THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
“God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.”
As we celebrated Ash Wednesday, the ashes reminded us that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. This encouraged us to humbly make contrition of our sins and hurriedly seek for God’s mercy and forgiveness.
But sin, in our 21st century contemporary society, has been denied, camouflaged, psychoanalyzed and repressed; giving a justification to accepting it and not to confess it. The usual misleading perception is, “We don’t really sin...we rather make mistakes in judgment.” I think this is a temptation of hypnosis!
To take such scales from our eyes, the Lenten season offers us the golden opportunity to look at such temptations, sin and the consequences. During this period, we are challenged to die to sin so that we may rise again to new life in Christ. It gives us a time that reminds us of the human journey of fall and redemption. In Lent we reflect on themes like temptation, sin, guilt and forgiveness.
The first reading highlights ”Original Temptation,” symbolized by the eating of the forbidden fruit. This story of the first sin committed by Adam and Eve focuses on the choice God gave them. The fundamental choice was to live for God, to be dependent upon and obedient to His will. Their faithlessness led them to sin.
Beloved in Christ, temptations are part of our condition as human beings. It is a temptation when we attempt to serve our inordinate desires from within ourselves. There are also temptations posed by the world and the people around us. In all of these, there is a choice to make. As Christians, we need to rely on the faithful word of God. Although we are tempted and often succumb, God’s grace provides the way of salvation for us.
Paul, in the second reading, admonishes that sin is never a private affair affecting only you. When we sin all our relationships are affected: our inner self, God, family and friends, nature and the world we live in. He compares human sin and it's consequences to Christ's salvific action and it's restorative effects on humankind. Though we sin, we still enjoy the rehabilitation of the grace of God as we open up to Him.
So the Psalmist presents our acknowledgement of our guilt before God, ”Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.” - Psalm 51
The Gospel reading teaches us about the ”desert experience” of fasting, praying and soul-strengthening as a spiritual journey that enabled Jesus to confront temptation successfully and to preach the good news.
As Christians, to overcome our temptations, we need to confront our evil tendencies with prayer (regularly going for Holy Mass). You have to seek reconciliation and do your penance frequently. Develop a habitual meditative attitude of reading the Word of God. Learn to share what you have with others. Grow in holiness in prayer, offer humble service, give alms and help those in need.
Remember, God has not given up on you yet. He is still working and walking with you. You are never alone. Christ Offers Forgiveness For Everyone Everywhere (COFFEE). Think about this!
Whooo Hooo! Winter is gradually ending. Are you ready for the Spring?
See you in church. Love you.
THE SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
“Sanctify yourself and you will Sanctify Society.”
As society advances and grows rapidly with science and technology, our modern-day approach to religious values seems to be treated with disdain.
Holiness is perceived as something belonging to our ancestors in the ancient days. Vengeance, revenge, unforgiving character, lack of reverence to the Sacred, bearing hatred, holding grudges against others, etc. have become almost our everyday life situation.
People just don't care about the need to be holy. After all, they claim it's their right to do what they think they do! But is that the will of God for creating us as His image and likeness? Certainly, no!
In our first reading, God made it emphatically clear that, ”Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy... You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:2, 18) This reminds us of the basis of our Christian morality and the Divine nature of God; which is His unconditional and magnanimous love, care, concern, mercy and forgiveness.
As His chosen ones, it is incumbent upon us to be the physical embodiment of His holiness in families, workplaces, relationships, communities, etc by foregoing revenge, holding no grudges and bearing no hatred. Indeed, the basic foundation of our vocation as Christians lies in loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
The Apostle Paul continues the narrative on how to be holy by encouraging us to keep our bodies holy, because they are the temples of the Holy Spirit. By this, we become the dwelling sanctuaries of God Himself; we, therefore, become the visible image of the invisible God. From the heart comes all sullied desires and from the mind comes all evil impressions. These defile the body. Pay attention and remain focused.
Being holy, you lead people to witness and feel the presence of God in you. Living a holy life becomes a must - not an option - as a Christian. Just decide to be. This is what the saints did. You are not far from it. May the Lord make His grace just enough for you!
Lastly, Jesus in the gospel reading leads us to the practical means of proving our holiness in life circumstances. He insisted we forgive any insult or action, instead of fighting for privileges and positions we should rather show more sense of responsibility and a greater sense of duty and to love our enemies.
The call to holiness comes with total commitment and with unrelenting faith. As Christians, remember this, "by their fruits we shall know them..." If people trust you and know you better, look like your master.
May God increase our faith.
Stay warm and stay safe on the road. See you in church. Love you.
THE SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
"Life is about choices. Some we regret, Some we are proud of. Some will haunt us forever.
The liberty or the freedom to decide and to make choices is one of the inalienable rights for every human being. Even though God created us but out of His benevolence He gave us the free-will to make decisions and choices on our own accord.
This free-will is the power and authority He has endowed us with so that He does not control us like a robot. But have we used this free-will to make the right choices and decisions? Our world today is suffering because human beings have made wrongful choices: the consequences of which seem to be a scare-crow robbing us of our peace and happiness.
In the first reading, the Jews had problems in their society because they deviated from the path of Yahweh, so God spoke to them to make the right choices out of the options given to them. In effect, He reminded them that obedience to His commandments and laws was a solid foundation for making the right choices.
Beloved ones in Christ, even though we have our own free-will and the right to decide and choose, we should always choose that which corresponds to the will of God. This will guarantee peace and joy in our lives.
Paul, in the second reading, makes it emphatically clear that human wisdom is incomparable to the Divine wisdom. So to succeed in our choices and decision making, we need and should rely upon the wisdom of God. It is a key to open the treasures of life to us.
