Saturday

Saturday Meditations by Fr George Mungai

Fr George

Advent and Christmas

 

 Be An Apostle of Hope and Joy

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Isaiah continues to utter promises of hope and joy. He says that God will give the People many basic and needed blessings. Among these are: (1) Removal of sorrows, (2) Plenty of bread and water, (3) Wise teachers, and (4) Benefits for their agricultural way of life. Included in this category are: rain for the soil, good crops, food for their livestock, clear mountain streams, sunny days and moonlit nights and the healing of bruises. These are the most basic and most precious gifts anyone might want to receive. they are better than the gift of a million dollars.
The Church, again, has selected a Gospel passage from Matthew which shows Jesus fulfilling these promises. The Lord sent his Apostles forth to bring good news and happy thoughts to people. They were to Bestow on them blessings of healing and help.

Today, the Church continues to minister to the people of the world. We have the privilege now of being both the recipients and disbursers of God’s wonderful blessings. Lets strive to bring hope and joy to all the people who come along our way, for this is what we have received from The Lord.

Jesus, Elijah and John The Baptizer

Elijah lived about 850 BC. He is said to have been transported to heaven in a fiery chariot pulled by horses of fire. Because of his abrupt and dramatic departure, it was believed he would return to earth since he did not die. It became the custom at Jewish tables to set an extra place in case Elijah should return.

The similarities between Elijah and Jesus and Elijah and John the Baptizer were numerous. Today’s two readings are examples. Some people thought Jesus was Elijah and others said John the Baptizer was. Jezebel sought the life of Elijah just as Herodias had tried to kill John the Baptizer. Elijah’s mantle fell upon his successor, Elisha, giving him the double spirit of prophesy. John the Baptizer also prepared both the disciples and the hearts of the people for Jesus, who had more than double his spirit. Elijah, approvingly, stood beside Jesus on Mt. Tobor.

Today, these themes and personalities all intertwine in this advent season. They recall for our religious traditions and speak of the delicate mysteries of God yet to be unfolded in the future. In this advent season, let us turn away from sin and from everything that would keep us from benefiting from the mysteries yet to be fulfilled for us.

Jesus Fulfilled What Was Said About Him

 

The Gospel reading today is certainly well-known and often heard by us. have you ever considered it from the point of view of Jesus fulfilling what was said about him? We can note at least five points where predictions about him have been fulfilled.

1. Mary was to give the child the name ‘Jesus.’ The name was given even before he was conceived by his mother.

2. It was said “great will be his dignity.” Today we offer no higher dignity to anyone than we give to Jesus.

3. He would be “called Son of the Most High.” Christians have always taught and believed that Jesus is the son of the Most High God.

4. He would be given “the throne of David.” The Lord embodies all the loyalty of David and much more.

5. It is said “his reign will be without end.” David was king for forty years; Jesus reigns forever.

This passage is a bold statement about the future; that Jesus will fulfill all his promises to us, and especially the promise of saving all of us from eternal condemnation.

Christmas season invites us

to lead righteous lives throughout the year

  • One of the main purposes of the Christmas season is to grow in righteousness to become more like God, to take on God’s character.
  • This holy Christmas time begins a holy year in a holy life, which begins a holy, eternal life.
    • The Lord has created us to be holy as he is holy (1 Jn 3:3)
    • To be “perfect in holiness” (1 Thes 5:23)
    • We should “hunger and thirst for holiness” (Mt 5:6)
    • And seek first God’s way of holiness (Mt 6:33)
    • We must strive “For that holiness without which no one can see the Lord” (Heb 12:14)
    • The Lord expects “Perfect” holiness from us because He has given us the power to become holy.
    • Because we have been begotten by Him, that is, born again, by faith and baptism, we have a new nature by which we can live a holy life (1 John 2:29).
    • Even if we fall into temptation and live according to our old sinful nature, we can repent and be washed clean in Jesus’ blood.
    •  Finally, the Father and the Son have given us the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who makes us holy.
    • Because of new life in the waters of baptism, forgiveness through Jesus’ blood shed on Calvary, and the indwelling of the Spirit, the lord expects us to be Holy.

Service to others is the Route to Holiness

Saturday after Epiphany

Dr. Bekele was a physician who lived, served, and died in one small town. He could have moved to a bigger and better practice, but he stayed in the same small town where he cared for the poor. He often charged them practically nothing for his medical ministry. His office was located on Main Street above a clothing store. A large brass plate was attached to the street level door indicating that his office was on the second floor. It read: “Dr. Bekele, Office Upstairs.” When the beloved old doctor died, someone removed the sign from the door and placed it on his grave, indicating the new location of the office of this good man.

John the Baptizer, like Dr. Brackett, aspired only to the office of being of service to others. He did not want or need to be Number One. In relation to Jesus, John the Baptizer was highly honored to be the proverbial “best man.” We may not think of it as a high calling or any kind of challenge to be of service to others, but that’s the route to holiness which millions have traveled. Perfection begins by being a faithful servant. Only then are we invited by the Master to come up higher.

Lent and Easter

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

LET US BUILD FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS

An unknown author gave these tips about friendship in his Tips on being a Friend. He enumerated these tips as: Treat your friends the way you want to be treated; Keep secrets that are told to you; Pay attention when your friend is talking; Keep your promises; Share things with your friend; Tell your friend the truth; Stick up for your friend; Take turns.

In today’s gospel by His grace, Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector from the custom’s post to be His follower and apostle, (v. 27). It is a wonderful consolation that He admits poor fishermen to be His disciples, men of the lowest rank; but much more wonderful that He admits publicans, men of the worst reputation and men of ill fame. In this instance Christ humbles Himself and appears in the likeness of sinful flesh. By this He exposes Himself and gets the true character of a friend of publicans and sinners.

C. Raymond Beran, (in Bits & Pieces, Sept. 19, 1991, p.3-4) asked: What is a friend? He said that friends are people with whom you dare to be yourself. Your soul can be naked with them. They ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you are. They do not want you to be better or worse. When you are with them, you feel as a prisoner feels, who has been declared innocent. You do not have to be on your guard. You can say what you think, as long as it is genuinely you. Friends understand those contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you. With them you breathe freely. You can avow your little vanities and envies and hates and vicious sparks, your meanness and absurdities and in opening them up to friends, they are lost, dissolved on the white ocean of their loyalty. They understand. You do not have to be careful. You can abuse them, neglect them and tolerate them. Best of all, you can keep still with them. It makes no matter. They like you. They are like fire that purges to the bone. They understand. You can weep with them, sing with them, laugh with them and pray with them. Through it all and underneath they see, know and love you. What is a friend? Just one, I repeat, with whom you dare to be yourself.

Jesus is our friend. We may have neglected the friendship or been out of touch for a while from Him but the Lord continues to have an intimate and growing relationship with each one of us who comes to Him. He’s ready whenever we are to renew the friendship. Our Friend Jesus is waiting to hear from us. If so, then let us get back and be in touch with Him again. Let us build friendship with Jesus into our life’s story.

At the end let us reflect this word of Jesus our Ultimate Friend who once said to His closest followers: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you,” (John 15:15). We are His friends. And to His friends He says: “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

 

 

Love of Enemies

In today’s gospel Christ calls his followers to make a radical change in thinking. He says: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

One of the difficult things to do as a Christian is obeying this commandment, ‘love your enemies.’ How can you love somebody who hurt you! But why do we have to love our enemies? We have to love our enemies not because they deserve to be treated in that way but because as God wishes them to be treated with loving-kindness and mercy. Somebody said: “God is good to the unjust as well as the just.  His love embraces saint and sinner alike.  God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us.  Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us.  It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so.  It is harder when we expect nothing in return.”

Jesus says, “love your enemies.” What does He mean by these words? Does He mean we should have enemies and then later on love them? Or does He mean we should not have enemies at all? Let us take into consideration that He is speaking about the disciples and their persecutors. “Enemies” here mean those who hate the disciples and not those that the disciples hate. Disciples are to hate no one. If by enemies we mean those we hate, then Christians should have no enemies. But if by enemies we mean those who hate us, then we cannot help having enemies. We cannot control how others treat us; we can only control our attitude to them. What Jesus is asking us now is that we should not return hatred for hatred or hostility for hostility. Jesus is telling us clearly that we must not exclude a single person from our love no matter what they have done or will do. We cannot do this because this is the way Jesus himself lived. He put this teaching into practice in his own life. He remains the greatest teacher and example of this even if they were leading Him out to a shameful, public execution on the cross, He was still able to say: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34).

