequence of love while love remains the locomotive. Such is the love of God for us. Before we came to be in this world, God and his Son loved us. Out of God’s love, creation came to be.

Again, while we were still sinners, the Father’s love sent the only begotten Son to redeem us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” [John 3:16], Jesus said to Nicodemus. Because God loved us, he sent his Son our redeemer. This connection between love and action entails the link between love and obedience.

The Apostle Paul, [Phil 2:6-11], describes Christ’s obedience to his Father unto death on the cross. Because of his obedience, God exalted him. Obedience to God isn’t just some kind of external act where we strive to do the right thing to somehow earn God’s favor. Obedience flows from love, not an outward performance. Obedience is our reaction against temptation and sin. It is our victory over sin and temptation. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in us both to desire and to work. In our struggle to follow Christ’s commandment of love, we ought to reaffirm and assert the love God has given us.

Therefore, beloved of Christ, is there an area of your life that still resists obeying God? Is there a dimension of your life that does not acknowledge Christ’s love for you? Let us pray that Christ may help each one of us to recognize his tremendous love for you and me.

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year-A; Christ’s Exaltation

SCRIPTURE: John 14: 1-12; 1Peter 2:4-9; Acts 6:1-7

In today’s Gospel, Jesus had told his disciples about his going to God who he calls his Father in order to prepare and assure them the best conditions of life. He promised to go ahead of them and make arrangement for them so that they too may share in Christ’s exaltation. Jesus’ concerns were to strengthen their confidence and purpose as a new community. The disciples had, until then, depended on Jesus and hoped for greater days for each one of them around the Messiah King of Israel.

With this announcement of an imminent departure, the disciples became anxious and troubled. Uncertainties settled in their hearts. Questions began to arise: a quest for knowledge, a taste of vulnerability and a search for reassurance. But, calm and peace of mind will come only if the disciples put their trust in the person, Jesus, speaking to them.

We, too, have experienced a period of great uncertainties since March with the news of the pandemic of COVID-19 in our country and neighborhoods. We questioned for the nature of the illness, its symptoms and possible consequences to each of us personally. We have realized our vulnerabilities and the fragility of all that we depend on daily. Families and Christian communities have been threatened by quarantines. The recent news of return to work and communal worship plunge us into doubts. Confidence seems to be slow coming, definitely for good reasons.

Just like the disciples of old, we are invited to place our faith in Jesus talking to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” John 14:1. Our peace of mind and interior calm will come when you and I begin to have confidence in Jesus Christ who is the high priest and unique mediator between us and God. Jesus has made of the Church a kingdom of priests for his father and God. With their firm faith in Christ and God, the disciples exercised their priestly ministry in the new community, each one, according to one’s vocation and in accord with the spiritual gifts received. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles bears witness to way the disciples lived together, experienced difficulties, overcame their challenges and throve throughout the centuries.

The Church proposes this theme of the exaltation of Jesus today in order for us to prepare for the coming feast of Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ and as a matter of fact, to awaken confidence in us of the promise of the Lord: “Where I am you also may be” John 14:4. It is only by following the manner of living as Jesus, believing in his word that we can be like him and alive for all eternity with the Father. Hence, Jesus declared to Apostle Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6

Therefore, my brothers and sisters let us pray that the Lord may strengthen our faith so that we may look forward to our own exaltation with joy. “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year-A; Jesus, the Gate and Shepherd

SCRIPTURE: John 10: 1-10; 1Peter 2: 20b-25; Acts 2: 14a, 36-41

On this fourth Sunday of Easter, the Church invites us to pray, calling upon the Lord God to choose among us women and men who will serve in his name as shepherds of God’s people. The Church celebrates the world day of vocations.

The Word of God presents us Christ, who is the Shepherd and gate for his flock. In the course of his teaching, Jesus used the imageries of the shepherd and the gate to describe the relationship between himself and his followers. In today’s gospel, Jesus calls himself first as the shepherd and later as the gate that gives access to salvation. Jesus and the people who listened to his teaching were all aware of the role of an ordinary shepherd and that of the gate of the sheepfold. Jesus himself might have shepherded some sheep belonging to Saint Joseph or a relative of theirs. He understood how close and passionate a shepherd related to his flock.

