Monday, May 23, 2016

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 is a social justice dimension 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.

©2016 John S. Mbinda

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

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.

 ©2016 John S. Mbinda

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pentecost Sunday Year C

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

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” This Sunday, we affirm and celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. This is what we call Pentecost. The word Pentecost comes from the Greek (πεντηκοστή), which means the fiftieth day. Fifty days after the resurrection, Christ fulfills his promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Pentecost is one of the most prominent and colorful celebrations in the liturgical year. In the first reading, we relive the event of the first Pentecost. We are told that a noise like a strong driving wind came from the sky. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire resting on each of them. The Holy Spirit works in our lives like fire: illuminating our minds to understand the truth; warming the coldness of our hearts and revitalizing our energy. The Holy Spirit is the breath of Christ on the apostles so that His Spirit may work in them to continue His work through the Church. Thus the Holy Spirit is the energy poured out by Christ upon the apostles so that with renewed vigor they become powerful witness of the message of Christ. In the Second Reading, Paul deals with the issue of some members of the Corinthian community who considered themselves more important than others on account of their personal talents. Paul reminds them that God's Spirit is the source of unity as well as of a wonderful diversity of gifts for the growth of the community. Therefore there is no place for inflated egos in the community of the baptized. The Gospel from John gives a brief account of the Risen Lord Jesus offering the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and sending them. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit", the Spirit of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation.

Pentecost is therefore the crowning of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, who now fulfills his promise of sending the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. 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). There are those who give witness today by living in the way that Jesus taught as the only way to live. Yet others give counter witness to Jesus by engaging in “the works of the flesh,” contrary to the “work of the Spirit.” In the first reading we hear that 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. That is how powerful the Holy Spirit can be if we allow him into our lives. The power of the Holy Spirit is the greatest untapped power in the world. In the readings of today we see some of the things the Holy Spirit makes possible: communication in a language deeper than words; inner peace; transformation; forgiveness of sins; reconciliation and unity between estranged people; and every worthwhile gift. When the Holy Spirit is in us, no other spirit can touch us or manipulate us. The Holy Spirit is therefore, as Pope Francis put it recently, “our travelling companion.” So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Pentecost reminds us that the Holy Spirit can lead to conversion and transformation into powerful witnesses. 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.

©2016 John S. Mbinda

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord Year C

Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53

You will receive power; you will be witnesses. On the Solemnity of Ascension, we affirm our faith in Christ who "ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father". The Ascension of Christ into heaven is to be understood within context of the Paschal mystery of Christ. It is the culmination of the Death and Resurrection of the Lord. In the first reading, the disciples fail to understanding of the meaning of Jesus going away from them. They ask Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They have completely missed the point of Jesus’ mission and the whole purpose of his coming into the world. Having been with Jesus for three years, they still think that Jesus came to liberate Israel from the Romans. That is not why Jesus came into the world. Jesus helps his disciples to know what will happen after he is gone. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem….and to the ends of the earth.” When they receive the Holy Spirit, the disciples will be stewards of the gospel who teach by word and living examples.

The Gospel from Luke clearly links the Paschal Mystery to the ascension. It implies a commissioning to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins after Jesus goes up to heaven. It also means waiting patiently for the gift of the Holy Spirit. They must not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father. In other words, they must wait patiently for the Holy Spirit. In the language of faith, Christ ascends in order to descent and be present in a new way to each of us in many ways. Ascending into heaven means that Jesus Christ enters into the fullness of the Father's glory, and makes it possible for those who belong to his Body, the Church, to follow, as we pray in the preface. Indeed Jesus' entry into the presence of the Father makes it possible for his Church to wait in prayer and reflective discernment for the gift of the Holy Spirit who is God's continual presence with us. Even now, the risen Lord is ever active in the Church as she continues His mission of reconciliation, forgiveness and transformation of the world under the lordship of Christ, who "has put all things under his feet". So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The ascension is about Jesus being present to us in a new way through the Holy Spirit. Christ ascends in order to descent and be present in a new way to each of us in many ways. 2) Ascending into heaven means waiting patiently for the fulfillment of the promise to send the Holy Spirit. 3) The ascension implies preparing to be stewards of the gospel through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

©2016 John S. Mbinda

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

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.

©2016 John S. Mbinda