When we forgive, it is another step towards healing. All of the justice and all of the anger in the world won’t lead to healing but forgiveness is a necessity in the healing process.

Week 2 – Lent

Called to Reflect on Our Own Sins

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC no. 1866) said that there are some sins which are called “capital” based on what St. John Cassian and St. Gregory had said because they engender other sins. The seven capital sins are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth. In the Gospel of today, which talks about the parable of the lost son, the two sons commit all of the seven deadly or capital sins:

First is Pride. Parents in the past relied on their children to care for them in their old age. It was a son’s duty (Sir. 3:12). But the younger son gives no hint of promise to take care of his father when old. What is important is his share of inheritance. This is a sin of pride which is inordinate self-centeredness, arrogance combined with egotism and a clamor of self-will.

Second is Avarice. The younger son wastes what his father worked so hard to accumulate. Wasting of possessions and hoarding of possessions are two evils of avarice. We also fall under the sin of avarice because we love to have things and we love to have them just for the sake of having. Third is Envy. The elder son might also have taken note of Sirach 30:24 which tells us that jealousy and anger shorten life! But is he jealous because his father is fussing over his younger brother or because he wishes he has been the one who has the fun of squandering the money and cavorting with prostitutes? Fourth is Wrath or Anger. The elder son’s words: “this son of yours” shows his anger and he throws it into his father’s face with self- centered pouting. He will have to have revenge and not a party. He is full of anger and even ourselves how quick we are to get angry.

Fifth is Lust. In verse 30, the elder son accuses his younger brother of ravaging their father’s property with prostitutes. In lusting we want to gratify a craving for sexual pleasure and this is what the younger son is doing.

Sixth is Gluttony. Gluttony indicates a much greater interest in food. Isaac of Nineveh taught that when the stomach is hungry, shameful thoughts cannot enter the soul. We should eat only when we are hungry and it is better for the spiritual life to stop eating while still a little hungry. We would expect gluttony from the younger son, for gluttony and lust go together.

Seventh is Sloth or indolence. The younger son complains that “no one gave him anything.” Why is he waiting around for someone to give him something? This is a sin of sloth that is: dejection, sluggishness of mind and feeling and spirit. He has no desire to make any fundamental change in the way he lives his life.

To summarize them all, the younger son commits five (pride, avarice, lust, gluttony and sloth) of the seven deadly sins and the father says: “I still love you”; the elder son rounds out the seven by doing two (envy, wrath and even pride too) of the deadly sins and the father says: “I still love you.” All his love goes to each son.

Each of us is called to reflect on our own sins. We might ask ourselves whether we are more like the younger son or the older son. And remember that God offers us forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is up to us to accept the grace God offers us.

Week 3 – Lent

Humility

The gospel passage of today tells us something about humility that we should practice as followers of Christ. Jesus compares the humility of the tax collector against the pride of the Pharisees. First, it tells us that humility comes from measuring ourselves against the greatness of God. We know that pride always begins with comparing ourselves with others. But Jesus tells us that the only person we are allowed to compare ourselves to is, God the Father. This is a recipe for humility. He says: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt 5:48). St. Augustine also insisted that there are three virtues which are essential for holiness or perfection: humility, humility and humility. If we want to live in humility, we have to keep our eyes on the perfections of God the Father and not on others.

Second, it tells us that we have to pray to God with humility rather than with pride. A humble prayer pleases God. God hears our prayers if we approach Him with humility. I think we are wondering why God accepts one person’s prayer and reject the other’s prayer. Jesus gives us a hint, that is, despising one’s neighbor closes the door to God’s heart. An example for this is the Pharisee by which he mainly prays with himself and disdains for those he despised. While the tax collector, humbles himself before God and begs for mercy.  God answers His prayer because he has remorse for his sins. He seeks God with humility rather than with pride.

Third, it tells us that humility demands charity. We naturally tend to judge others. We compare ourselves to others and destroy their reputations through criticism, detraction or slander. But we forget that in God’s eyes, we have been given more and more will be expected from us by doing charity towards our neighbor. Let us always remember that God cannot be where there is no charity and authentic Christianity.

RESURRECTION MEANS NEW LIFE, NEW BEGINNING

  • Easter is a time for celebration. It is a time when Christ our brother broke the chains of Death and rose in Triumph from the grave.
  • He did this, not just for himself, but for all us. He wants us to share in his great victory over sin and death.
  • In the Gospel of John 20: 1-9; Mary Magdaline visited Jesus’ tomb on Easter Sunday. I am sure it was not easy for her to go to the place where they had laid his body. She felt sad, terribly sad – going to embalm the body of Jesus – . Jesus was dead. Jesus was gone. And it seemed forever. The world felt so empty without him. She could not imagine life without him.
  •  However when Mary Magdaline returned to the tomb together with the disciples, they found that it was EMPTY. But then they heard the wonderful news: “do not look for the living among the dead; he is alive!, he is risen!”
  •  Jesus is no longer to be found in the place of the dead; he is alive, he is risen!. The burial robes were left behind; they are for the dead, not for the one enjoying a new life.
  •  But where and how is he living now? Jesus has not returned to earthly life. He has risen to a NEW AND RICHER LIFE.
  •  A radically new life, where his perishable flesh is now transfigured and radiant with glory and splendor of divinity. It is the same Jesus, but a new manner of living – like a seed which dies in the ground and comes to new life as a plant.
  •  Jesus has overcome death, not just for himself, but for all of us. He becomes bread broken for others
  •  And he wants us to participate in this new life, new hope, new strength and new power.
  • The new power that we receive with the resurrection of Christ is not meant just for our self-fulfillment, but for using it to bring new life to others as well.
  •  The wheat of grain that dies and sprouts again gives abundant harvest so that people can eat and live
  •  We receive new life from the Lord so that all people can participate in his risen power through us.
  •  When someone collects a group of destitute children vulnerable to the evils of society, takes care of them and trains them to become responsible and productive citizens, there we see the power of resurrection at work.
  •  When someone offers to pay school fees for a boy/girl from a needy family, there we see the power of resurrection at work.
  •  When some risks his life and leads the masses in fight for justice and equality for all, there we see the power of resurrection at work.
  •  When some catholic nuns offer their lives for the sake of mentally challenged children, who are forsaken and abandoned by their very own mothers and fathers, and they take care of them with total dedication and selfless love, there we see the power of resurrection at work.
  •  When someone decides to die to hatred and revenge and decides to forgive his/her long time enemy, there we see the power of resurrection at work.
  •  When a disobedient child decides to die to his disobedience and rise into obedience of God and parents, there we see the power of resurrection at work.
  •  When a child who has not been working hard in school , decides to change and promises his parents that he is going to work hard in school, there we see the power of resurrection at work.
  •  When a person who has not been a committed Christian; makes an about-turn and decides to become and remain as a committed Christian, there we see the power of resurrection at work.
  •  When a man who has not been playing his role as the head of the family in the way expected of him, decides to be the true Head of his family in word and deed, there we see the power of resurrection at work.
  •  Resurrection means Change for the better – newness – a fresh start – readiness to become bread broken for others – new life In Christ.
  •  Jesus died on the cross for us, what do you want to do for yourself and for others?

Easter Week 2

Jesus our Rightful Savior

Today we read from the. Gospel of John that very familiar passage about Jesus walking on the water. The scripture story is told by three of the evangelists ( Mathew, Mark and John) and all three offer some additional information which the others don’t mention.

Mathew alone, for example, tells the entire incident of Peter exiting the boat and walking a few steps toward Jesus. Mark adds the brief note that Jesus might have passed them by had they not cried out in fear. John supplies a unique and very interesting detail when he says the apostles had rowed three or four miles when Jesus approached them.

Mathew and Mark give the approximate time, at the fourth watch, between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. When put together all the pieces we have a terrific story. One striking conclusion from John’s account could be that Jesus walked three or four miles on the water. Mathew implies that Peter’s walk on the water consisted of three or four steps.

An encouraging spiritual truth is being taught here. In coming to bring us salvation, God is willing to walk a mile for every step we take. Jesus again demonstrates why he truly is our rightful Savior.

 4th Week of Easter

To see Jesus is to see what God is like

It is the desire of all of us – like Phillip in the Gospel – to know what God looks like. Phillip asks Jesus to show him the Father. Jesus answers him by saying: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the father is in me,” (V. 10). This means that if you look at the life and acts of Jesus and we will see God the Father. The early Church Fathers called Him, “the Great Sacrament,” who signifies who God is and what God does.

Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally know God as our Father. To see Jesus is to see what God is like. In Jesus we see the perfect love of God: a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of laying down his life for them upon the cross. Jesus is the revelation of God, a God who loves us completely, unconditionally and perfectly.

We have different forms of Christ’s Presence that shows God the Father to us.  Christ is present: in His word, in the Eucharist, in the priest, in the weak and in the needy among many other realities.

If we call ourselves Christians, then the people should see Christ in us. If to see Jesus is to see God the Father and so therefore hopefully and prayerfully, to see us is to see Jesus too.

 5th Week of Easter

Called to be strong in the face of life’s challenges

 

Jesus in today’s Gospel warns us when He said: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first……If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” (vv. 18,20). What does Jesus mean when he says “the world?” The “world” in Scripture refers to that society of People who are hostile towards God and opposed to His will. When Jesus talks of persecutions also, He was referring to sufferings and persecutions His disciples would undergo at the hands of Jews and Romans in proclaiming His teachings.

Suffering is part of human existence. It is because a life with Jesus is not bed of roses. Thus, we should not pray for an easy life. Instead we should pray to become stronger persons in facing challenges of life and bring out the best that God has put in us.

When we have problems in our life, we are quick to ask God, “Why me?,” but we should also ask the same question in regard to our blessings. We take for granted 100 days of perfect health, and then grumble about one day of pains. How often do we say, “Why me?” as we count our blessings? Rather than feeling sad about what we don’t have, doesn’t it make more sense to feel happy for everything we do have?

Prayer

John 16:23 “The Father will give you whatever you ask him for in my name

Most of the time, we like to take these words stated here in a literal manner. But in reality they are not literally fulfilled in practice. We know many requests which have been made in prayer that have not been fulfilled.

People sometimes say they are ‘angry with God’ for not answering their prayers. The more urgent and serious the request, the more angry they become. In regard to this, two points can be made; The first is: There are no unanswered prayers. Every prayer does some good. If the prayer is answered the way we have requested, then we could not find any fault with that. If it is not, there was some good accomplished by the very fact we prayed over the matter. We are acknowledging that results may or may not happen as we want. By the very fact that we face the alternatives and vocalize them, we are better prepared to accept the results, whatever they may be. The second point is: Prayer is primarily directed to the spiritual realm which is often very nebulous (something that cannot be clearly understood). We are really pushing the point by expecting observable physical results to happen because we prayed. God answers our prayers in many various ways that sometimes we are not aware whether He answered them, yet He did.

 

Let us not compare ourselves with others

Why do we compare ourselves with others?  Why do we like to be better off than our neighbour? No wonder why we have so many rivals and enemies. Peter and John are both called as disciples of Jesus and each is given a different task to fulfil. But what is intriguing is, when Peter questions John’s role. He asks Jesus: “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him: “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” A priest said in his homily that worrying about ourselves in comparison with others, even in questions of holiness and apostolic ability, is a mistake. The Lord prefers that we mind our own business, the business of growing in our friendship with Him and in our dedication to the apostolate. Harnessing the inspiring examples others give us should push us forward to greater holiness and self-giving. At the same time, we have to learn how to rejoice in others’ triumphs, seeing God alive in them, working in them, loving them. Jealousy and competition insinuate themselves into our view of others’ work, but if we build our faith-vision, seeing God in them, we rejoice. Like St. Peter, Jesus tells us to follow Him instead of comparing ourselves with others in terms of holiness and apostolate. And at the end let us remember that at the close of our lives the question will not be:

  • Not “How much have you gotten?” but “How much have you given?”
  • Not “How much have you won?” but “How much have you done?”
  • Not “How much have you saved?” but “How much have you sacrificed?”
  • It will be “How much have you loved and served,” not “How much were you honoured?”

Year I

 

Jesus was Tempted in Every Way We Are

Imagine Jesus being tempted in every way we are. we know what is happening within us better than any other person. How often we think there is no one in the whole world who has such bizarre and evil thoughts and temptations as we do. We are tempted to brag, exaggerating the truth to appear very important. we are enticed to lie when facing some difficulty or embarrassment. We are tempted to despair, to be harsh to many and angry with others. There is even temptation to deny our sins, telling ourselves they are not wrong.

Maybe our denial is done in real honesty or perhaps out of fear of facing a demanding God. In the letter to the Hebrews, it says, Jesus “was tempted in every way that we are……” Therefore, we can turn to Jesus for understanding and merciful forgiveness for the sins we may have committed or thought of committing. what powerfully good news this inspired letter proclaims to the whole world and all the people who dwell therein! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can, “sympathize with our weakness.

In Following Jesus We Shall Face Opposition

Is the Lord Jesus honored in your home? Why would Jesus’ relatives be so upset with him when he began his public ministry? On one occasion Jesus remarked that a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household (Matthew 10:36). The Gospel of Mark records the reaction of Jesus’ relatives when he went home: they came to seize him. They, no doubt, thought that Jesus must have gone mad or become a religious fanatic. How could a good home-body from Nazareth leave his carpentry trade and go off to become a traveling preacher? To their way of thinking, Jesus had thrown away the security and safety of a quiet and respectable life close to his family and relatives.

Jesus probably expected to meet opposition from the highest religious authorities in Jerusalem. For him to meet opposition from his own relatives must have been even harder. When we choose to be disciples of the Lord Jesus and to follow his will for our lives, we can expect to meet opposition from those who are opposed to the Gospel message and Christian way of life. But the hardest opposition may actually come from someone close to us, a family member or close friend who doesn’t want us to take the Gospel message too seriously. Jesus met opposition – whether from family, friend, or foe – with grace and determination to fulfill his Father’s will. Are you ready to obey and follow the Lord Jesus even if others oppose your doing so?

“Lord Jesus, may I always put you first and find joy in doing your will. May your love and charity grow in me, especially in the face of opposition and adversity.”

ABOUT FAITH

Faith is very basic to our lives: not only religious faith but faith in general. In this section of Hebrews, there is a fine scriptural definition. “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.” this is a remarkable description of faith.

It always involves something we don’t see, but we have a conviction it does exist. The author wishes to present shining examples of faith as it existed in the lives of people in former times. The star witness is no surprise. We all knew it would be Abraham who would be marched across the sacred page. He is the one who obeyed and followed that challenging call from God at a time when people were not accustomed to God speaking to them. He was a most hopeful man and his hopes were vindicated. Sarah, his wife, follows right behind. She is remembered for her trust in God’s promise that she would have a child in her old age.

Each of us is somewhere in that long line of people who still have confident assurance of what we hope for, and solid convictions about the things we do not see.

Summary of the Letter to the Hebrews

Today we read the 13th and the last chapter of the Book of Hebrews. This book has been providing us with daily thoughts for the last four weeks. The final chapter contains a brief summary of the entire letter and a concluding blessing.

Note the key points of exhortation are:

  1. Continue to offer a sacrifice of praise. This means not only are the priests to offer sacrifices on the altar but all people are to offer sacrifices of praise.
  1. Do good deeds generously. These good deeds are sacrifices with which God is very pleased.
  1. Obey the Leaders of the people that they may live in joy rather than in sorrow. An unhappy leader, religious or civil, makes life more difficult for the people.

The blessing invokes the God of peace, who raised Jesus, the great Shepherd, from the dead. May God, in the blood of the eternal covenant, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will. To Christ be glory forever. Amen.

 

When God gives he gives abundantly

Can anything on earth truly satisfy the hunger we experience for God? The enormous crowd that pressed upon Jesus for three days were hungry for something more than physical food. They hung upon Jesus’ words because they were hungry for God. When the disciples were confronted by Jesus with the task of feeding four thousand people many miles away from any source of food, they exclaimed: Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them? The Israelites were confronted with the same dilemma when they fled Egypt and found themselves in a barren wilderness. Like the miraculous provision of manna in the wilderness, Jesus, himself provides bread in abundance for the hungry crowd who came out into the desert to seek him. The gospel records that all were satisfied and they took up what was left over. When God gives he gives abundantly – more than we deserve and more than we need so that we may have something to share with others as well. The Lord Jesus nourishes and sustains us with his life-giving word and with his heavenly bread.

The sign of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes through his disciples, prefigures the superabundance of the unique bread of his Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. When we receive from the Lord’s table we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, who makes us sharers in his body and blood. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.) calls it the “one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ” (Ad Eph. 20,2).