Such a relationship could be likened to that of a Brazilian cowboy and his horse, who loved each other so intensely that when the cowboy suddenly died on a motorcycle accident, the horse did something incredible. It was during the funeral procession, when the white horse arrived, approached the coffin of its master, sniffed it and gently posed its head on the coffin. Then, the horse cried so loud that it made most of the attendants at the funeral shed tears.

Jesus, the shepherd, wants us to understand that he knows each one of us by name. He cares for each one of us in a unique way. He guides us through life’s unpredictable circumstances and leads us to the Father for eternal happiness.

As the gate, Jesus tells us that he is the sole and surest mediator between us and the Heavenly Father.

In response to the shepherd, the flock listens to the voice of their shepherd. The sheep follow and let themselves be guided. As, disciples of the Risen Lord, we are invited to listen to the Word of God, Jesus speaking to us, and follow him. We follow Jesus because though he was crucified, God has made him both Lord and Christ. We follow him because he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. We follow him because he has touched our lives and transformed us into his own brothers and sisters.

Jesus, the shepherd, provides each one of us with a challenge to be leaders to our fellow human beings, beginning with our own family to wherever else we may find ourselves. A leader cares, shines light for others to see, and walks the walk.

As the gate, you and I ought to remember that we serve as entry points to the Church and to a better life for other people. When through the witness of our style of life, others get the desire to enter the Church or to repent and return to faith. Through our good example of life and oral testimony, fellow Catholics may decide to improve on their ethical and moral living.

The gate doesn’t serve only as an access point but also a protection against the aggressor, the ancient enemy and father of lies. Jesus defends all who belong to him and protects them at all times.

It is with such confidence that we approach Jesus today in our worship, with gratitude and trust that he may make us  guardians, guides and caretakers of our fellow human beings and of nature.

Third Sunday of Easter, Year-A; The Journey of Life

SCRIPTURE: Luke 24:13-35

Life and living resemble to a long walk. A walk that could last minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades. In the process of time, actions, persons and events intertwine creating a pitch, rhythm, melody, harmony and dynamics like a music. As people, we enter into the dance. Just as during a nice evening of musical performance, a surprising event may happen; like seeing the hair of a lead musician caught in a fire! Or again, the lead singer and boss of the band, dropping dead on stage at the climax of performance! Not to mention a gun battle breaking up in the dance. When such an event happens, our joys change into shock, disappointment and sadness.

The Evangelist Luke tells us in chapter twenty four, the story of Cleopas and his companion walking to the village of Emmaus. They had left their fellow disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem. This walk might have lasted three to four hours. It is a long walk. It is a journey on foot.  It is a journey on the earth. The two sojourners had experienced thrilling moments such as the triumphant entry in Jerusalem, the healing the sick, the cleansing of the Temple and the most memorial dinner in the upper room.

While all seemed to move excitingly, there intervened the first shocking event, the arrest of the Teacher, the Son of David, the Messiah. Then, there came the crucifixion of the one they had hoped to liberate Israel. The scandal of the Cross crushed their hopes and aspirations. The disciples were overwhelmed with grief. The story of the empty tomb couldn’t shine any light into hope or bring some consolation. Along their sad journey, Cleopas and his fellow disciple were joined by a stranger who chose to walk with them.  The stranger’s words went deep into the hearts of Cleopas and his fellow disciple. As they approached their destination, these sojourners couldn’t let the stranger go his way, they begged him “stay with us”.

Dear brothers and sisters, in our own journey of life, similar events have happened. From the comfort of our days before someone said a child has been born, through the secure environment of the home, into our adult life, we have experienced the ups and downs of life. A long interruption from our Church’s liturgical life as we now experience, we might be asking ourselves, where is Jesus?  But, we are listening or watching the celebration of Mass on TV, Internet or live on teleconference.  Some of the homilies are moving and motivating. However, the end of the Media celebration, we feel still missing something. We feel hanging there. It feels like a party that was interrupted before its conclusion. Jesus is in our midst. He walks with us daily. He speaks to us primarily through the Bible. Jesus speaks to us through the preached Word and sharing of our fellow brothers and sisters. The pain of the present moment for most Catholics lays in the lack of Holy Communion. Our being with Jesus feels like the experience of the disciples of Emmaus without getting to the breaking of the bread. We can’t be fulfilled until we share that bread of life.

