Tuesday, July 26, 2016

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Ecc 1:2,2:21-23; Col 3:1-5,9-11; Lk 12:13-21

Guarding against greed and putting our security in God help us to focus on the central message of this Sunday readings. You probably have heard the story of the American travelling through Europe and decided to visit a famous wise Rabbi who lived there. When he arrived at his home, the tourist was surprised to see how simply the Rabbi lived – in a single room with only books, a table and chair. “Rabbi” the tourist asked, “where is your furniture?” The Rabbi responded, “Where is yours?” The tourist responded, “my furniture? I’m only passing through here.” The wise Rabbi responded, “So am I.” I tell this story because the readings challenge us to put our security in God and not in possessions. The writer of the first reading highlights the point in saying that all things are vanity!” Yes, ALL stuff. The reading helps us to take a good look at what really matters in life. The concern for things is vanity, like the smoke or the mist that evaporate and disappear so quickly. Paul in the second reading, reminds us why we must choose the values of the gospel. "If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above....Think of what is above, not what is on earth." In other words, Christ and not stuff or one-self is the highest possession we can have.

The parable of the rich fool in the Gospel comes after someone in the crowd asks Jesus to intervene in a family inheritance dispute. Jesus first makes comments on the dangers of greed: “Take care to guard again all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” He then tells a parable that touches on the real issue in the heart of that person – greed. Jesus in the gospel is referring to greed that leads to building false security only on stuff for one’s happiness and comfort.
Jesus’ teaching on greed is addressed to all of us: adults, youth and children. Last summer while on vacation I observed my six and four year old nieces fighting daily over toys, iPads and the TV remote. One day I asked my eldest niece, “who will use your toys and iPad when you die?” She simply burst into tears as she ran upstairs to her bed. I had touched a hot button in her. None of us want to be reminded of the shortness of our lives, but that is the truth. As one nine year old parishioner recently reminded us adults that “Life is worth more than stuff.” The point of the parable is clearly that possessions do not guarantee life. Indeed they may make us so blind that we do not see what really matters most in life – that is greed. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) All three readings point to the lesson that there is more to life than stuff. The story of the wise Rabbi is a clear example that there is nothing wrong with living a simple life because we are just passing through here! 2) The readings suggest that we must stop building bigger barns and place our priorities on what matter most in life. In the words of Mother Teresa, that means accepting the challenge to “live simply so that others may simply live.”

2016 John S. Mbinda

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Gn 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13

The readings this Sunday are about prayer, the first sign of a dynamic Catholic. They focus our attention on prayer as a gateway to relationship with God. In the first reading from Genesis, Abraham, after offering hospitality to the Lord is at prayer that sounds like a bargain. Abraham is quite successful in pleading for God's mercy upon the innocent people of Sodom. This prayer of Abraham is an example of perseverance. The reading offers us a model of prayer as though God was a familiar friend, someone we can talk to along the way. But is important to realize that Abraham's prayer is not for himself but for others.

The Gospel focuses on the Lord's Prayer as found in Luke which is slightly different from the prayer we normally use at Mass from the Gospel of Matthew. In the gospel passage, Jesus is at prayer and the disciples are so impressed that they request, “Teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples”. They want to be in union with the Father and not just to recite some words. After giving them a model of prayer, Jesus offers two brief parables one of which is quite humorous, the parable of the friend at mid-night. This man goes to his neighbor at mid-night to ask for bread because he has guests who have just arrived. His friend, already asleep, wakes up, and says: “Are you crazy? It is mid-night, my wife, the kids and I are asleep and the baby may wake up and begin crying. If I get up I will disturb everybody”. The parable ends with the persistence of the neighbor until he gets the bread. Jesus concludes, if that is how your earthly friend will respond to you, how much more will your heavenly Father? The second parable is about dads and their kids and Jesus concludes, if earthly dads know how to provide good things to their kids, how much more will your heavenly Father? So Ask, Seek and Knock. God is listening and will even give you the greatest gift, the Holy Spirit. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings invite us to reflect on the importance of prayer. 2) They offer us a model on how to pray and how to enter into an intimate relationship with the Father through prayer as Jesus did. 3) Like the friend at mid-night we need to persevere always and never give up in prayer.