This supernatural food is healing for both body and soul and strength for our journey heavenward. When you approach the Table of the Lord, what do you expect to receive? Healing, pardon, comfort, and refreshment for your soul? The Lord has much more for us, more than we can ask or imagine. The principal fruit of receiving from the Lord’s Table is an intimate union with Christ himself. As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens us in charity and enables us to break with disordered attachments to creatures and to be more firmly rooted in the love of Christ. Do you hunger for Jesus, the true “bread of life”?

   

We should be thankful to our Teachers

 

In the first reading Sirach says, “I will give my teacher grateful praise.” He calls wisdom his teacher. But that wisdom had to be conveyed to him through other teachers. We have all had many human teachers who have given us much wisdom. We have national days set aside to give honor and thanks to various groups of people; such as mothers and fathers. It is so fitting, therefore, that we also have a day in May designated as “Teachers’ Day.”

The gifts good teachers offer their students are lifetime treasurers. Have we ever sent a note of thanks? Imagine the thrill for a person to receive such an unexpected letter of appreciation, especially after many years. These are the dear and patient people who so unselfishly assisted us to acquire wisdom.

We are expected to be thankful and offer praise and gratitude to those who have so helped us to acquire the basics of life. God’s wisdom has taught us many concepts and one is to express our gratitude to the people who have truly blessed us.

Charity in Silence

Dear Family of God,

Today we are reminded to do our charity in truth and in silence. Unlike the scribes who publish their charity the poor widow offer all that she had in truth and in silence as Tobit did in the first reading.

Throughout this week we have been given the example of Tobit who was charitable and righteous before God. He did all that in truth and in silence but the angel of God Raphael noticed everything and today he is giving an account of all that Tobit did. The angel says he noticed how Tobit came out of his meal and went to bury the dead.

In the gospel Jesus is warns us against the scribes wanted to publish their good deeds so that they can be praised by people. He is also against those who offered into the treasury out of their abundance but praised the poor widow who offered all that she had for her living.

To do charity in truth as Pope Benedict the XVI puts in his encyclical letter ‘Caritatis in Veritate – Charity in Truth’ is to do charity where it is required and it is right, using what has been obtained by right means and without intention for personal gains. It is not charity in truth therefore, that which is done to please the rich or those in power so that you can get favours from them. It is not charity for example to educate the children of ‘mpango wa kando – nyumba ndogo’ while your own children are starving.

Charity in silence means do not publish your good deeds so that you can be noticed and praised by people as a generous person. When you give even your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing. You do not need to call the media or tell everybody how much you give to sadaka or tithe or the poor or how you have educated and how your take care of the children of your relatives who died.

Do your charity in truth and in silence; the angel will notice and will make it presence to God and your Father in heaven who sees in secret will reward you.

By Fr Achilles Kiwanuka

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Blessed Virgin Mary

Today we celebrate the memorial of the Immaculate heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The opening prayer for the liturgy of today goes:  “Father, you prepared the heart of the Virgin Mary to be a fitting home for your Holy Spirit. By her prayers may we become a more worthy temple of your glory.

What an invitation to simplicity this prayer is. God prepared Mary’s heart to be a “fitting home.” How simple that sounds and reachable for us as a goal. And, the prayer continues “may we become a more worthy temple for God’s love.” More worthy. Not perfect. Not sinless. Simply more worthy.

This prayer captures the spirit of today’s celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a sometimes an amusing title for a glorious celebration. An “immaculate heart”? If I think of an immaculate house as one that is uncluttered and clear of debris, then I can see that Mary’s uncluttered heart was clear of anything other than her joy in giving glory to God.

Mary lived with her feet planted firmly in this world, and yet with her heart directed to God. She wasn’t protected from the pains and challenges of this world. Instead she entered into them to the fullest and trusted in God.

That is just what we are invited to do in the celebration of Mary’s uncluttered heart and in today’s gospel. Jesus is not urging us to live our lives swearing by heaven and making a flashy show of our devotion. Instead Jesus encourages us simply to carry out the vows we have made to the Lord. “Let your word be ‘Yes’ if ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ if ‘No.'” In other words, keep it simple and honest. Trust in God that we don’t need to wrap our promises in grandiose language and impossible goals. God will love and care for us regardless of how we ask.

May our hearts be more worthy and uncluttered with sin like the heart of Mary.

May our hearts be loving like the heart of Mary, for her immaculate heart, is a profound symbol of the human love of the Church and  for God, which is enacted in the Church’s loving service of all humanity.

Don’t Worry (Mt 6:24-34)

Our age has been called the age of anxiety or worry. Anxiety comes from the Latin angere, which means ‘to choke’. In other words when you are anxious or stressed and need to breathe fully and freely, you feel choked. It is like having a drowning man’s grip on your own throat. That is why Jesus in these 11 verses comprising today’s gospel reading, three times that He urges us not to worry. Maybe because, as William Arthur Ward said, worry distorts our thinking, disrupts our work, disquiets our soul, disturbs our body and disfigures our face. It destroys our friends, demoralizes our life, defeats our faith and debilitates our energy.

But in these 11 verses, Jesus aligns, one after the other, seven reasons why we should not worry.  They are as follows: (1) the same God who created life in you can be trusted with the details of your life (v. 25). (2) Worrying about the future hampers your efforts for today (v. 26). (3) Worrying is more harmful than helpful (v. 27). (4) God does not ignore those who depend on Him (vv. 26-30). (5) Worry shows a lack of faith and understanding of God (vv. 31-32). (6) There are real challenges God wants us to face, and worrying keeps us from facing those challenges (v. 33). (7) Living one day at a time keeps us from being consumed with worry (v. 34).

And what are some other antidotes to worry? There are many antidotes to worry, but I propose the following:

–          Never worry over rumours or what “they” say. First get the facts.

–           Know definitely your worry problem. Write it down. Face it.

–          Worry about only one problem at a time.

–          Set a definite day, afternoon or night for worrying.

–          Never worry in bed, in the dining room, living room or at church.

–          Select an air-conditioned room. Lean back in an easy chair.

–          Set a time limit. If you must go beyond it, give yourself credit for time-and-a-half.

–          Never worry with a frowning face. Smile, sing or whistle.

–          Never worry when you are tired, sick, angry or depressed.

–          Never worry while working, playing, visiting or shopping.

–          Never worry alone. Take it to the Lord and leave it there (Prov. 3:5-6).

And so let us not worry about tomorrow and remember God is already there. His grace is enough for us, for in weakness our power reaches perfection through Christ.

Having faith in the powerful words of Jesus

This Gospel passage is an impressive testimony of the faith of a man who was not a Jew or a Christian but an officer in the Roman Army. The centurion, as his title indicates, was in charge of 100 soldiers. This particular centurion, who sought the assistance of Jesus to heal his suffering son, exhibits a profound belief in the spoken word. He dealt with the power of the word each day.

Signals, commands and orders were essential for a well-functioning army. The centurion may delay in giving the word to his soldiers about some project, but once the word was spoken, then he knew the command would be carried out.

In our military today, the same importance is attached to the orders given. Failure of a subject to obey the commander could result in a court martial.

This man sees Jesus possessing impressive power over people in a spiritual and healing way. Thus, there is no need for the Lord to be present, just give a command, as the centurion does and wonderful results will happen.

Can we have such deep faith in the powerful words of Jesus, that we feel sure those spoken words will be fulfilled?

Do not be Afraid (Matt 10:24-33)

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is ‘fear of the Lord.’ But this ‘fear of the Lord’ has nothing to do with fear in the ordinary sense of the word. This ‘fear of the Lord’ or godly fear is rather a feeling of awe and reverence for the One who made us in love and who sustains us in mercy and kindness. A healthy fear of God, as somebody said, leads us to spiritual maturity, wisdom and right judgment and it frees us from the tyranny of sinful pride, cowardice especially in the face of evil and spiritual deception. And above all this fear of God is the antidote to the fear of losing one’s life.

In today’s gospel, for three times, Jesus tells His disciples not to be afraid. “Fear,” as someone said, “is the love that is due to gods and princes. ‘But if our love of God is really only a form of fear, then we would love the devil more than God if we came to fear Him more!’” The truth is that God asks for our love and not our fear.

For us Christians, St Paul is teaching us on the body of Christ as central to this healing. Ha said: “It is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me,” (Gal 2:20). And so at the end let us reflect these words of St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans: “If God is with us, who can be against us,” (8:31). “Who then can separate us from the love of Christ,” (Rom 3:35).