Today, let us invite Jesus to stay with us, in our family and home after we have listened to his word. Let us ask Jesus to make a spiritual communion with us a reality so that we may feel filled of his presence.

Divine Mercy Sunday, Year-A

Scripture: Luke 24:13-35; 1Peter 1:17-21; Acts 2:14, 22-23

The Divine Mercy Sunday takes place on eighth day of Easter and the tenth day after the crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It reflects the old Day of Atonement in Israelite calendar as described in the book of Leviticus (16; 23:26-31). The feast of Atonement meant the day of God’s forgiveness; it celebrated the mercy of God towards His people.

In the context of the Apostles, they deserted, denied and one of them betrayed their Teacher and master, Jesus of Nazareth on the evening of the Last Supper. But on Good Friday, Jesus died for them, instead of them suffering the eternal separation from God. Jesus’s act of redemption on the cross was reflected too in the brave and generous action of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II. That’s what Jesus did for you and me so that we may live in the presence of God for ever.  Humanity stood damned until Jesus accepted to suffer and die in order to redeem it. While Blessed Maximillian Kolbe afforded the stranger only temporal life, Jesus won for us all eternal life. When Jesus had completed his mission of redeeming and saving you and me, he says “It is finished” (John 19:30); he handed over the spirit. Jesus didn’t look at us with the eye of justice but with his all-encompassing mercy. Hence, we celebrate this day with humble but joyful hearts, grateful to Jesus for his mercy.

When he had arisen from the dead, Jesus came to his disciples, brought them peace and joy. He said to the disciples, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). The disciples rejoiced at seeing Him. Jesus entrusted his mission to the disciples. He could trust them again because he had totally forgiven them. He set a model for us to follow his footsteps. He grants us the power to forgive our brothers and sisters who do us wrong. He empowered His Church to grant forgiveness, to show God’s mercy to sinners and absolve from their sins. Through the ministry of the Church and in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, priests administer absolution of people’s sins and reconcile them to their Father, God and the body of Christ, the Christian community. For this reason, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit in the disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins who retain are retained.” (John 20:22-23).

What does mercy mean? God’s mercy? In order to understand the meaning of God’s mercy, let us call upon the Apostle John who teaches us the following: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16). My brothers and sisters, just consider a chameleon, it changes colors according to its environment. So it can be compared to the divine love when it encounters a sinner, it becomes mercy. “No one has greater love than this, to lay one’s life for one’s friends.” I can only accept to die in your place if my dying will pay for your life. Therefore, beloved, we celebrate today the saving mercy of God that invites us to believing in His only Son and repenting our sins so that we may have life with God. May God be praised.

Easter Sunday, Year-A; The Empty Tomb

Scripture: John 20: 1-9; Colossians 3:1-4; Acts 10: 3a, 37-43

The current crisis of the Coronavirus has provided us all with a rare and unique experience of Easter. This Easter feels like the first Sunday that the early disciples and Apostles lived. They were hiding behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. We, too, are under a “Stay-home-order” for fear of being infected and transmitting the COVID-19 virus. Two brave ladies, the two named Mary, ventured out under the cover of the dark for very important business, to visit the body of Jesus at the tomb. To their greatest surprise and amazement, they encountered an empty tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Peter might have said to himself, come what may; he sprung to his feet for the tomb. The young John couldn’t be held back and outran Peter. But both arrived, saw and believed.

In the 1970s through the 1980s, most developing countries experienced reoccurring revolutions and overturning of governments. Joe Kombo had been incarcerated several times for his opinions and tortured in a jailhouse of his country. One early morning, he was awakened by a clamor of mobs singing chants of victory. When he inquired about the celebration, he was informed that their government had fallen and all prisoners were out. He couldn’t believe it or join in the celebration. He walked out in haste and headed to the jailhouse. He found the mighty doors of the jailhouse wide open. He looked in and shouted for a friend he had left in. There was no response; all the inmates had left free. Free! Free! Free at last; victory day is today! Joe Kombo shouted and joined the celebration.