©2016 John S. Mbinda

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Readings: Genesis 18:1-10; Colossians 1:24-28; Lk.10:38-4

Being with Christ and doing things for the Lord are the two phrases that capture best the message of this Sunday. The readings of this Sunday focus our attention on the Christian values of welcome and hospitality that pave the way for the presence of Christ in our lives and our homes. It is in this context that Paul in the second reading speaks about “a mystery that has been hidden for ages” that has now been revealed to God’s Holy Ones. When the Church uses the term mystery, it goes much deeper than the secular meaning of mystery. For the Church a mystery is a truth that is incomprehensible by reason and knowable only through divine revelation. The Early Church referred to the sacraments as “mysteries”. When adults are about to come into the faith they are anointed with the Oil of Catechumens so they may have the strength and the grace to be open to learn the Mystery of faith, namely the events of the action of Jesus Christ in the world. At the most solemn moment in the Mass, after the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, we are called upon to proclaim the Mystery of Faith, and so we respond by proclaiming Christ’s death, resurrection and that He will come again. Paul, therefore reminds the Colossians and us that we have received the Mystery that Christ is in us. Christ is the reason for our being, for our doing and our final destiny.

The Gospel reminds us of that mystery of Christ’s presence in the lives of two women. Martha is busy doing things for Christ, while Mary, her sister, is concerned with being with Jesus. Instead of focusing on Jesus out there somewhere, we need to focus on Jesus present right here, in your lives, in your family and in others, in the Church and in the world. Just as God enters into the presence of Abraham who welcomes the three mysterious strangers in the first reading, so too Christ enters into the presence of Martha and Mary who joyfully welcome Jesus in their home. The story of Martha and Mary underlines two aspects of Christian life. On the one hand, we have a dimension of “being with the Lord” like Mary. Being in quiet presence with Christ gives us the space to pause and read our road map; to listen to the Lord for guidance; and to regain our sense of direction. On the other hand, we need to “do things” for the Lord like Martha. However we can be so active that we forget prayer or neglect “being with Christ.” Therefore we need to balance both ways. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Just as God enters into the presence of Abraham in welcoming the three mysterious strangers, so too does God enter into our presence in welcoming everyone who comes our way. 2) Christian values of welcome and hospitality point to the mystery of Christ’s presence in our lives and in our homes. 3) We need to find a balance between our “being with Christ” like Mary, and our “doing things for the Lord” like Martha. 

©2016 John S. Mbinda

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fifteenth Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Dt 30:10-14; Col 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37

God's view of neighbor that sets no boundaries and loving neighbor as God would are the phrases that capture best the message of this Sunday. The parable of the Good Samaritan is only found in Luke's Gospel. It is perhaps one of the best known stories that Jesus used and has over the centuries captured the imagination of many artists who have put the parable into drama, song, paintings and sculpture. The central message of the parable is found in what Jesus said before and after the story: “Do this and life is yours”, and “Go and do the same”. The lawyer was expecting a learned intellectual response from Jesus on “who is my neighbor?” Instead, Jesus told a surprising story of a foreigner becoming a hero, while Jewish religious leaders are the bad guys!

