Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent Year B

Evangelization: fourth sign of a Dynamic Catholic

Evangelization, sharing the good news, making disciples and best way to live, are the words that help to focus on the message of this Sunday. Last Sunday the homily highlighted the second and third signs of a dynamic Catholic: study and generosity. This Sunday the gospel in subtle ways underlines evangelization: the fourth sign of engaged Catholics. The Church exists precisely to transform people by proposing the best way to live as Jesus taught. It exists to evangelize. What exactly is evangelization? Evangelization is a process that leads people into a relationship with Jesus by sharing the good news Jesus taught on the best way to live. Matthew Kelly in Chapter Five of The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic challenges us to be God’s instruments of helping people become the best version of themselves. We can do this by taking one step at a time to change our own lives first. Once we commit ourselves to a routine of daily prayer, study, being generous with our lives, our faith will be so fired up with energy and joy that we cannot contain but share with others. The fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic is evangelization. Our parish exists to make disciples who make other disciples. That implies leading others to discover the best way to live as taught by Jesus Christ.

What is the best way to live? The best way to live is founded on the Commandment of love of God and neighbor as Jesus teaches (cf. Mt. 22:37-39). Matthew Kelly proposes three compelling principles that guide human beings on the path to the best way to live. 1) You are created to be the best version of yourself. In the Sermon on the Mountain Jesus teaches his disciples saying, “So be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48). Evangelization leads people on a path to the best version of themselves. 2) A virtuous life is better than a life of vice. Evangelization leads people to embrace a virtuous life rather than a life of vices. It is unthinkable to imagine a marriage, family, state or nation where vices reign supreme: pride, greed, envy, anger, lust and gluttony. 3) It is better to live with self-control (self-discipline) than to live without it. That is what Matthew Kelly means when he says, “Transforming people one at a time is at the very heart of God’s plan for the world.” As followers of Jesus we are called to transform people, culture and thinking. This is subversive and dangerous.

Let me sum up in a few points. 1) Evangelization is a process that leads people into a relationship with Jesus Christ by sharing the good news Jesus taught on the best way to live: a life of virtue and character; a life grounded on self-control and discipline. 2) Evangelization requires commitment to a routine of daily prayer, study and being generous with our lives. 3) Evangelization begins with our “yes’ by allowing Jesus to transform us into the best version of ourselves. 4) If you want to be an evangelizer, consider doing one thing each week to share your faith with someone who crosses your path. 5) Read the Bible, a good Catholic book or listen to a Catholic CD that inspires your faith daily and share it with other parishioners or people you meet. 6) Take the parish Newsletter to Catholics and friends who no longer come to church and invite them to join us for our Christmas Mass. Be bold; be Catholic; be a dynamic Catholic and the best version of yourself. I wish you all a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

©2014 John S. Mbinda

Friday, December 12, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent Year B

Transforming People One at a Time

Dynamic Catholic, incredible possibilities and transforming people are the key words that help to capture the central message of this Sunday. Last Sunday Deacon Wally summarized the first chapter of Matthew Kelly’s book Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic with the captivating phrase “Incredible Possibilities”. In that chapter Kelly says that “transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world.”  Prayer is the first sign, and the most dominant quality among dynamic Catholics. They have a routine and make time for daily prayer a priority.
This Sunday we consider study and generosity: the second and third signs of a dynamic Catholic.  On the second sign, Matthew Kelly has discovered four amazing facts: 1) on average, dynamic Catholics spend fourteen minutes each day learning more about their faith. 2) They see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and they make an effort to allow his teaching guide and form them. 3) Dynamic Catholics have a plan and a routine for their continuous learning. 4) They apply the principle of continuous learning. These four facts are credible proposals for our transformation. If you want to be a continuous learner, consider reading only 5 pages a day of a good Catholic book.  Five pages a day is 1,825 pages a year, 18,250 pages in 10 years.  Five pages a day is something you and I can do. Reading five pages a day is a game changer. If you are not a book reader, consider listening to a CD of a good Catholic book for ten minutes a day. Several of Matthew Kelly’s books are in CD format. The second sign of a dynamic Catholic is study – continuous learning.