The Empty Tomb is a sign to us of victory over death. Christ Jesus couldn’t be held bound by the bonds of death. His Father did not abandon the body of Jesus to know decay (Ps 16:10; Acts 2:27). Peter and John came to believe that Jesus had conquered death. Since we believe in the Risen Lord and his power over death, then death is no longer the end of us, our dreams and hopes. We no longer fear. What kills the body, can’t kill the soul (Matthew 10:28). Sin had caused people to fear death. We are now victorious with Jesus. Just as Joe Kombo, we can now say we are free at last; the gates of death that held us in fear of dying and decaying are broken and wide open. These words of Jesus can make sense now: “Amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life … has passed from death to life” (John 5:25).


Palm Sunday, Year-A

Readings: Matthew 21: 1-11; Isaiah 50: 4-7; Philippians 2: 6-11; Matthew 26: 14-27:66

Today, we begin the commemoration of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. What happened on that first day reveals the contrasts and contradictions of our lives. Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee entered triumphantly the city of King David, Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s daughters and sons sung to him hosanna to the son of David. However, he chose to make the entry riding on a donkey, not on a horse. The city of Jerusalem was filled with joy. 

The Epistle to the Philippians tells us about the fidelity of Jesus to his father. Jesus sticks to the reason of him being sent by the father, God. He remains faithful to the bitter end, the cross. But the Gospel narratives start with Judas’ betrayal in contrast to Peter’s affirmation of fidelity, “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be” (Mt 26:33). When came the arrest of Jesus, Peter tried his best to avoid the question of his relationship to Jesus, then succumbed into denial. The people who had acclaimed Jesus during his entry would quickly turn their shouts into a demand for Jesus’ head. However, Jesus who had given even of his body and blood during their last supper, proved his steadfast love for the world to which he brought the saving power of God. 

In this time of “stay home order” and great concern for the menace that presents the Corona Virus, we are going through a strange experience of having to settle only with a TV Mass celebration without Holy Communion. We may have said with Peter, my faith in you Lord will never  be shaken. But, let us stay watchful that we may not follow the example of Judah in his betrayal and Peter’s denial.Your priest offers Masses so that you may share in a spiritual communion. 

Jesus’ cry “Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?”(Mt 27:46), is not a cry of desperation but an expression of the anguish of bringing about salvation to us. He laments his people’s lack of recognizing this moment of God’s visitation. This is our cry when we call upon God’s help. In it we reaffirm our faith in God just as the Lord Jesus did in time of need. And the Father’s answer is always, ‘I am with you’. Hence, God was with his beloved son on the cross. We have a savior who emptied himself becoming one of us; who is capable of sympathizing with us.

As we begin this special Holy Week, dear brothers and sisters, let us follow Jesus’ example of fidelity, humility and sympathy so that until our last day, we may profess like the centurion, “Truly, this (Jesus) was the Son of God”. (Mt 27:54).

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, Year-A

Readings: Daniel 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95; John 8: 31-42
(Please, read the Scriptural texts before beginning the reflections.)

Peace to you beloved in the Lord.

King Nebuchadnezzar imposed on all the inhabitants of his kingdom, the worship of his own god. Faced with the refusal of these three young Israelites to obey to his order of worship, he decided to kill them all by burning them alive. The God of Israel saved them and proved to king Nebuchadnezzar that his god was an empty idol. Nebuchadnezzar was indeed enforcing the cult of personality of himself rather than a worship of a certain divinity.

In the Gospel, Jesus challenges the leaders of Israel who claim belonging to Abraham’s faith, while they intend to kill the Son of God who was sent to them. “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham” ( John 8:39b ), declared Jesus.  In the name of the Jewish orthodoxy, the Leaders chose to have Jesus put to death. True Israelite religion has to be consistent with the faith of Abraham. In fact, Israel’s leaders had turned their political position and status quo into an idol.