The Psalmist says, ”Give me discernment that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart... Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord.” Psalm 119:1, 34.
In the gospel reading, Jesus Christ condemns certain bad choices and decisions of human beings like anger, giving false oath or swearing, adultery and disobedience to the law of the Lord. These are enemies to our progress and advancement. Instead, He encourages us to go for righteousness and wisdom.
Indeed, as Christians, we need to pay attention to our choices and decisions. Never depend on your human wisdom and competence, but rely on God for everything you do.
May God keep you safe under His watchful care so that you do not regret your choices!
Are you enjoying the snow and the sun? I drove on a snowmobile. It was fun!
Love you. See you in Church.
THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
“Cook the Truth in Charity until it tastes Sweet.” - St. Francis De Sales
When life situations seem to be overwhelming and the flow of plans and expectations seem to be delaying, frustrations and anxieties set in. This unwelcome phenomenon, most of the time, shifts our focus from the needs and the plights of others: especially the poor and the needy amongst us; making us unwilling to sacrificially share our blessings with them.
Unfortunately, this approach incurs the wrath of God, making our situation even worse. Have you ever thought about this in your life before?
In our first reading the Israelites, upon returning from their Babylonian exile, were expecting the restoration of Jerusalem to be very quick. But against their expectations, things seem to be rather frustratingly slow. They wondered why their suffering was so prolonged.
In a response to this, the prophet Isaiah gave them this counseling, “share your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked... Then light shall rise for you in the darkness...” (Isaiah 58:7,10).
He insisted on justice and the compassionate care for the weak, the needy, and the vulnerable, because it is through them that the very goodness of God is revealed.
As Christians, regardless of our life situation, we should still pay attention to such people in our homes, families, faith communities, societies, etc. By doing this you become a light that brightens the darkened moments of their lives, which opens bountiful favor and blessings from God to you. Look out for someone to whom you may show love and care! (Have you thought of reaching out to support a project in Ghana?)
So, in our second reading we are encouraged to learn from Paul, who did not depend and rely upon his human eloquence for his missionary work.
In life we often want to depend upon our human competence and skills to succeed or achieve our aims. In most cases, these fail us or make our efforts futile.
Instead, we rather need to heavily rely on the power of God. This can be found in our charitable and compassionate care for the less privileged; who depend on God for survival. Try this and you will see the miraculous wonders of God in your life. Remember what the Psalmist echoes, "The just man is a light in the darkness to the upright.” (Psalm 112)
Finally, the gospel reading encourages every follower of Christ to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. A two-fold mission in our vocation.
As salt, Christians have a certain antiseptic influences on life and society by defeating corruption, fighting against injustice, and making it easier for others to avoid sin. As salt, we have the preservative qualities to preserve our religious faith, cultural values, and moral principles which Jesus has worked for us.
As light, we are called to courageously confront the evils in our society by living a virtuous lifestyle worthy of emulation. We give hope and strength to the hopeless and the marginalized in our society today. Our lives must be the light that dispels the darkness of evils prevailing in our world today.
Be a delicious salt and an undimmed light!
A word of appreciation to our teachers, students, parents and volunteers for making our Assumption Catholic School week very successful. It was truly fun! May God continue to bless our Tri-Parish Family. Love you all.
Let’s meet in Church once again!
THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
”To succeed in your intentions, entrust yourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary always, but especially in moments of difficulty and darkness. ’From Mary, we learn to surrender to God’s will in things. From Mary, we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary, we learn to love Christ, her son and the son of God... Learn from her to be always faithful, to trust that God’s Word to you will be fulfilled and that nothing is impossible with God.”
Today we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord; which originated in the 4th Century A.D. in Jerusalem. It came to be known in Rome in the middle 5th Century. It is also known as Candlemas Day.
Forty days after His birth, Jesus is presented in the temple as per the prescription of the Mosaic Law. It is also a day to commemorate the purification of Mary after giving birth to her firstborn son. This is a Jewish century-old tradition-ritualistic rite.
The significance of this feast to us as Christians is that it showcases to us the appearance of Jesus, the Son of God and also the Messenger of God, in His human form. So the testimony of Simeon attests to the identity and the mission of Jesus.
The first reading brings into focus the task of this Messenger. He comes as a refiner and purifier. His entrance into the temple is the manifestation of the presence of God. His goal is to correct the wrongs and sanctify all things. As Christians, we need to cooperate with Him and be open to work with Him for our salvation.
That is why the second reading makes it clear that He shared in our nature so that He could set us free from the slavery of death. He took to Himself the line of Abraham, so that in becoming our brother He becomes a compassionate and trustworthy high priest who is able to expiate His people from their sins.
Indeed, it is for our good that He is presented to us, to suffer with us in order to lead us back to the Father. Just be committed to Him by working and walking with Him. Your life will never be the same!
The gospel reading gives the narrative image of how this ritualistic tradition was done. The figures of Simeon and Anna juxtaposed with Jesus bring into focus the encounter of the Old Testament and the New Testament, respectively.
Like Jesus, during our baptism, we were presented to the Lord. So we have a mission to embark on, and a goal to achieve as Christians. We are also messengers to bear the good news of Christ Jesus.
Learning from Mary lets us totally depend on God, and be ready to do the will of God in our lives no matter what. Regularly going for Holy Mass is an opportunity for purification. We need to keep our minds and hearts pure. May the grace of God be sufficient for us.
Congratulations to our ACS students for winning the Sportsmanship award for this year's Brains contest at the Brain and Brawn competition. Kudos! You are indeed ROYALS! We are all proud of you. Appreciations to our indefatigable teachers and loyal parents. May God continue to bless you all.
Love you all... See you in Church.
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.