THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
"It is human to sin, but diabolic to persist in sin.” - St. Catherine of Siena
Our world seems to be sinking very deep into problems everyday, because human beings have decided to plunge themselves into sin. The act of sin has been glorified with different nomenclatures. Man has the pride and the gut to justify their wrongful acts and thoughts that are inimical to their very existence and survival.
This persistence and consistency has engulfed and clouded man into total darkness; leading to corruption of morals and degeneration of norms and values in our society today. Gone are the days that certain attitudes, acts, words, etc. were frowned upon; today, these same things are blatantly accepted and welcomed as if it is right to do them!
The consequence of this tripping-over has sadly ruined family life, relationships (friendships), marital unions, professions, personal identity, etc. We need someone who will be the light to lead us from this dungeon of darkness.
It is in such a similar context in the 8th century B.C. that the Jews in the first reading found themselves. Due to their sinful and waywardness, they were invaded and captured by their enemies. The Kingdom collapsed. They were helpless.
So Isaiah’s prophecy preempted and anticipated the Messianic Days. He describes the new era of liberty and joy; which the future Messiah will usher in. So he employs the image of the light dispelling the darkness when he said, ”The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Isaiah 9:1
Dearest in Christ, if you would acknowledge and rescind from your sinful acts and thoughts, the gracious radiance of the Lord will shine upon you. Peace and joy will be your portion all the days of your life and our world will be a better place to live in. Let the Lord be your light and your salvation!
In the second reading, Apostle Paul sought to correct the pride of the Christian community of Corinth, which was causing fractions and divisions amongst them. He insisted that they had to build their faith community with the same mind and purpose focusing only on Christ Jesus.
Family of God, whenever we allow the sin of pride to take hold of us, the resultant effect is the breakage of our family ties and bonds, and the destruction of our common good. This defeats our mission and purpose in our Christian calling. So, in everything make Christ the first priority and goal. Remember, a life without Christ is full of Crises!
Finally, our gospel reading affirms the Isaiah prophecy. Christ is the light that was promised to dispel the darkness of sin and to free man from the obscurity in which he is enclosed. Jesus Christ becomes the efficacious means to express God’s involvement in human history and struggles.
For this to be effective as beneficiaries, He invites us to repent of our sinful ways. Repentance is a decisive conversion or total turn about from our transgressions towards God. Remember that Sin is “Sinking Into Nothingness.” Give Christ a chance to dispel the darkness in your life! May the grace of God be enough for us.
This week I did my winter outdoor activity... snowshoeing... it was fun! It’s healthy!
Enjoy the snow, but stay warm. See you in Church.
SECOND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
”Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers,
Do we still have true witnesses of Christ (and the faith) in our contemporary age and time? Certainly arguable.
The challenges of the 21st century seem to have unnerved many Christians, influencing them to play ”hide and seek” games with their beliefs and faith. Many have compromised their belief system on the basis of excuses. Others have adulterated the principles of their faith on the grounds of justifications.
Still, for the most part, living a double standard lifestyle seems to be an option for modern-day Christians. But our world today needs true witnesses; an obligation for every Christian.
It is at the backdrop of this that our first reading continues the ”Suffering Servant” prophecies of Isaiah. This prophecy was uttered during the Babylonian exile to encourage the Jewish exiles to persevere in their trust in Yahweh; who would soon liberate them from their situations and eventually send them the long-expected Messiah, promised to Abraham.
As Christians, regardless of difficulties heckling us, we still have to be resilient witnesses through perseverance and endurance; hoping against hope for the days of salvation. We do not have to be bashful or afraid of living the principles of our beliefs in the midst of persecutions.
Paul’s expositions in the second reading brings into focus the fulfillment of this prophecy amongst the pagans as he emphasized the purpose of the Messiah’s coming: the sanctification and the true enlightenment of all nations.
The reception of our baptismal grace has sanctified us to embolden us to stand erect to the test of time as true witnesses of Christ - the Messiah. Also, the reception of his body and blood must enlighten us to stand up in defense of our faith - the mark of a gallant witness (soldier) of Christ.
In conclusion, the gospel reading gives us a model of true witnessing as John the Baptist proves himself as Christ’s excellent and exemplary witness as he faced persecution.
His pre-eminent witnessing was affirmed through his fearless testimony and innovative style. He courageously proclaimed Jesus Christ as the ”Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” John 1:29-30
By this, he anticipated Jesus’ Messianic and salvific roles. He becomes an authoritative witness who knows Jesus’ exact identity and why he came amongst men.