The worship of false divinities still exists in our lives. It hides behind all forms of rhetoric and causes. It hides behind all types of devotions and names of divinities. It hides behind the masks of fundamentals and tradition. it hides behind the ideals and ideologies. Beloved brothers and sisters, the Lord invites us to examine ourselves and to look at ourselves in the mirror of Jesus’ love; to believe in the only true God.

May Christ’s love dwell in you, so that all your deeds and all you stand for, may reflect the Love of the Father and his Son Jesus in unity of the Holy Spirit. May God bless and protect you all.

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A; Scripture Reflections

Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 37: 12-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45

(Please, read the Scriptural texts before beginning the reflections.)

From the liturgical perspective, today’s readings prepare us to welcome the good news of the resurrection of the one who was once crucified and dead, Jesus Christ.

The promise of God who will open the graves of the exiled and desperate Israelites, the new life in the spirit and the story of Lazarus’ resuscitation point out to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In turn, the resurrection of Jesus reveals to us the awesome reality that awaits us. “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”, so said Jesus to Martha.

From the spiritual point of view, the little verse 35 of today’s gospel, “And Jesus wept” stuck with me throughout the week. Why shouldn’t Jesus weep at the sight of our many brothers and sisters dead and sick in hospitals. Why shouldn’t Jesus weep at nations that look at loss in the face of the pandemic? Why shouldn’t Jesus weep as he looks at our miserable conditions? Weeping is not a sign of weakness and incapacity in the face of a difficult situation. It is a sign of compassion. Jesus, who loved Lazarus and his sisters so much, felt what they were going through. He feels what you are going through right now.

To borrow this short paragraph from the homily of Father James Gilhooley,  “I go to many funerals. It goes with the job. Often a dead man's friend gives a eulogy. Invariably he says, "We come here not to mourn a death but celebrate a life." I say to myself, "Buddy, if you're not mourning, you're in the wrong church." Jesus shed copious tears at Lazarus' tomb. He wasn't celebrating his life. One wag said, "Christ cried so loudly He woke Lazarus up.” (

The compassionate Jesus cried out so loud that Lazarus, dead and buried for four days, heard him. “Amen, Amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). Lazarus heard that voice and lived. The same voice still resounds around the world, your world and mine. The voice of Jesus can call us back from our graves of fear of sickness and death; the voice of Jesus can pull us from the misery of self-pity and sentiment of imprisonment; the voice of Jesus can call you to hope, courage, love and freedom. The voice of Jesus calls us from sin to life in the Spirit. The voice of Jesus has power over death and life.

The prophet Ezekiel, in the first reading, speaks of Israel’s graves; these graves are not made of stones. They are the graves of the people’s misery, lack of homeland, Temple, Torah, Prophets and priests. They are graves of captivity and exiles. But Ezekiel announces a message of hope, a message of restoration, God’s promise of making things new, giving life. 

I feel how much you miss our communion in the body and blood of Jesus as you watch the celebration of the Holy Eucharist through your televisions and phones. However, we pray that the Word of Christ and his power may fill you with a spiritual communion. The current condition will come to pass. Believe and you will see the glory of God.

Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year-A; Scripture Reflections

Readings: 1Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5: 8-14; Gospel: John 9: 1-41

(Please, read the Scriptures before reading the reflection)

The youngest son of Jesse is anointed. A lad, ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance, not his big brothers; yet from the context of the story, Samuel was sent to anoint a new king who will replace Saul. Why Does God point out to a little boy, David?

I can imagine that Jesse and his sons were left wondering the meaning of the anointing of his youngest son and their little brother. The prophet himself appears to surrender to God’s choice. He is subject to wait for the moment of God in order to see Saul out of the kingship. As a servant of God, Samuel accepts the will of God knowing for sure that God had rejected Saul as king of Israel. Read, 1Samuel 15: 10 - 35.

 A man born blind! The apostles asked Jesus, why did this misfortune happened to him? Because of himself or his parents’ sins? “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”. Why was this man born blind?

Jesus’ answer leaves us too, puzzled. “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (John 9: 3).

The search for meaning is the deepest longing of a human being. We all want to find the WHY of ourselves, things and events. Then, we can move to the HOW question.