 

You are the Chosen Servant

Matt 12:14-21

When Jesus knows that the Pharisees, because of their prejudice, plotted to kill Him, He withdraws to a Gentile territory and fulfills what the prophet Isaiah had prophesied. That Jesus, the chosen Servant of God, would accomplish His mission, not through crushing power but through sacrificial service.

Christ is the Chosen Servant of Yahweh. But who is servant?. A servant is a man who is not at his own disposal but is his master’s purchased property. Bought to serve his master’s needs, to be at his beck and call every moment, the slave’s sole business is to do as he is told. Christian service therefore means, first and foremost, living out a slave relationship to one’s Savior (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

But what work does Christ set His servants to do? He tells them that it is by serving Him, it is by becoming the slaves of their fellow-servants and being willing to do literally anything, however costly, irksome or undignified, in order to help them. This is what love means, as He Himself showed at the Last supper when He played the slave’s part and washed the disciples’ feet. In place of a throne he would mount the cross and wear a crown of thorns.  This is His greatest proof of His love for us.

John R. W. Stott in his book ,“The Preacher’s Portrait, Some New Testament Word Studies” ,he  made a mention about the attitude of a servant of God. It is like this:

  • People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  • If you do good people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  • If you are successful you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  • The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  • Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  • The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  • People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  • What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  • People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help them anyway.
  • Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

Even George W. Noble in his, Book of 750 Bible and Gospel Studies (1909) gave the biblical ways on how to serve God. It is like this: serve in sincerity and truth (Joshua 24:14), sincerity of purpose (Col. 3:24), perfectness of walk (Thes. 1:9), unblemished life (Acts 26:7), thoroughness (Rom. 12:1), uprightness of heart (Rom. 12:2), undefiled conduct (Luke 1:17), soundness of motive (Rom. 7:6), wholeness of being (Heb. 12:28).

But above all the essence of Christian service is loyalty to the king expressing itself in care for His servants (Matt. 25: 31-46).

Let us be servants to God and to one another.

 

 

 

Feast of St. James the Apostle

This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20).

James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemane.

Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!”

The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life.

On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them…” (Luke 9:54-55).

James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a).

This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.

The way the Gospels treat the apostles is a good reminder of what holiness is all about. There is very little about their virtues as static possessions, entitling them to heavenly reward. Rather, the great emphasis is on the Kingdom, on God’s giving them the power to proclaim the Good News. As far as their personal lives are concerned, there is much about Jesus’ purifying them of narrowness, pettiness, fickleness.

The Death of John the Baptist (Mt 14:1-12)

 

Today’s gospel is about the execution and death of John the Baptist. He died in a horrible way by beheading his head due to the command of King Herod. So John’s head was presented to a young girl on a platter as a reward for her dancing skills. And why did King Herod end up doing such an unjust act? It is because he did not have the guts to take back a rash oath which he had made.

As a background, King Herod renounces his first wife and married his niece Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Philip. Even if his divorce with his first wife is legal in the Jewish law but he had already an open relationship with Herodias before the divorce was granted. And their marriage offends the Jewish people because for them it is against the law and his half-brother Philip is still alive. King Herod is guilty of adultery and incest. Adultery and incest is strictly prohibited by the Jewish law (Lev 18:16). It is at this context that John does not hesitate to rebuke Herod. He tells King Herod the truth that it is not right to marry the wife of his brother. But, the king avoids it and retaliates by locking John up. He orders that John be imprisoned. To be fair to him, he probably had no plan to kill John. But once he is caught up in the web of pride, intrigue and saving face, all courage is lost and terrible command is given.

How many of us end up doing things we really do not want to do all because of a false sense of shame? We are ashamed to do what is right, yet we end up ashamed to do what is needed to correct our error. How easily we sin. How difficult to be sorry and then confess our sins. Let us not be like King Herod but be like St. John the Baptist who courageously preaches sinfulness and evil deeds.

Let’s God’s Love be alive in our hearts and minds

Meditating on the first reading, Moses tells the Hebrew people to profess and live the love of God with their entire beings:

Israel remember this! The Lord – and the Lord alone – is our God. Love Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strengthDt 6:4

This wonderful passage is known as the “Shema.” Everyone was to keep these ideas fixed firmly in their minds and hearts and souls. He tells the parents to drill them into their children. Speak them at home and on the road. Think of them, whether busy or resting. If that’s not enough, he further tells them to tie these sacred words around their wrists and foreheads and write them on the door posts of their home and on the yard gates.

When God’s love is firmly fixed in our minds and hearts, we can meet any challenge and be crowned winners.

Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary

15th August

 

On November 1, 1950, Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.”

Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. Nevertheless, Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is caught up in the battle between good and evil. Many see this woman as God’s people. Since Mary best embodies the people of Old and New Testament, her Assumption can be seen as an exemplification of the woman’s victory.

Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul speaks of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Since Mary is closely associated with all the mysteries of Jesus’ life, it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit has led the Church to belief in Mary’s share in his glorification. So close was she to Jesus on earth, she must be with him body and soul in heaven.

In the light of the Assumption of Mary, it is easy to pray her Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) with new meaning. In her glory she proclaims the greatness of the Lord and finds joy in God her saviour. God has done marvels to her and she leads others to recognize God’s holiness. She is the lowly handmaid who deeply reverenced her God and has been raised to the heights. From her position of strength she will help the lowly and the poor find justice on earth, and she will challenge the rich and powerful to distrust wealth and power as a source of happiness.

WHAT IF?

The “what ifs” of history can make our heads spin with wonderment. What if Ruth, the Moabite woman, would have decided to return to her own people after her husband’s death, as he sister-in-law, Orpah, did? What if, when after Ruth and Naomi had returned to Bethlehem, Naomi’s home, Ruth would have looked for food in a field other than the one belonging to Boaz? Scripture says that it was quite by chance that she went to the field of Boaz, rather than to another.

Life’s possibilities are countless. The reality here is that Rut married Boaz. Their son, Obed, became the Father of Jesse and Jesse became the father of King David.

The lives of our ancestors are filled with a lot of “what ifs” also. With a small change of events our grandparents or parents may not have met or married and we would never have existed. Our faith testifies that we are here not by pure chance, but because of God’s providence. Every person who exists on this earth today is the visible result of millions of past decisions, back through the centuries of time. And God, somehow, was involved in the consequences of all those decisions. As a result, there is in each of us a high dignity and a lasting value.

The Passion of John the Baptist

John the Baptist; the last prophet of the Old Testament, the forerunner of the Messiah, was killed by a corrupted King who gave in to lust, pride and grandiosity. John never stopped bearing witness to the truth. He had the eyes to see that Truth was fully revealed in Jesus, the one whom he proclaimed the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) St. John the Baptizer was a simple man, not a member of the elite. He was stirred by conscience and the Holy Spirit to throw convention to the wind. He paid dearly for it. As Christians we inherit the abundant fruit of his daring and liberating choices. The way he exercised the great gift of his human freedom instructs us in exercising our own.

Where do you get the strength of will and heart to choose what is right and to reject what is wrong and sinful? The Lord Jesus gives strength and courage to those who humbly acknowledge their dependence on him. The Lord knows our weaknesses better than we do. He pardons and heals those who ask for his mercy and forgiveness. In whatever situation we find ourselves the Lord is there to guide and direct us. Do you seek the Lord’s strength and wisdom? Ask with expectant faith and trust in the Lord’s help and grace.

 

Sabbath Day

Luke 6:1-5

What does the third commandment, “Keep the Lord’s Day holy” require of us? Sabbath requires us to rest or to cease. All of us know from the Bible that after ‘God was finished with the work he had been doing,’ in creation within six days, “He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had undertaken, (Gen. 2:2). Therefore we can say that Sabbath rest is an institution of divine origin. This observance of Sabbath rest later became one of the Ten Commandments in memory of God’s rest (Ex. 20:8-11). And so in order to preserve this practice of divine origin, the Jews prohibited thirty-nine kinds of work during this day and one of them is preparing food.

What is the primary intention behind this commandment, ‘Keep the Lord’s Day holy? This third commandment on “Sabbath rest” was meant to be a time to remember and celebrate God’s goodness and the goodness of His work, both in creation and redemption; a day set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation and his saving actions on our behalf.  It was given for the benefit of God’s people, that is, to give them rest, to give them time and opportunity to worship God.