The story of the Good Samaritan is told in the context of God's command for love of neighbor, which was a sacred responsibility (Leviticus 19:18). In telling this story, Jesus shows that true love of neighbor must be put into action. It is not a mere intellectual concept or feeling. Jesus cleverly dramatizes the story knowing his audience. The story is meant to get the lawyer to ask the real question, “how do I become neighbor to others?”, rather than “who is my neighbor?” The point that Jesus makes is that we do not choose neighbors. Rather, Christians respond to peoples' needs irrespective of their color, creed or origin, and by so doing they become neighbors to them. Nor can we rationalize a situation when someone is in need. Here is a concrete situation that may pose a dilemma. A beggar comes towards you, and asks for alms. You immediately smell his alcohol. What the law of love of neighbor requires in this case is that go ahead and give alms. Jesus would not judge such a person. Neither should we. There is also an important twist in the story by Jesus. It is the despised Samaritan who cares for the person who was robbed and beaten up. The priest and the Levite were more concerned about the law on ritual purity. Therefore they preferred to avoid the wounded person in order not to be polluted. They placed observance of the law over the love and care for someone in need. In a sense Jesus becomes the Good Samaritan, the compassionate stranger who cares for all of us when we are robbed and wounded by sin. Jesus bandages our wounds and puts us in the inn (the Church). Here Jesus cares for and heal us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, thus restoring us back to God’s grace. What do we learn from the readings of this Sunday? What do we take home? 1) The parable of the Good Samaritan challenges us to see God's view of neighbor that goes beyond any narrow definition. Thus we are challenged to extend the compassion of Jesus to everyone without boundaries. The first step in meeting this challenge is conversion of heart and mind towards anyone who is in need. 2) The story of the Good Samaritan invites us to go and do the same; to bind the wounds of those robbed of their joy, of their dignity and left to die on the road side naked. We are invited to go and bring Christ’s compassion and healing to whoever we meet on our way. In other words, our love for others must be as wide as God's love that excludes no one. We must therefore go and break down those walls and fences in our hearts that keep us away from serving those who are different from us. 3) The parable also invites us to pray for God's grace that our compassion may be real and practical as the Good Samaritan was; as Jesus Christ has always been in binding our wounds and caring for us when we are robbed of God’s grace and left dying by the way side.

 ©2016 John S. Mbinda

Friday, July 1, 2016

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Readings: Is 66:10-14c; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10:1-12,17-20

This Sunday the readings are about evangelization, the fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic. The prophet Isaiah in the first reading uses the image of sucking milk from mother’s abundant milk to help us see the link between us and our mother Church that feeds and nourishes us. The reading urges us to drink fully of the milk of our mother’s comfort and nurse with delight at her abundant breasts. At times we can starve spiritually to death. Years ago there was a picture of a mother and her baby in Ethiopia during one of the worst droughts that brought a horrible famine and starvation there. The mother could not eat enough food to produce milk for her baby. She sat there, her eyes glazed over with suffering beyond imagination. She sat helplessly watching her baby crying and dying of starvation. The Church faces a similar dilemma today with so many of her children starving spiritually.

Jesus in the Gospel sends out his disciples on a mission to the margins of society, to feed the multitudes who are hungry and thirsting for God’s Word; those who yearn for God’s mercy and for healing. They so urgently need nourishment, healing and God’s mercy. Yes, the harvest is ripe, but at times wasting in the fields. We need more hands and more feet; we need more disciples to go and feed more people with so much needed mercy and compassion. It is so easy to get bogged down in institutions and forget the main focus of our ministry. The purpose of our mission is to nourish God’s people - those on the margins of society, those hungering and thirsting for the Word of God. In the midst of human brokenness, they need wholeness; in the midst of broken married life, they yearn for reconciliation and forgiveness; in the midst of spiritual dehydration, they search for spiritual water to restore their strength. All they are looking for is a word of inspiration that touches them right now.

In the Gospel, Luke uses several images to help us understand the kind of Kingdom the disciples have to announce. The first image is the harvest being abundant. From a human perspective we need a human solution, to organize a workshop on vocations, to employ a vocations director, to mobilize the parishes and round up all the young men and women! Jesus' solution is very simple: pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers. In contrast, our human tendency is action: setting a task-force to study the matter and writing volumes of books! Of course we need both prayer and action. Family and personal prayer will nourish and help lead to more workers in the vineyard. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings focus on our mission of feeding the multitudes who are hungry and thirsting for God’s Word. 2) The reading make us aware of the need for more workers in the vineyard; more volunteers in our parish ministries. Jesus teaches us that family and personal prayer will nourish and help lead to more workers in the vineyard. 3) In the midst of human brokenness, we are called to lead people to wholeness; in the midst of broken married life, we are called to lead couples to reconciliation and forgiveness.

©2016 John S. Mbinda