In the event of the current pandemic of COVID-19, we don’t miss searching for why. The WHY questions are many as well as the HOW. This Sunday’s readings raise the question that is fitting to our context. Scientists are grabbling on the nature, the behavior of the Coronavirus. And at the same time, they are dealing with how to handle it, to put it under control and to destroy it. The doctors too are trying their best to find a possible appropriate treatment for the illness. 

You and I might be asking why has God let it happen to us, to our world. What does God want to say to us? What a pandemic that has made even the Church shut down to the Congregation!

In the case Samuel, the Seer, God was telling him that the choice of a king for Israel was his call and at his own moment. Samuel needed to surrender his will to that of God; he had to be patient of the change of kingship in Israel.

For Jesus, the blind man presents an opportunity to manifest God’s power to save. Jesus cures him freely. His heartfelt compassion for the man. Here, apparently, the man never asked to be healed. 

For the blind man, Jesus makes it clear that he is not responsible for his blindness neither his parents. But in his design, God willed it to happen. The man’s blindness became his opportunity to meet God’s only Son. The Son of God frees him from his ignorance and lack of faith. He leads him to acknowledge first that Jesus is a prophet (Verse 17); secondly, to faith in the Son of Man (verses 35-38) and finally to the worship of God among us. The healed man bears witness of God’s goodness and power through Jesus of Nazareth to the leaders of Israel. What an amazing thing, these leaders, I bet, had never spoken to this man before. But now, Jesus has elevated him to the level of conversing and arguing with the so-called teachers of the Law of Moses.

For our Catechumens, here is a lesson of the wonderful things Jesus has in store for you as you prepare yourselves to undergo the cleansing power of Baptism here symbolized by the Pool of Siloam. Jesus who called and elected you to the faith continues to open your eyes to the knowledge of the Son of God and empower you to bear witness to his resurrection.

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, in our search for meaning, let not be tempted by the prophets of doom. Let us be guided by the light of Christ that leads to eternal happiness. Let us see in the current situation God’s given opportunity to acknowledge his power, to manifest his graciousness through our deeds. While you are in the confinement of your house, think about checking on your neighbor who might be alone and lonely. Give a call to a fellow parishioner. Think about what you could do to assist the homeless and hungry. Check on your family members. Give kind advice to the one in need of it. Comfort the sick and pray for the caregivers, doctors, and scientists. God created everything for us, we need only to discover the link to the virus, the medicine. May God bless and protect all our families.


Globally, Spiritans are working in over 65 countries. We are in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

The Spiritans are a part of a Roman Catholic religious congregation founded in France. We are Priests, Brothers and Lay Spiritan Associates. .

The Spiritans have been in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati since the late 1800’s.Since 1921, Spiritans had dedicated their ministry in Dayton among African American Catholics and the inner city Parishes.

For three centuries, Spiritans have embraced a mission of

  • Evangelization, Justice and Peace
  • Advocacy of refugees and immigrants;
  • Education and Youth Ministry
  • Parish Ministry

Please, remember the Spiritans in your prayers. You are always in our thoughts, hearts and prayers too. All the best in this New Year and beyond.

 A Brief History of the Spiritans                                                           


The Spiritan Tradition

Founded in 1703 by Claude Poullart des Places, a native of France, the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) consists of nearly three thousand members. Spiritan missions can be found in more than sixty countries worldwide, dedicated to working with the poor and championing the needs of the disadvantaged marginalized around the world. 

Spiritans are rooted in the missionary spirit of their founders, most notably Claude Poullart des Places and Francis Libermann, who is considered the Congregation's second founder and who merged his missionary zeal with the Spiritans in 1848. From the first Spiritan who served in Baltimore in 1794 to today, Spiritans have a rich history of working in communities in the United States where the need is greatest.

Today, there are approximately 90 Spiritan priests and brothers working parishes from California to New York in various educational works, such as Duquesne University and Holy Ghost Preparatory School, and in different justice and peace ministries at the service of the poor.

American-born Spiritans are working in many international missions of the Congregation, including Tanzania, Vietnam, South Africa, Mexico, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. Another fifty Spiritans, mostly from Africa and Ireland, work and study in the U.S. Whether speaking out in pastoral leadership, educating our youth, advocating for social justice, or shepherding parish communities, the Spiritans are involved in the important work of evangelization.

