Friday, June 28, 2019

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: 1 Kgs 19:16,19-21; Gal 5:1,13-18; Lk 9:51-62

Determination to follow God’s call to an extraordinary mission and the cost of discipleship help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. The first reading from the First Book of Kings is about the call of Elisha. The passage dramatizes the implications of responding to God’s call. Elisha does the unthinkable. What he does is madness in the eyes of the world, but a wonderful metaphor for total detachment. He slaughters the very oxen used for plowing! If you can imagine in today’s world a young man destroying all the farm machines and tools before going to the seminary that is what Elisha does by destroying the source of family livelihood.

In the Gospel, Jesus challenges some would be disciples by highlighting the excuses they give when God calls them. The Gospel applies to us too and challenges our temptation of telling Jesus “let me finish up a few things first, and I’ll follow you later when I have less responsibility”. Jesus invites us to let go everything so we may be free to follow him. Since the Proclamation of the kingdom comes first, Jesus wants us to follow him now, not tomorrow or later. Christ’s call radically implies some painful hard choices and a price to pay. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mk. 10:34). In other words, following Jesus implies risking one's life, one's self-image, being rejected, ridiculed and despised. It means losing one's life, even by death, for the sake of Christ. Let me finish with a brief story.
A true story is told about a captain with 600 sailors who arrived by sail boats on the East Coast in the 16th century. The captain was so determined to stay that he took a risk by ordering the destruction of the sail boats by fire. Burning the boats meant that there was no turning back. With no other option, the sailors and their families were now free to forge ahead and settle in the new world. This story illustrates the risk involved in freeing oneself in order to respond to God’s call. There’s nothing like burning your boats to focus your mind on God’s call only without any other option. In God’s call there is no plan B! It means taking the risk to let go and let God take over your life. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Our response to God’s call implies determination to burn our boats or plows in order to focus on our extraordinary mission.  When God calls there is no plan B. 2) Our response like that of Elisha means giving our time, talent and treasure to God. 3) You and I are called to let go in order to be free to follow Christ. The bottom line question is twofold: 1) Are you ready to free yourself to serve Christ? 2) What plows or boats are you prepared to burn in order to be free?

©2019 John S. Mbinda

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ Year C

Readings: Gn 14:18-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11b-17

Eucharistic communion, social justice and inclusiveness are the key words that help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. The Solemnity of Body and Blood of Christ underlines our unity with Christ - the Body, and we - his members. Christ is the source of our communion with one another and with the Father. But while the Body and Blood of Christ unites and nourishes us spiritually, we can easily forget or neglect the social justice dimension of the Eucharist. Yes, there are social imperatives of the Eucharist. On the Occasion of the Year of the Eucharist (2004 to 2005), Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Stay with us Lord proposed that diocesan and parish communities commit themselves in a particular way to responding to one of the many forms of poverty present in our world. He said that “The criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged, will be our mutual love and in particular our concern for those in need”. The Apostle Paul teaches that it is “unworthy” of a Christian community to partake of the Lord’s Supper amid division and indifference towards the poor (1 Cor 11:17-22, 27-34). Our Catechism (#1397) underlines this point in reminding us that “To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren”. When the Eucharistic meal is shared equally by the faithful there is no division. The solemnity draws our attention to the continued injustice, discrimination and other forms of structural injustices that reflect either a lack of understanding of the social dimensions of the Eucharist or a lack of willingness to act on the social imperatives of the Eucharist. Our celebration of the Eucharist therefore cannot be divorced from its social implications. The US Catholic Bishops in 2003 said that, the Eucharist challenges us “to seek a place at the table of life for all God’s children” (cf. A Place at the Table).