Generosity is the third sign of engaged Catholics. I would to share with you a real story of a dynamic Catholic who lived a grateful life. The person in question continually shared his time going to Church daily and his treasure with the parish offering to sponsor outreach projects and the needs the parish had. He literally volunteered by asking the pastor, “Is there anything I can do?” When you met this person, he was the most joyful person you could ever meet, though he was struggling with his own health issues. He was generous, but God was even more generous with him. You see, God is generous before we are generous because all we have comes from God’s superabundant generosity. Dynamic Catholics are deeply aware of how much God has blessed them. For them, gratitude is not something they do; it is a way of life. Dynamic Catholics express their gratitude by being generous with their time, talent and treasure. Let me sum up in three points. 1) Dynamic Catholics have a routine in giving their time to study their faith by reading a good Catholic book  or the Bible daily.  2) Dynamic Catholics are deeply aware of how much God has blessed them. For them, generosity is a way of life. They have established goals for giving a percentage of their income to God. 3) The Advent Season is season of transformation. God has a plan to transform you and I into the best version of ourselves. The possibilities of our transformation are incredible. All we have to do is open our hearts and God will do the rest. Be bold; be Catholic; be a dynamic Catholic. Be more interested in knowing more about your faith.

©2014 John S. Mbinda

Friday, December 5, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent Year B

Readings: Is 40 1-5, 9-11; 2 Pt 3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8

Patience is an Advent virtue. This Sunday, the readings challenge us to wait for the Lord patiently. We could say that the readings draw our attention to the fact that God’s time is not our time. There is a story of a lucky man who struck a conversation with God! He asked God, "Lord, I have always wondered about your idea of time. What is a thousand years like for you?" God responded, "For me a thousand years is like a second." The man then asked, "What about money? What is a million dollars like for you?" And God answered, "For me a million dollars is like a penny." The man became eager and said, "Lord, could you give me just one penny?" God answered, "No problem, but you will have to wait for one second!" In the second reading, Peter's main point is patience. "With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day." Patience means waiting, sacrificing some immediate gratification for the sake of a greater good. Impatience, on the other hand, is the unwillingness to wait, wanting it all right now. The prophet Isaiah in the first reading, after years in exile, prophecies a new dawn that is about to break in for God's people. The darkness of the Babylonian exile is about to end. The Lord will lead his people into freedom, but a messenger of the Lord is sent ahead to prepare a way for the Lord in the wilderness and to "make a straight highway for …God across the desert". These words refer to a call for a change of heart; for personal and communal transformation; they usher in an immanent liberation of God’s people.

In the Gospel, we hear that the inhabitants of Jerusalem go to John the Baptist to be baptized, and “they acknowledged their sins.” During this Advent season, we too are invited to examine our consciences in terms of patience and self-control. Almost every sin you can imagine touches on our lack of patience and self-control. For example, stealing or cheating are also sins of impatience and lack of self-control! Rather than working hard, a person grabs things or money from others; rather than working hard at school, a student cheats in the exams to get better grades. Patience and self-control are very basic virtues that imply self-discipline, hard work and sacrifice. It is not easy to wait patiently with self-discipline, but in the end it brings results. This brings us to reflect on the Advent wreath which was actually invented originally to teach us about patience. Each Sunday of Advent the candle lights increase by 25% until the last Sunday when all 4 candles are lit indicating the fullness of the true light at Christmas – the fifth candle. Advent therefore teaches us how to wait patiently with self-discipline for the fullness of the true light, Jesus Christ. The message may be summed up as follows: 1) God’s time is not our time, and therefore the need to be patient which implies self-control. 2) The Lord’s delay in coming gives us an opportunity to accept God’s invitation to personal conversion. 3) Advent is not only a season for preparation, but also for practicing our patience and self-discipline; patience with each other at home, at school and at work, and by God’s grace to resist our impatience. Think about it. I am Msgr. John Mbinda. God bless you.

©2014 John S. Mbinda

Friday, November 28, 2014

First Sunday of Advent Year B

Readings: Is 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mk 1:1-8

An Advent people; watching, waiting and prepared to receive the best gift God can ever give. But first a story. Some years ago there was some breaking news on TV that to me seemed to be a wonderful example of being spiritually prepared. The news was about a man in Memphis, Tennessee who accidentally walked into a store during a robbery. The gunman pointed his pistol at him and ordered him to hand over his money. The man responded calmly, “Go ahead and shoot. I just had my prayers and Bible reading.” The robber was confused by that reaction, and the man walked away without a single shot. I have to admit that I probably would have handed over my money, but I do admire that man’s courage – and above all his apparent readiness to meet the Lord. That is what Jesus tells us today. Be prepared. Be alert and watchful. On this First Sunday of Advent, we begin a journey of preparedness; a journey to becoming truly an advent people; a people actively engaged in their faith and hope for the one who comes; a journey that leads us to understand why Jesus comes into the world and into our lives. During these four weeks of Advent, the Sunday homilies will focus on how you and I can become more involved in our parish life, and so be transformed as we wait for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. The homilies will make use of ideas from Matthew Kelly’s book: The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. The reflections and stories in this book are captivating, engaging and transforming.