Nowadays, Sunday, which is our Sabbath rest as Christian Catholics and many other Christians, is becoming like any other day of the week. For many it is a regular working day. Do we prefer to do some works on Sunday at the neglect of going to church? How do we help others keep the Lord’s Day holy? The day of the Lord is the day of communion with others; it is the day of worship, it is the day of charity for the claims of mercy and demands of charity override rules and regulations.

 

Sinners are not Criminals

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul stresses an important basic truth to Timothy. He wants to get Timothy’s undivided attention so that what he is about to say will be understood and believed with all his heart. What is this important truth that is worthy of Timothy’s “full acceptance? It is this: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

Because we have heard it so often it doesn’t have the same impact on us as it surely would have had on those who heard it for the first time. We probably wouldn’t totally agree with Paul’s next statement that he, Paul, is the worst of all sinners. Paul however sees that as a plus, because then Jesus can extend to him the fullness of his mercy precisely because he is an admitted sinner, and Jesus came to save all sinners.

We should not shy away from seeing ourselves as sinners- even big sinners. Sinners are ordinary people who try to live good lives but sometimes, may be often; fail either by excess or inadequacy. Sinners are dedicated to the pursuit of virtue but often fall short. Still, they attempt to improve and are willing to try again. Even saints are sinners; sinners who’ve been forgiven. Rather than deny that we are sinners and that we often sin, it is much better to accept the fact and then open our hearts to the mercy of the Lord.

Let us be the “Good Soil People”

The parable of the sower is addressed to a large crowd. In that crowd, people will hear Jesus in many different ways. Much of what they will hear will depend on what they want to hear, for all are at different stages of development. The seed sown is the same for all. The seed is 100% fertile and capable of germination and growth. Some does and some doesn’t and other seed has only partial growth. The results are varied, not because of the seed, but because of the different types of soil.

Right now we are hearing God’s word. The seed is being sown in our hearts at this moment. You can be hardened because of past hurts or personal sins and don’t want anything to do with the Word right now. That’s the foot path person. You may have some inclination to turn to Jesus wholeheartedly, but after a brief and weak effort you abandon the whole idea. That’s the rocky ground. The briar people are those who have too many other interests on their minds at this time. Others will be open to the Lord, and want to grow in God’s love. These are the “good soil people.” They openly invite the Lord into their lives. God then enables them to be both happy and productive.

 

What really drives us?

The admiration of others can be quite fickle. It can be there one day and gone the next. Jesus was very aware of that in regard to himself. At times everyone was full of admiration for all that he did. But at the very moment when he was highly admired as a celebrity he says to his disciples, “the Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.” Jesus was not driven by the need for celebrity. He was driven by the desire to do God’s will, to complete the work God had given him. That is why he had to go to Jerusalem, dangerous as it was, because that city too needed to hear the goods news of the presence of God’s rule in Jesus’ life and ministry.

The life of Jesus invites us to ask ourselves, “What is it that drives us?” Is it the need for human approval and recognition or is it something deeper? We are all called to make Jesus’ desires and priorities our own, to be about God the Father’s business as he was, to keep doing God’s will and sharing in God’s work, in keeping with whatever energies and gifts we have at this particular time and place in our life. Then we will know not just the surface pleasure that comes with human approval but the deeper joy that comes from living in tune with God’s purpose for our lives.

 

The Lord will turn our many disasters into double blessings

He Who has brought disaster upon you will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.”

Baruch 4:29

Most people have suffered disasters in their lives. Some of these have been caused by our shortcomings. If we would seek the Lord ten times more zealously than we strayed from Him, He would save us from disaster and bring us back a joy that this time will last (Bar 4:28).

The Lord turns all things, even disasters, to the good for those who love Him (Rm 8:28). If we repent and seek the Lord, we will understand that the sufferings of the present are “nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us” (Rm 8:18). We may go forth weeping, but we’ll come back rejoicing (Ps 126:6). The Lord will change our mourning into dancing, our sackcloth into robes of gladness (Ps 30:12), and our darkness into dawn (Ps 30:6). The Lord turned Job’s many disasters into double blessings. “The Lord even gave to Job twice as much as he had before” (Jb 42:10).

Moreover, the Father turned the ultimate disaster of His Son’s death on the cross to the ultimate joy of His resurrection from the dead. Disaster, sin, and death are not the final words. Rather, joy, salvation, and life reign supreme for those who have given their lives to Jesus.

Remaining united with God is the source of our true joy

When an admirer wished to compliment Jesus by praising his mother, Jesus did not deny the truth of the blessing she pronounced. Her beatitude (which means “blessedness” or “happiness”) recalls Mary’s canticle: All generations will call me blessed (Luke 1:48). Jesus adds to her words by pointing to the source of all true blessedness or happiness – union with God in heart, mind, and will.

Mary humbly submitted herself to the miraculous plan of God for the incarnation of his only begotten Son – the Word of God made flesh in her womb, by declaring: I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38). Mary heard the word spoken to her by the angel and she believed it.

On another occasion Jesus remarked that whoever does the will of God is a friend of God and a member of his family – his sons and daughters who have been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ (Luke 8:21). They are truly blessed because they know their God personally and they find joy in hearing and obeying his word.

Our goal in life, the very reason we were created in the first place, is for union with God. We were made for God and our hearts are restless until they rest in him. Lucian of Antioch (240-312), an early Christian theologian and martyr, once said that “a Christian’s only relatives are the saints.” Those who follow Jesus Christ and who seek the will of God enter into a new family, a family of “saints” here on earth and in heaven. Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God and his kingdom. Do you hunger for God and for his word?

“Lord Jesus, my heart is restless until it rests in you. Help me to live in your presence and in the knowledge of your great love for me. May I seek to please you in all that I do, say, and think.”

 

What is unforgivable sin?

In the Gospel, Jesus warns us to avoid unforgivable sin. A sin can only be unforgivable if repentance is impossible. If someone repeatedly closes his or her heart to God and shuts their ear to his voice, they come to a point where they can no longer recognize God even when God makes his word and presence known to them. Such a person ends up perceiving evil as good and good as evil (Is. 5:20).

To fear such a sin, however, signals that one is not dead to God and is conscious of the need for God’s merciful help and strength. There are no limits to the mercy of God, but we can reject his mercy by refusing to ask God’s pardon for our wrongdoing and by refusing to accept the help he gives us to turn away from sin and from whatever would keep us from doing his will. God gives sufficient grace (His favour and mercy towards us) and he gives sufficient help (His wisdom and strength) to all who humbly call upon him.

Giving up on God and refusing to turn away from sin and disbelief results from our own sinful pride, stubborn will and the loss of hope in God’s promises. God never turns a deaf ear to those who seek his help and listen to his voice.

Suffering is a mystery

In the Gospel, Jesus mentions two incidents which actually took place in Palestine at the time. One of these incidents is an act of violence perpetrated by Pilate who ordered some Galilean Jews killed while they were offering their religious sacrifices. The same Pilate would soon condemn Jesus himself to death. The other incident involved a construction accident in Siloam. In both cases, a number of people lost their lives. Jesus takes the occasion to emphasize that these deaths did not occur because the people involved were guilt of sin, or were being punished by God. He tells us clearly that they were not anymore guilty, or deserving to die, than anyone else. It was common then, as it is now, to associate disaster with some type of punishment.

We often wonder why certain people, seemingly innocent, suffer untimely accidents and deaths. In their confusion, some say, “God is trying to tell us something.” When we are faced with perplexing questions about such tragedies, let us think of this passage and respond that God is, indeed, trying to tell us something – that such events do not stem from personal guilt. They are mysteries. They can also be occasions of grace for those who reflect on the uncertainties of life.

Come up Higher

Jesus explains the code of conduct to be observed when invited to a wedding reception. Those seated nearest the head table will get their food sooner than those in the back. Some people, in their selfish excitement to get the front tables, may sit where there is “reserved” sign. Perhaps they won’t notice the sign, or maybe they will ignore it; until, that is. Some family member of the bride and groom arrive for whom the table has been saved. Then those who had pushed their way to the front will be relegated to the section near the door, for the other tables at this point will now be taken.

The Eucharistic meal is often spoken of in terms of a wedding feast. We are invited. Some pious persons, very respectfully, don’t take the front seats nor even the last ones – they stand along the back wall. A few stay in front. The Lord’s words, “My friend, come up higher,” now apply to them. We are celebrating our faith, and you are part of the family of faith. You belong. A personal invitation was prepared by the Lord’s death and extended to us in baptism. We are friends and family. We are always invited to come up higher.