As Christians, in our time and age, we need to remind ourselves that we are the JOHN BAPTISTS of our milieu. We have to give authentic witnessing to Christ in every circumstance.
Our words, thoughts, actions, desires, planning, choices and decisions must reflect who (Christ) we are authentic witnesses to. This is what the modern world needs from us as Christians. Be a true witness of your faith, but not your fate! Make Christ known to the world.
Let's join the Psalmist to say with confidence, ”Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.” Ps 40:8-9
Let's meet in church. Stay safe on the roads and stay warm.
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
"Right faith is, of necessity, required for Baptism, since it is said, ’the Justice of God is by faith in Jesus Christ’ - Romans 3:22. Therefore, Baptism without faith avails nothing, and thus we must recall that without faith no one is acceptable to God.”
After the days of the Reformation spearheaded by Martin Luther, the only sacrament that serves as a bridge connecting the Catholic Church and the mainstream protestant churches is Baptism. Notwithstanding this, there are still differences in respect to the FORM and the MATTER.
The basic teachings of our catechesis tells us that the waters of baptism wash away our original sins. The obvious question is, if so, then why would Jesus go for baptism from John in the river Jordan? Does that presuppose He was a sinner like us? The answer is a big NO!
Jesus went for baptism because this was a century-old ritualistic practice amongst the Jews, equivalent to our Confessions. Until the 70 AD, the Jewish people used a special pool called ”Mikveh,” which literally means ”collection of water,” as a means of spiritual cleansing, to remove spiritual impurity and sin.
So, Jesus went through this to affirm the need to be in the state of holiness to be worthy of the blessings of God. He also did that to infuse the waters of baptism and the ceremony with His Divine Essence. Hence, baptism becomes a "conditio sine qua non" (condition without which there is not) to salvation.
But most significantly, the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan manifests the official inauguration of His public ministry. So it officially reveals who He is (identity) and why is He here in our midst, if he is divine (mission).
So, Isaiah in the first reading reveals his identity as the suffering servant of the Lord. He has come to accomplish a divine task for the sake of humanity. To atone for their sins. To bring victory over sin and death. To be the Savior and the Redeemer. So the hope of salvation is in our midst.
Hence, our second reading leads us to discover how man can achieve his salvation through Him. That is why in the house of Cornelius, Peter was surprised at the miracle performed. He said, ”In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” Act. 10:35
Actually, Cornelius was a Roman soldier and a pagan, so Peter, being a Jew, never thought that the salvation and love of God could be shown to him.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, know that, like Cornelius, if you persevere in your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, God is going to let his face shine on you. His glory will radiate in your life.
In the gospel reading, the Holy Trinity was at play. God the Father spoke, ”This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” God the Holy Spirit manifested himself as he descended like a dove upon Jesus, and God the Son Himself was Jesus. This was a divine revelation to affirm officially the identity of Jesus - the Son of God, the Messiah - in the person of man.
Baptism, therefore, becomes a divinely sanctioned sacrament that every human being needs. The Psalmist echoes, ”The Lord will bless his people with peace.” Ps. 29:11.
Baptism is an awesome gift from God to men through his son Jesus Christ. That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph #1279 states that by baptism we are incorporated into the church, the body of Christ, we become sharers of the priesthood of Christ. When our sins are washed away, this is the benefit.
Also in the same document, CCC #1213 adds that baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the spirit and the door to get access to the other sacraments.
To be at peace in life, this is what every man needs; Baptism. Jesus approved it with his baptism. So if we commemorate it, we then celebrate the inauguration of our salvation history.
Value your baptism, honor your baptismal vows, work towards your salvation!
Keep in mind what St. Gregory Nazianzen said, ”The three things God requires of all the Baptized: right faith in the heart, the truth on the tongue, temperance in the body.”
Happy Baptism Day to you all! May the Lord sustain our faith.
THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
”For by Gold the power of a King is signified, by Frankincense the honor of God,
Epiphany, from the Greek root “Epiphania,” means "appearance" or "manifestation," or better still, "revelation." This scenario can be likened to an “outdooring” or christening of a new baby in a family.
But in the case of Jesus, his epiphany outdoors two most important mysteries about him as a person. These include the revelation of his divinity (identity) and his purpose (mission) here on earth.
As the son of God, he manifests his incarnation into human flesh and blood. His goal is to save mankind from the servitude of sin. In effect, his destiny is made known and clear to the world.