In the Gospel from Mark, Jesus offers a brief parable highlighting the importance of being watchful and spiritually prepared. The point of the parable is that you and I as disciples and stewards of Jesus Christ are called to be the best version of ourselves, and so be transformed into more dynamic and more engaged Catholics. Over the next four weeks towards Christmas, the readings will focus attention on spiritual transformation. As Matthew Kelly will propose, the best way to do that is by making use of four easy ways that can transform your life as a Catholic. The four ways are prayer, study, generosity (in time, talent and treasure) and evangelization. These four ways can be a game changer for your life. In the coming weeks, the homilies will guide us on how our lives can be transformed by doing one thing at a time. Matthew Kelly asks: “How do you eat an elephant?” Bit by bit! The first question we need to ask ourselves is, how is my spiritual health? To head towards being not just spiritually healthier, but the best spiritual health, you and I need a routine of 10 minutes daily. Can you find 10 minutes? I think I can. Prayer, reading and living my faith can lead to spiritual transformation and the best spiritual health. So what is the take away message? 1) Like the man in the story, one becomes a dynamic and engaged Catholic through prayer, study of their faith, but also through generosity in time, talent and treasure, and by sharing their faith. 2) These four ways can indeed transform your life to be the best version of yourself; to be more engaged and dynamic in parish life. 3) We become the best version of ourselves by doing one thing at a time; by taking baby steps. At the end of the day, spiritual transformation is not something we achieve but a gift of the Holy Spirit. So we need to let go and allow the Holy Spirit guide our lives.

©2014 John S. Mbinda

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe Year A

Readings: Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28; Mat 25:31-46

Jesus Christ is the King of the universe. When Christ is King He welcomes and rewards those who show compassion to the less fortunate; when Christ is King He rejects and punishes those who show no concern or do nothing for the least of his brothers and sisters. On this last Sunday of the year, as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, the theme of preparedness reaches a climax. The final judgement takes place on the basis of our compassion and care for others or the lack of it. The prophet Ezekiel in the First Reading uses the image of a shepherd to underline how much God loves and cares for his people with compassion and tenderness.  Thus God assumes the role of shepherd for his sheep, finding the lost, gathering the scattered, healing the wounded and caring for all. God as Shepherd is also presented as Judge between one sheep and another, between rams and he-goats”, – a reference to separating the good from the bad. In the second reading, Paul portrays Jesus Christ as a powerful and awesome Lord and King. Yet we know that Jesus is the “King of Hearts” not the “King of Clubs”. “In him shall all be brought to life.” Christ is presented as ruler to whom all power and authority must eventually give way; the one who eventually subdues his enemies. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Christ gives life, life in all its fullness. Christ’s purpose is to share that life with every single person. “For Just as in Adam all die, so too all in Christ all shall be brought to life”, having subjected all evil forces. The last enemy to be subjected is death.

The Gospel passage from Matthew 25 explains how our entire salvation in the end hinges on caring or not caring for the less fortunate. We are told how when Jesus Christ is King will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  The sheep will be placed at His right and the goats at His left, which indicates the separation of the good and from the bad.   That separation is done in a way that surprises all. They discover how they did or did not recognize Jesus in their brothers and sisters. They have a greater surprise when Jesus invites them into the kingdom or rejects them right at the door, for just as you did or did not do it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did or did not do it to me.  The truth is that Jesus identifies with every person created in God’s image and likeness. We note that none of the things Jesus mentions are religious in nature; there is no direct mention of any commandments observed or violated; people are condemned not for doing anything that is morally wrong but for inaction; for failure to show compassion. Whatever we do centres round Jesus because He is truly present in every person we meet. Today’s Gospel therefore echoes the eternal divine love and justice of Jesus Christ our King, who shows his compassion to those who have shown God’s mercy and compassion to their brothers and sisters. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Jesus in the Gospel teaches us his disciples and stewards to be vigilant and prepared during the period of uncertain delay before his second coming. 2) In response to that message we are challenged to show compassion and care to Christ’s less fortunate. That is the criterion by which we will be judged at the end. 3) To put this message into practice concretely, this coming season of Advent, one might visit the sick, the elderly, prisoners or volunteer to for one of the parish outreach ministries. There at IHS or at the Waianae beach you will indeed meet Jesus Christ the King among the poor and homeless!

©2014 John S. Mbinda