The Gospel reading from Luke on the miracle of the multiplication of loaves underlines this social-justice dimension pointing to Christ’s compassion and love that is renewed every day at Eucharistic celebration. By eating this heavenly food, we become one Ohana in Christ, sharing in his life, his strength, his purpose and mission. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The Eucharist is a real memorial of the sacrifice Christ offered for the liberation of everything that oppresses human beings, but above all liberation from sin. 2) Our Sunday celebration of the Eucharist cannot be divorced from the injustices around us because by its very nature, the Eucharist is a proclamation of communion and inclusiveness. 3) There is an essential relation between our sharing of the Eucharist each Sunday and the food items we bring for distribution to the poor through our parish social ministry. Our Eucharistic faith is essentially linked to feeding the hungry.
©2019 John S. Mbinda

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Year C

Readings: Pro 8:22-31; Rm 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-15

Communion, fellowship and relationship are the key words that help to capture the message of this Sunday. But first a story. A story is told about St. Augustine walking on the beach and reflecting on the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Suddenly he saw a boy in front of him who had dug a hole in the sand and was going out to the sea back and forth, and bringing some water to pour into the hole. St. Augustine asked him, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole.” “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit into that hole,” said St. Augustine. The boy replied, “And you cannot fit the Holy Trinity into your tiny little brain.” The boy vanished, and then St. Augustine realized he had been talking to an angel. I tell this story because there has always been a mistake in approaching the Holy Trinity as a mystery for theological speculation. The Holy Trinity is a life of communion to be lived and shared. How do we live and share the life of the Holy Trinity in everyday life? As we enter the Church, we always bless ourselves with Holy Water, “In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” to remind ourselves that we are baptized in the name of the Triune God. Our Christian faith and life revolves around the Holy Trinity which is the center piece of our Christian faith. That is why we always begin and end all our prayers, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". We begin and end each Mass with the sign of the Cross to remember that the Eucharistic celebration is an invitation to be in God’s triune presence. Today listen to the words used in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and you will be amazed at how Trinitarian those prayers are. We use such a language to deepen our relationship with the triune God and so grow in communion with one another. We are created for communion; for relationship with the divine and with one another.

The gift of the Holy Spirit received on Pentecost is an infusion of God’s life of communion in our lives that energizes us in a powerful way. The Holy Trinity therefore is not just a subject of theological speculation on the three divine persons. Rather, it is a life of communion; a life to be lived and shared. You and I were created for communion. Therefore, we need to go beyond talking about love, communion and putting those ideas into practice by being instruments of God’s mercy, reconciliation and compassion. That is why God in creating us does not put us directly into heaven, because if He did so, we would mess life up there! Our life here on earth is a time to live a life of sharing, healing and communion with the people God has given us. So what message do we take home? 1) The Holy Trinity is a model for a life of communion to be lived and imitated. 2) The solemnity challenges us to be instruments of God’s mercy, reconciliation, healing and compassion. 3) One way of living such a life is prayer together, for example in a family or in a Basic Christian Community that overflows into the sharing of faith and healing of those who may be wounded in our community.
 ©2010 John S. Mbinda

Monday, June 10, 2019

Pentecost Sunday Year C

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 12:3-7,12-13; John 20:19-23

Transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world.  Pentecost is the crowning of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, who today fulfills his promise of sending the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the whole Church.

Let us for a moment recall the words of the promise. "When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, He will be my witness. And you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset" (Jn. 15:26). What exactly happened on Pentecost Day and why?

In the first reading we hear that after that extraordinary experience of receiving the Holy Spirit, everyone in Jerusalem heard the apostles and disciples speaking in their own language. Biblical scholars interpret the apostles’ gift of speaking in languages understood by all present in terms of a prophetic sign of the worldwide mission and proclamation of God’s kingdom in all known languages of the world today. The power of the Holy Spirit is the greatest untapped power in every diocese, parish and indeed in every one of us. In the readings of today we see the extraordinary signs the Holy Spirit manifests through the apostles: courage to come out; communication in a language deeper than words; inner peace; transformation; forgiveness of sins; reconciliation and unity between estranged people; and every worthwhile gift.