True generosity does not impoverish – but enriches – the giver

In the Gospel of today, Jesus exhorts his disciples to be like the shrewd steward who used money generously to make friends and win for himself a secure and happy future (see the parable of the dishonest steward in Luke 16:1-9). Generous giving is connected with alms-giving – the sharing of our financial and material resources with those in need (Luke 12:33). Those who receive alms become your friends because you are merciful to them in their time of need, just as God is merciful to you in your need for his forgiveness and help.

The rabbis had a saying, “The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come.” God richly rewards those who give generously from the heart to help those in need.

What is the enemy of generosity? It’s greed, the excessive desire for personal gain and security. However, we do not need to be afraid for true generosity does not impoverish the giver, but enriches that person a hundredfold! Generosity expands the soul – but greed contracts it. God is generous and superabundant in lavishing his gifts upon us. We can never outmatch God in generosity. He has given us the best of gifts in sending us his only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered up his life for us on the cross. The Father also offers us the gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the fruit of peace, joy, patience, kindness, love, and self-control (Galatians 5:22) – and many other blessings as well. Everything we have is an outright gift of God.

Our money, time, and possessions are precious resources and gifts from God. We can guard them jealously for ourselves alone or allow the love of the Lord to guide us in making good use of them for the benefit of others – especially those in need – and for the work of the Lord in advancing his kingdom. Ask the Lord to fill your heart with a spirit of generosity and joy in sharing what you have with others.

Faith-filled persistence reaps the fruit of justice and grace

Jesus tells a story that is all too true – a defenseless widow is taken advantaged of and refused her rights. Through sheer persistence she wears down an unscrupulous judge until he gives her justice. Persistence pays off, and that’s especially true for those who trust in God. Jesus illustrates how God as our Judge and Vindicator is much quicker to come to our defense and to bring us his justice, blessing, and help when we need it. But we can easily lose heart and forget to ask our heavenly Father for his grace and help.

Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) to give his disciples fresh hope and confidence in God’s unfailing care and favor towards us (grace). In this present life we can expect trials and adversity, but we are not without hope in God. The Day of the Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices perpetrated by a fallen world of sinful people and that God’s love is stronger than death (Song of Songs 8:6). Those who put their faith in God and entrust their lives to him can look forward with hope and confident assurance. They will receive their reward – if not fully in this present life then surely and completely in the age to come in God’s kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17).

Jesus ends his parable with a probing question for us. Will you and I have faith – the kind of faith that doesn’t give up or lose hope in God – but perseveres to the end of our lives – and to the end of this present age when the Lord Jesus will return in glory as Ruler and Judge of All? Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to us. We could not believe, trust, and persevere with hope if God did not first draw us to himself and reveal to us his merciful love and care. If we want to grow and persevere in faith until the end of our days, then we must nourish our faith with the word of God and ask the Lord to increase it (Luke 17:5). When trials and setbacks disappoint you, where do you place your hope and confidence? Do you pray with expectant faith and confident hope in God’s merciful care and provision for you?

Resurrection

Is your life earth-bound or heaven-bound? The Sadducees had one big problem – they could not conceive of heaven beyond what they could see with their naked eyes! Aren’t we often like them? We don’t recognize spiritual realities because we try to make heaven into an earthly image. The Sadducees came to Jesus with a test question to make the resurrection look ridiculous. The Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, did not believe in immortality, nor in angels or evil spirits. Their religion was literally grounded in an earthly image of heaven.

The Scriptures give witness – we will rise again to immortal life

Jesus retorts by dealing with the fact of the resurrection. The scriptures give proof of it. In Exodus 3:6, when God manifests his presence to Moses in the burning bush, the Lord tells him that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He shows that the patriarchs who died hundreds of years previously were still alive in God. Jesus defeats their arguments by showing that God is a living God of a living people. God was the friend of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when they lived. That friendship could not cease with death. As Psalm 73:23-24 states: “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.”

The ultimate proof of the resurrection is the Lord Jesus and his victory over death when he rose from the tomb. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he exclaimed:  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?” (John 11:25). Jesus asks us the same question. Do you believe in the resurrection and in the promise of eternal life with God?

Jesus came to restore Paradise and everlasting life for us

The Holy Spirit reveals to us the eternal truths of God’s unending love and the life he desires to share with us for all eternity. Paul the Apostle, quoting from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 64:4; 65:17) states: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,” God has revealed to us through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). The promise of paradise – heavenly bliss and unending life with an all-loving God – is beyond human reckoning. We have only begun to taste the first-fruits! Do you live now in the joy and hope of the life of the age to come?

 

Be ready to meet the Lord today

Is there anything holding you back from the joy and freedom of the Lord? God wants our hearts for him and for his kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness (Romans 14:17). But our hearts can be weighed down by many different things. Jesus, our Lord and Master, offers us true freedom – freedom from the power of sin and wasted life, and freedom from our unruly desires and disordered passions – such as making food, drink or anything else our master rather than our servant. Jesus wants our hearts to be ruled by one thing only – his love and truth which enables us to choose whatever is good and to reject whatever is evil and harmful for us.

Jesus also warns us of the temptation to slacken off – to become spiritually idle, lazy, indifferent, or inattentive to God’s presence and his word and guidance for our lives. We can fall asleep spiritually if we allow other things to distract us from the reality of God and his kingdom. It is very easy to get caught up in the things of the present moment or to be weighed down with anxious cares and concerns. The Lord wants us to be ready at all times to meet him – whether it be in our rising, eating, working, or taking our rest. He comes to draw us to himself – are you alert and attentive to his voice?

The Lord knows our struggles, weaknesses, and shortcomings. And he assures us that we do not need to carry our burdens alone nor struggle without his help. He is always very present and ready to give us whatever strength, guidance, and help we need to fight temptation and to stay the course which he has set for us. But there is one thing he doesn’t tolerate: indifference, an attitude of not caring, and doing nothing! The Lord wants us to cast our anxieties on him and to ask for his guidance and help. Do you pray for God’s strength and wisdom?

Until the Lord comes again we can expect troubles, trials, and temptations. Our adversary the devil does not rest in his attempt to lure us away from God’s will for our lives. If he cannot succeed in getting us to renounce our faith in Christ, he will try, little by little, to distract us from pursuing God, especially in prayer and listening to his word. Ask the Lord Jesus to rekindle the fire of his love in you so that you will be ready and eager to meet him when he comes again.

YEAR II

 

What shall determine our salvation: obedience to the law or faith in Jesus?

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St. Paul in Gal 3:22-29, is inviting us to re-examine our attitude towards law. In both chapter three and four of his letter to the Galatians, Paul is emphasizing that faith in God is much more important than observance of the Hebrew religious laws.

Before Faith came, we were held in custody under law….But now that faith has come….through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus…..There is neither Jew nor Greek…And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

The primary factor which is necessary for salvation or the factor which qualifies one to be heir to God’s Kingdom is faith in Christ. But faith in Jesus implies obedience to God’s commandment. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt 7:21). To believe in Jesus is very primary for our salvation. But that faith must be seen in action. Action involves obeying God’s commandments and church norms which acts as sign posts on the path to heaven.

But faith in Jesus should be our monitor, whether we are Jews or Black, Catholics or non-Catholics, men or women, single or married. “Each of you,” Paul says, “is a child of God because of your faith in Christ Jesus” Gal 3:29. This trusting faith in Jesus is basic to our salvation. And this trusting faith must lead us to the obedience of God’s commands not out of fear, but out of love and trust in Him

What shall determine our salvation; obedience to the law or faith in Jesus?

St. Luke Evangelist

As we remember the Evangelist Luke today, we need to ask ourselves a question:

What kind of harvest does the Lord want us to reap today for his kingdom? When Jesus commissioned seventy of his disciples to go on mission, he gave them a vision of a vast field that is ready to be harvested for the kingdom of God. Jesus frequently used the image of a harvest to convey the coming of God’s reign on earth. The harvest is the fruition of much labor and growth – beginning with the sowing of seeds, then growth to maturity, and finally the reaping of fruit for the harvest. God’s word grows like a seed within us In like manner, the word of God is sown in the hearts of receptive men and women who hear his word, accept it with trust and obedience, and then share the abundant fruit of God’s word in their life with others. The harvest Jesus had in mind was not only the gathering in of the people of Israel, but all the peoples (and nations) of the world. John the Evangelist tells us that  “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Be a sower of God’s word of peace and mercy

What does Jesus mean when he says his disciples must be “lambs in the midst of wolves”? The prophet Isaiah foretold a time when wolves and lambs will dwell in peace (Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25). This certainly refers to the second coming of of the Lord Jesus when all will be united under the Lordship of Jesus after he has put down his enemies and established the reign of God over the heavens and the earth. In the meantime, the disciples must expect opposition and persecution from those who would oppose the Gospel. Jesus came to lay down his life for us, as our sacrificial lamb, to atone for our sins and the sins of the world. We, in turn, must be willing to offer our lives with gratitude and humble service for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are called to speak and witness in God’s name

What is the significance of Jesus appointing seventy disciples to the ministry of the word? Seventy was a significant number in biblical times. Moses chose seventy elders to help him in the task of leading the people through the wilderness. The Jewish Sanhedrin, the governing council for the nation of Israel, was composed of seventy members. In Jesus’ times seventy was held to be the number of nations throughout the world. Jesus commissioned the seventy to a two-fold task – to speak in his name and to act with his power.