This manifestation was foreshadowed by the Angels to the shepherds, by the Magi to the Gentile world, commemorated at the river Jordan during his baptism with the Trinitarian confirmation, and finally he revealed himself as the Messiah at the wedding feast at Cana.
The first reading from the prophecy of Isaiah had already predicted the appearance of the star personified in the Messiah. So Isaiah said, ”Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” Is.60:1-2.
He continues that the proof of this is in the presentation of gold, frankincense and the proclamation of the praises of the Lord. Indeed, this prophecy is fulfilled in the person of Jesus.
As Christians, our faith and trust in him should grow even stronger because he is the glory of the Lord that appears like the star that brightens to dispel the darkness of the sins in our lives.
In a sequel to this, Apostle Paul in our second reading affirms that the secrets of the divine plan has been unraveled to mankind. He said, ”Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Eph. 3:5-6.
This shows the universality of salvation and the redemption of Jesus to the world. That is why the Psalmist would say, ”Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” Ps. 72:11
Finally, the gospel reading brings into focus the reality of the aforementioned. The Magi followed the star to locate the presence of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem and subsequently gifted him the most valuable presents to prove his identity and mission: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
This gesture can be deduced into three lessons to enrich our faith:
1. Let us always be like the star that gave accurate direction to the Magi to locate Jesus. As we have entered into a new year we need to choose a better way of life, abstaining from proud and impure thoughts, evil habits and selfish behaviors.
2. If God permitted Magi - foreigners and pagans- to recognize and give Jesus the respect as the King of Jews, it manifests that there is nothing in our sinful lives that will keep God from bringing us to Jesus.
3. Let us always be like the star leading others to Jesus by removing the darkness of evil around us and radiating Jesus’ live through selfless services, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate care.
My dear one in Christ, remember to worship Him with the gold of your love, the myrrh of your humility and the frankincense of your adoration.
May the Epiphany of the Lord increase our faith!
Stay blessed! Be careful on the road.
THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
“See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife - as in a confessional - are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.”
As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus, to sign out this year, (being the last Sunday of 2019), we are called upon to take a second look at our families in our contemporary world today.
There is a gradual loosing of our families. Family size is shrinking, family values are eroding, family identity and solidarity are effacing, the basic tenets underpinning our families have been robbed.
Children fall prey to predators for abuse. Sometimes some parents are even afraid to discipline (correct) their own children and they (children) gradually drift away from their family (some even take decisions that are incongruence to family goals).
All of these owe to the wrong approach to modern trends of advancements; leading to individualism, secularism, materialism and the loss of the sense of God.
The worrying aspect of this canker is that Christian families have been invaded too. We seem to have allowed the influences of the world to control every facet of our lives. Irresponsible parenting, disobedience and delinquency in children, and disagreements between couples are threats to family sustenance.
So just imagine if we lose our families, how will our society and communities exist?
So the Church invites us to look to the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for inspiration, example, and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, and took good care of each other to raise their son Jesus in accordance to the dictates of God’s will and laws.
The first reading talks about the obligations of children to obey and revere their parents. Just as the fourth commandments clearly states, “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Ex. 20:12) Children are called to respect, love and care for their parents to gain the blessings and favor of God.
But there is a lesson also for the parents. There is a popular saying, ”Like father like son.” This means every child is a product of their parents. You can’t expect your child to be obedient and respectful when you fail to do what is right and just in the eyes of God. The young learn more from examples of their parents than from precepts.
St. Paul, in furtherance to the aforementioned, explains the spirit behind this. Children must know that to obey, respect and honor their parents is to acknowledge them as God’s representatives in their lives. So, to do that is to accord obedience to God Himself.
Finally, our gospel reading gives an insight into the flight to Egypt. Joseph, in an effort to protect his family, had to flee from the cruel plot of King Herod.
My dear family of God, for every family to survive there should be a protection against things that are threats. Hence, we need to protect and safe guard our family faith principles, family values and attributes, family unity, bond and solidarity against the threats of our society today.
If all of these will work, then each member of the family must be there for one other in good and bad moments, care and love one another, celebrate family achievements and successes together, watch each other's back to cover up for weaknesses and failures.
Anything short of these disintegrates the family. Remember, YOU ARE YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR FAMILY IS YOU!
St. John Paul II said, ”a family that prays together stays together.” Use prayer as a binding force to protect your family. God is always watching over your family. You are never alone.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. You and your family are in my prayers. Love you all.
Fr. Emmanuel hails from Ghana and is passionate about the Gospel and bringing the love of Christ to all people. He speaks several languages, enjoys soccer and cooking, and loves St. Francis of Assisi.