But how does the Holy Spirit work in our lives? Let me illustrate with an amazing story of one person who opened his heart to be used by the Holy spirit and consequently transformed the world and made tangible contribution to the Church.
It is the story of an Englishman whose name is Stephen Langton. He lived in England during the days of Robin Hood. Like Robin Hood, he wanted to help the poor, but in a different way as a priest. After his ordination, the Pope recognized his talents and appointed him the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, king John of England did not like him. When Stephen Langton saw all the injustices caused by the king’s laws, he mobilized all the ruling elite and had a meeting with them to transform the situation of England. Stephen Langton guided them to prepare what we know today as the Magna Carta.

But that was not all. Soon the king exiled Stephen Langton to Paris. Instead of being obsessed with his exile, he started teaching at the University of Paris and while there, the Holy Spirit led him to be aware of the need for working to divide the Bible into chapters and verves as we have it today.
But that was not all. Stephen Langton used his time and talent to write the lyric of the hymn Veni Sancte Spiritus – Come Holy Spirit that we have just sung before the Gospel. God indeed has an incredible plan for each of us when we open ourselves to be Spirit led.

There are three takes away points:
1) Pentecost reminds us that the power of the Holy Spirit transforms us into powerful witnesses just as the apostles.
2) God's Spirit is the source of unity as well as a wonderful diversity of gifts for the growth of the whole Church;
3) On Pentecost day, Christ sends us through the Church into the world: our homes, families, neighborhoods and places of work, to bring God’s gift of compassion, peace, reconciliation and forgiveness for all. “Come Holy Spirit.”

©2019 John S. Mbinda

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sixth Sunday of Easter Year C

Sixth Sunday of Easter Year C
Readings: Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Rev 21:10-14,22-23; Jn 14:23-29

Discerning the signs of the times, divisions, unity in diversity, guidance of the Holy Spirit are some of the phrases that help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. The readings focus our attention on what in the end keeps the Church united or divided. Jesus leaves three tools for his disciples for use in times of crisis that will certainly confront the Church: faithfulness to his word; the gift of the Holy Spirit; and the gift of peace. All three gifts help to discern the signs of the times, particularly in times of crisis, in order to preserve the unity of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles reminds us, that such unity and harmony could have easily been wrecked by dissent, scandal and disagreements. One of the problems in the Apostolic Church involved a serious controversy in Antioch between some new converts from Judaism to Christianity demanding that Gentile converts must keep the Mosaic Law in order to be saved. The controversy led to the first General Council of the Church in Jerusalem. The decision of the Apostles and the Elders was conveyed in writing to Antioch, in order to preserve unity and restore harmony and peace in the Church. The Apostles and Elders reached such a decision through a process of discernment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus challenges his disciples and us of today to make use of the three tools that he leaves for us. He challenges us to be faithful: “Anyone who loves me will be true to my word.” We find the word of Jesus Christ in Scripture and Tradition. First, we can only be secure if we hold onto that word. The second tool that Jesus gives us is the Holy Spirit who is still at work in a special way through the teaching office of the Church. The same Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church today, in discerning the complex pastoral situations the Church must face today. The third tool is the gift of peace: “My peace is my gift to you...not as the world gives peace.” The world defines peace in terms of the absence of war, pain and conflict, but that kind of peace can be destroyed by a single terrorist; by one single bomb or bullet. It does not last. Jesus Christ is the only lasting peace. In the last decade, Regional Synods of Bishops took place in Rome to discern under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the pastoral situation of the Church in each region. What happened at the Council of Jerusalem is an important example for what the Church in each region of the world needs to do in order to discern the signs of the times. At all levels of Church life, we are called upon to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. But above all the most urgent gift we need is peace, not in terms of the absence of war in the world, but in terms of a restored and renewed relationship with God in the new life we have received in Christ through the Church. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) All three readings challenge us to discern the signs of the times, particularly in times of crisis, in order to preserve the unity of the Church. 2) At all levels of Church life, we are called upon to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us rather than being guided by our likes and dislikes. 3) We are invited to rely on the Holy Spirit in bringing about unity in our families, parish communities and dioceses.
©2019 John S. Mbinda