Jesus gave his disciples instructions for how they were to carry out their ministry. They must go and serve as people without guile, full of charity (selfless giving in love) and peace, and simplicity. They must give their full attention to the proclamation of God’s kingdom and not be diverted by other lesser things. They must  travel light – only take what was essential and leave behind whatever would distract them – in order to concentrate on the task of speaking the word of the God. They must do their work, not for what they can get out of it, but for what they can give freely to others, without expecting reward or payment. “Poverty of spirit” frees us from greed and preoccupation with possessions and makes ample room for God’s provision. The Lord Jesus wants his disciples to be dependent on him and not on themselves.

God gives us his life-giving word that we may have abundant life in him. He wills to work in and through each of us for his glory. God shares his word with us and he commissions us to speak it boldly and plainly to others. Do you witness the truth and joy of the Gospel by word and example to those around you? “Lord Jesus, may the joy and truth of the Gospel transform my life that I may witness it to those around me. Grant that I may spread your truth and merciful love wherever I go.”  

The Church needs the participation of each of us

For the church to successfully fulfill its purpose and mission here on earth, it needs the participation of each of us.   Kindly take a little time and read Ephesians 4: 7-16, and then meditate with me the following points: 1. The Church does not belong to a single individual (Pope, Bishop, Priest, Religious, a Lay faithful), NO! The church belongs to each and every baptized person. 2. Each member of the Church is differently gifted/graced. Each member must strive to use the gifts they have received from Jesus Christ.  Each of us has a part to play. 3. Jesus Christ gives special gifts to us to accomplish his purposes. Some have been graced as Apostles, while others as Prophets, Evangelists, Musicians, Priests, Parents, Church Leaders, etc. 4. Each should play a role in advancing the people of God to unity of faith and maturity in Jesus Christ. We are like a MOSAIC. A large picture but each one not complete to itself. And each piece will not be able to see the complete picture. Only God can see the mosaic of the whole church worldwide and complete the picture. 5. We are to be a body of believers in the image of Jesus Christ. We are to be his body in the world, the Body of Christ, where every member is important because each of us work with, and support one another, in faith and unity. 6. In supporting each other, we mature in faith so that, we are no longer, “tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine…” 7. As the body of Church, the church needs each Christian to do his work properly. We need true commitment to our Christian life. 8. So, what part do you play in the church? Are you a committed member or are you a fair weather member? is your relationship to the church selfish, based on your own needs rather than on the church’s needs? 9. Are you using your gifts for the body of Jesus Christ so that the whole body – the church – can be built? 10. If you are not doing your bit, the body of Christ – the church – is suffering. 11. The gifts we all have will minister both to the church and to those outside the community of faith.      

November 1: Solemnity of all Saints

 

There is great rejoicing in heaven

 

Today there is great rejoicing in heaven. Though some of the saints have been allotted particular days during the liturgical year, today there is universal celebration in the church for all saints. The Catholic Church has an amazing galaxy of saints, canonized or beatified. Each age has produced its crop of holy men and women. Today we celebrate the great harvest of them all; including the millions the church has not yet proclaimed saints. We remember them all today. They come from royalty to working class, from great Popes to humble priests.

Saints are master pieces of God’s work. Admiring the painting, we admire the artist. The praise and admiration of the painting does not detract anything from the praise and admiration we owe to the artist. On the contrary, when we bestow admiration and praise on the painting, in reality we praise and admire the artist who, in the case of saints, is God, who works always with the co-operation of human beings.

If so many have become saints why can’t we? The countless number of saints in heaven were men and women of flesh and blood like us. They had the same weaknesses, the same human inclinations, and the same human nature. They had also the same means of holiness. We are called to be saints.

Since God is my source of strength, i have strength for everything.

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I would like us to pay attention to the first reading (Ph 4:10-19)

Here, we have the conclusion of Paul’s affectionate letter to his unwavering Philipian friends. He can’t seem to thank them enough for their prayers and material support of him. He appreciates their gifts, not so much that he has received them but that they offered them. The Apostle says he has learned something which is very valuable – perhaps we could learn it also.He says, “I have learned how to cope with every circumstance.” 

I heard an elderly priest give a talk some few months ago, where he explained how his approaches had changed over the years of his ministry.  As a young man, he tried to solve every problem he encountered. Now, in his later years, he said he was not trying to solve all problems but simply attempting to cope with them.

Paul says it’s fine if he eats well and is provided for, but he can also cope with hunger and material poverty. His coping is not with principles, but with possessions or the lack of them. This day many things will be not the way I want them. Paul will give me direction. I, too, can say, since God is my source of strength, I have strength for everything.

 

Perseverance

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Sometimes ago, a local magazine published the results of a research conducted by professor David of the University of Nairobi. He and his associates had studied top performers in different fields to determine what contributed most to their outstanding success. They studied individuals in science, medicine, literature, the performing arts, music, sports, business, etc. We might assume that these people had extraordinary talents in these areas and they simply developed them. The research showed differently.

As  children many of these individuals had done poorly in the areas in which they were now so very proficient. The common thread in each success story was determination and persistence. They had developed a drive to succeed and that enabled them to accomplish their purposes. The key element which made them successful can be summarized in one word perseverance.

The widow in this Gospel story would never have gotten a just settlement from the wicked judge, had she not possessed that precious quality of perseverance. She, too, is a real success story.

 

Memorial of St. Cecilia – Virgin and Martyr

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Our life should be a song

Today, being November 22, the entire Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St Cecilia – Virgin and martyr.
Cecilia is said to have lived in third-century in Rome. She dedicated herself to God, but was betrothed against her will to Valerian. She converted her husband to Christ, and soon afterwards, he and her brother were arrested and martyred. Cecilia gave their bodies a Christian burial, and was immediately arrested herself.
Required to offer sacrifice to gods, she refused and was put to death. Even then there was great suffering: because the executioner was in competent, Cecilia lingered on for three days before she died.
Cecilia is the patron saint of the musicians. St. Augustine says that he who sings prays twice. He also says that it is the mark of a lover to sing. Our life should be a song. We must sing not so much with our voice, but rather in our heart. In music there is harmony. Many notes harmonize. There should not be discordant notes. sin is a discordant note. when there is sin we will not be able to sing with our heart. Our life will not be a song. Therefore, let our life be a a life without a discordant note.

 

New Beginning

 

A renowned poet, T.S. Eliot, once wrote these incisive words: “In the end is my beginning

Today is the end of the liturgical year, which is concluded by reading the last chapter of the last book of the Bible. The thoughts of the heavenly paradise expressed are reminiscent of those ideas spoken in the first book of the Bible. It was in the Genesis account of the original earthly paradise that we were first introduced to the rivers, trees and fruit. It was there, too, we heard the unfortunate curse upon all humankind. But that was long ago and far away.

In the meantime, the trees have grown and produced their fruit. The rivers have reached their oceans. The last long distance runner has crossed the finish line in the human race. Salvation history has been unfolded and human kind is restored to that pristine purity it once knew in paradise.

Now in the end, there is a new beginning. The rivers are again crystal clear and the delightful fruit from the trees can be eaten without fear of any curse. Our original desire to “reign” is now fulfilled. The days are pleasantly warm and there is no night. What was lost in the beginning has been found in the end.

 

2 Responses to “Saturday”

  • Mildred Shivachi:

    Thanks Fr.George. This is awesome. I like never worry with a frowning face. Smile ,sing or whistle. Mine is “Dont worry Be happy” God is in control. Have a blessed weekend.

  • Mildred Shivachi:

    Happy All Saints Day. The meditation is well said Fr.George. Have an outstanding day and God bless you as we celebrate this great day.

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