For three centuries, Spiritans have embraced a mission of hope and presence:

  • Evangelization of those who have not heard the Gospel Message;
  • Advocacy of refugees and immigrants;
  • Ministry in areas where the Church struggles to find workers; and
  • Promotion of justice and peace for the oppressed.

 Global Presence of the Spiritans

 Red indicates the countries where the Spiritans are present

To learn more about the Spiritans, visit the website

Deacon Skip's Reflections:

Third Sunday of Advent, Year-B
Isaiah 61:1 - 2A, 10 -11, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 -24, John 1:6 -8, 19 -28 

One time, a young boy went with his family to a relative’s house for Thanksgiving Day. Because the young boy would probably not see the relatives on Christmas, his Christmas gift was given to his parents to be held and not opened until Christmas day. The parents put the gift on the shelf in the father’s closet. It seemed that every time the father opens his closet door the boy is there full of anticipation, asking if he can open his gift now. The father answers, “You must wait until Christmas.“ As the days go by the boy becomes more anxious, waiting for the joy he expects when he opens the gift. Is this not unlike the period of Advent, a special time in the church calendar set aside so we can prepare ourselves, and renew ourselves, for the joy and peace of Christmas, and to prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ at the end of time? 

The whole cycle of our life, day after day, is spent preparing for some event. One goes to school to prepare ourselves to live in our society. Days are spent planning and preparing for a party. Months are spent in a family preparing for a wedding. People celebrate what is important to them, and the more important the celebration, the more intense is the preparation and the waiting.
Important to us in the church is the Christ event, the coming of the son of God in the person of Jesus, and all the things Jesus did and is doing for us. Today, the third candle of the advent wreath was lit to signify that we are halfway through our period of preparing and waiting. Today we are told to rejoice, Gaudete Sunday. It is the day we are called to recall the good things God has already done for us and what he promises to do in the future. In the second reading today Paul says “rejoice always.“  Paul recognized that God is the cause and the source of our joy. In spite of his many trials and sufferings in his life, Saint Paul was joyful. His joy was a sign of God‘s constant presence. 
Today there is a lesson for us in what Saint Paul says. There probably is not one of us here who does not carry some sort of trial, many times a burden that seems too much, too heavy. We must remember that Christ carried many burdens in his life, as did Mary, his mother. Saint Paul and the apostles were not free of troubles, yet they had joy because God is the source of the joy and they were close to God. The new salvation, eternal joy was possible. That’s what the gospel is all about. The Good News – that God loves us and is merciful to us, God sent his only son to save us, and that we will be able to live free of the trails forever someday. 

Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t feel I need God now, I may later.“  And you might think, “wow,“  how can someone say that?  But stop and think, how many times during the week do we really say that? How many times do we try to confront a problem without asking God’s help – perhaps not even thinking at the moment at all about God – and try to solve the problem alone? We only bring God into our every act by becoming close to him, and we do that by prayer, constant prayer every day. Saint Paul says “never cease praying.“ 
If a girl moves away from home and never writes her father, never calls him, never visits him, then eventually that girl will, for the most part forget about her father. On the other hand, if that girl’s father gets sick and she returns home and cares for him, he is constantly on her mind. So it’s the same way with God, we have to constantly thank God, constantly rejoice in all that has been done for us, and make God a part of our everyday life. Then we will experience the joy of God‘s presence, the same joy that sustained Saint Paul when he was in prison, the joy that sustains all good people around us to do good works and to submit to God‘s will. John the Baptist rejected all the comforts of this world to follow the mission God gave him. He had a chance to have some glory when the people ask him if he was the Messiah. But humbly he said “I am not worthy to even untie his sandals.“  He stepped aside and made way for the Lord. That is what we are asked to do during this period of Advent, to step aside of pride, pleasures that lead us away from God, and to be open to all the ways given to us to make the joy of God‘s presence felt in us at all times.

Today on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, we are halfway through our Advent pilgrimage. As we near Christmas, a tone is set of joyful expectation for the Lord’s birth – and his second coming at the end of time.

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